EXPERT ADVICE

The Virtual Workforce Is Here, Now and Everywhere

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:

  • 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, which minimizes disruption; and
  • greater business continuity.

Why are at-home employees more productive and effective? The mere premise is confounding 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 by attempting to shift 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 strategy that requires a new paradigm in the way companies recruit, hire, train and manage customer-facing employees. In my experience, when the system is done well, there are seven key advantages to an at-home workforce that generates excellent results in an affordable, sustainable model.

1. Best-in-Class Security

At-home workforces have been successful in the financial services industry for years, which reinforces a critical point: At-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 Card Industry (PCI), healthcare and other industries. In fact, the computer is locked down, so the employee is not able to print, copy or paste except within his or her work application.

2. Flexible Staffing

At-home workforces offer solutions that include employees with unique skill sets, scalability and efficiency. The ability to be ready to work with no commute allows for quick ramp-up or down to meet fluctuating volumes and minimize costs. Plus, 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 shifts than traditional office-based staff.

3. Scalability and Cultural Flexibility

With recruiting boundaries largely eliminated, companies can handpick the best talent with fluency in whatever languages and cultural settings are needed, no matter where they live. Companies can also tap into targeted skill sets — such as specialized expertise in healthcare, financial services or gaming, for example, as well as have access to employees with greater flexibility and speed.

This eliminates issues surrounding language barriers, skills, lack of customer affinity, or frustrated customers that often come when companies can’t recruit employees that can relate to the demographics and preferences of your customer base.

4. Seamless Integration

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

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 military spouses).

Most traditional roles are also full-time positions, which further limits 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 for the job and leverage more mature candidates.

6. Higher Quality of Service

With 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 as 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

Down-time, and “offline” time is a natural by-product of a full-time workforce, but at-home solutions easily reduce this by a minimum of 20 percent, making this staffing solution one of the most efficient options available.

Through the elimination or reduction in 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.

A virtual workforce is no longer a futuristic idea. It’s available today and ready to help you solve your company’s biggest customer management challenges.

PJ Weyforth is senior vice president of TeleTech@Home.

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