Offsite workforces can thrive—as long as they receive the special attention they need.
By P.J. Weyforth
Customer experience can make or break a company, and today’s service failures are often publicly played out online for the world—and competitors—to see. At the same time, the pressure to manage costs has never been greater. But it’s a fatal mistake to view customer service channels as a cost center. The solution? An at-home workforce that delivers excellent results: while driving the bottom line.
Companies with offsite workforces have reported:
• 10 percent higher customer satisfaction
• 30 percent more flexibility (or even greater)
• 20 percent lower cost to serve customers
• highly educated employees with significant work experience
• geographic distribution of workforce with minimal disruption
• greater business continuity
Why are at-home employees more productive and effective? The mere premise is confounding baffling to some, who assume less hands-on control over staff can lead only to lower performance and wasted resources. In fact, some organizations have made this a self-fulfilling prophesy prophecy by attempting tocasually shifting their current customer representatives—along with existing management, training, and communications practices—into an at-home setting, only to see performance metrics plummet across the board.
An at-home workforce is much more than a shift in location. ; It’s a customer interaction strategyit that requires a new paradigm in the way companies recruit, hire, train, and manage customer-facing employees. In my experience,T there are seven key practices that, when done well, when executed properly create an at-home workforce that generates excellent results in an affordable, sustainable model:
1. Best-in-class security with high-speed connectivity and protocols. At-home workforces have been successful in the financial services industry for years, which reinforces a critical point: atAt-home employees can deliver the same security and industry certifications as employees working in traditional locations. With today’s advanced security protocols, information is protected in compliance with industry and regulatory requirements across financial services, including the Payment payment Card card Industry industry (PCI), healthcare, and other industries. In fact, the a computer is can be locked down, so the employee is not able to print, copy, or paste except within his or her work application.
2. Flexible staffing with quick ramp-up or ramp-down time to meet fluctuating volumes. At-home workforces offer solutions using employees with unique skill sets, sEmployees that make up an at-home workforce are usually flexible and efficient, with a specific skill setcalability and efficiency. The ability to be ready to work with no commute allows for quick ramp-up or ramp-down to meet fluctuating volumes and minimize costs. And, the “set up and stand by” model allows employees to meet unexpectedly high demand. Whether employees need to handle increased call or click volume from a successful product campaign, field complex questions from a natural disaster, or reassure customers after an unexpected system failure, a targeted at-home workforce can be ready as needed, for far shorter more easilyshifts than traditional office-based staff.
Take, for example, Oone of the world’s largest financial institutions, for example, whose services cover a full spectrum of banking, investing, and asset management services,. The company struggled to manage seasonal call volume spikes of up to 200 percent with a traditional human resource approach. Hampered bydue to an outdated staffing model.s and cumbersome scheduling methodologies, tThis Fortune 100 company could scarcely answer the phone, let alonewas lacking the right resources to deliver a satisfying customer experience for consumers, and small business and corporate accounts.
By employing an at-home solution, TeleTech@Home helped the company to set up a new model: secure high -caliber employees, and deliver working on a flexible scheduling schedule in conjuction with call volumes. and tTraining by mapping support resources directly to call volumes andwas also key to ensuring ensure that customers were receiving the high quality of service associated with the brand. In By doing so, this financial institution improved operating efficiencies by 30 percent and within the first month of operation alone, the at-home workforce achieved 110 percent of the client’s customer satisfaction goals.
3. Scalability and fluency in languages, skill sets, flexibility, and cultural settings. With recruiting boundaries largely eliminated, companies can handpick the best talent with fluency in whatever the languages and cultural settings that are needed, no matter where they live. Companies can also tap into targeted skill sets — such as for specialized expertise in healthcare, financial services, or gaming, for example, as well as have access to employees with greater flexibility and speed. This Offsite workforces eliminates issues surrounding language barriers, specific skill sets, and a lack of customer affinity, or frustrated customers that often come develop when companies can’t recruit employees that can relate to the demographics and preferences of your the customer base.
4. Seamless integration with virtual management tools. Because they’re equally secure and productive, virtual workplaces blend easily with existing brick-and-mortar centers. Virtual management tools allow managers the same level of interaction and supervision, whether in person or at home. Clients can be confident that they have the same level of control as with their office-based teams.
5. Expanded labor pool anytime, anywhere. Traditional contact centers and corporate offices are often limited by their geography when recruiting and selecting staff. Unfortunately, this eliminates many high quality candidates who live in more rural areas, or move frequently (such as veterans’ spouses). Most traditional roles are also full-time positions, which further limit employers’ ability to benefit from highly qualified candidates who prefer or require part-time work. By drawing from a much broader candidate pool, at-home programs can attract the best possible workforce talent for the job and leverage more mature candidates. Once the staff is in place, training time can be reduced drastically, as virtual training classes have no size limit.
6. Higher quality of service. With the advancements in technology, security, and employee management, at-home workforces are helping businesses solve customer management challenges with proven results. Because at-home providers can recruit across a broader geographic area and can accommodate a diverse array of employee needs, such asincluding mobility issues, these providers attract a more diverse, often higher-quality selection of applicants. At-home employees tend to be self-motivated, highly educated team members, with many years of work experience. The benefits of a work-from-home opportunity attract individuals who typically would not seek a contact center–based position.
7. Return on investment with via the elimination in of facilities costs and higher employee utilization. Down-timee, and “offline” time is a natural by-product of a full-time workforce, but at-home solutions easily have proven to reduce this by at least minimum of 20 percent—if not more—, making this staffing solution one of the most efficient options available. Through the elimination or reduction in of facilities costs, lower employee turnover, demand-based staffing models, and higher employee utilization rates, companies have a cost-effective solution that can improve customer experiences while saving money.
Technology makes these home offices run as if an employee were sitting in a corporate location, completevirtual workforces run as efficiently as traditional offices with highly secure Internet connections, direct access to each employee’s managerment, virtual training, and team support and an internal social media approach to learning and development. And, without commuting time and on-site office needs, these home employees are also helping companies reduce their carbon footprint— – an environmental goal for many businesses “going green.”
A virtual workforce is no longer a futuristic idea. It’s available today and ready to help you solve company’s biggest customer management challenges.It’s a solution proven to reduce cost and improve efficiency. It’s time to consider this new paradigm.
P.J. Weyforth is senior vice president of operations at TeleTech@Home.
See companion piece on ride sharing.