The traditional image of the contact center is shifting as technological advancements are made. The rise of work-from-home job environments has inspired many industries to gradually incorporate teleworking employees into their talent pool, and contact centers are following suit. But what are the pros and cons of bringing the contact center to the home?
An at-home contact center allows for the flexibility to add agents on an ad-hoc basis. Additional agents can easily be added during product launches or through peak holiday season. At-home agents can also help alleviate staffing gaps and strains. If a call center is short staffed due to weather conditions, or experiences a sudden influx in traffic, agents can be added on-demand.
This flexibility alleviates the stress and demand on employees, relieving them of the large call volume and inevitable overtime hours, but it also satisfies customers who will have shorter wait times to connect to an agent.
Not only can additional agents be quickly staffed, the IT equipment costs to connect agents to the call center are minimal. Agents need only a telephone line, computer, and internet connection. Equipment is usually provided by the agent themselves, lessening the procurement and maintenance costs associated with an on-premise contact center environment.
Wider job pool
The candidate pool significantly widens with at-home contact centers. Companies are no longer geographically restricted when looking to fill open positions. This flexibility allows positions to be filled by agents possessing a wider variety of skills, and even curate a talent pool that directly caters to the company’s audience.
One of the major office environment perks is being surrounded by your peers. Along with this comes the happy side effect of camaraderie. Water cooler conversations. Networking opportunities. Friendships. This family-like environment creates happy employees who look forward to coming to work, and are motivated to do their best.
The removal of the on-site contact center also removes the workplace community. At-home agents may feel a disconnect between themselves and their peers, and thus may find it harder to forge relationships from a distance. In addition to missing out on relationship building, agents may also feel less visible to management. They may not be as readily able to demonstrate their skills, and may not be able to fully capitalize their potential.
Working from home requires a great deal of self-motivation, organization, and self-management. It is easy to get distracted by that pile of laundry in the corner or a growing stack of paperwork on the kitchen counter. Agents who lack the ability to focus on the task at hand may spend more time checking off their honey-do list than contributing to the common goal.
Additionally, at-home agents cannot be monitored the same as on-site agents. In a traditional call center, communications can be overheard, and any escalating customer situations can be remedied on the spot. At-home agents do not have the same safety net, and may struggle to receive coaching feedback in a timely manner.
When agents – more specifically their equipment – are not on-site, security vulnerabilities may become an issue. Agents frequently come in contact with sensitive information such as customer account numbers and personal information, as well as information proprietary to the company itself. Although security measures can be put in place, it is difficult to fully protect against at-home security vulnerabilities such as unsecure internet connections and improper disposal of confidential information.
The major variable in an at-home contact center is the human element. Will agents be productive enough? Will agents be able to connect and network with their peers? How can agents make themselves visible to their peers and managers?
As technology progresses, it is safe to assume the workforce will progress along with it. The new generation entering the workforce already knows how to toggle between multiple virtual applications, self-network on electronic platforms, and may have even attended college online. The immersion in technology creates a new breed of employee who is familiar with the threats and opportunities of at-home employment, and rises to highlight the pros and de-emphasize the cons.
At-home call centers come with demonstrated pros and cons, which should be taken into account when vetting the feasibility of the solution for your company. Although the look and feel of the traditional workplace is changing, the face of the employee is changing along with it.