Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeshoring – ‘Customer service comes home’

The ‘homeshored’ or ‘virtual contact centre’ is driving a whole new way of fulfilling traditional ‘call centre’ functions such as:

• Customer service
• Technical support
• Order Processing

Homeshoring engages an untapped market of retired professionals and men and women on maternity leave, as well as the disabled. This could offer businesses a pool of skilled qualified professionals for demanding customer contact such as healthcare and law providing enhanced customer service.

Industry Cycles

The contact industry has certainly seen a few changes since its popularity grew in the late eighties. Once seen as a genuine career, the UK call centre industry now has attrition rates of 20% -30% per cent according to the TUC (Trade Union Congress).

This is a trend seen not just in the UK but in the industries last creation – ‘The Off Shore Call Centre’. The bosses of some of the UK’s largest companies suddenly decided that customer service was best provided 5000 miles away in India. The customers experience was obviously there main concern and the potential 70% cost savings had nothing to do with it.

Ironically but not surprisingly, the Indian call centre industry now suffers the same problems as the UK. Younger workers seeking careers a stop gap role like customer service just cannot offer.

The root of the problem

Why do people not want to work in call centres?
- Boring and repetitive work
- Stressful due to irate customers
- No autonomy or real responsible
- Average wages

The solution – the virtual agent

Rather than the straightjacket of traditional call centres and rigid process driven job roles there seems to be a viable alternative in the form of homeshoring.

British Telecom is conducting extensive testing with home based teams, whilst Microsoft Uk currently has 92% of staff doing up to 60% of work from home.
The Benefits of Homeshoring:

- Enrichment of job role
- Cost reduction in project set up due to lack of physical buildings
- No Commuting
- Greater flexibility in workable hours
- Reduced recruitment costs
- More time spent with family and friends
- Utilises web based technology to enhance management

A Lesson Learn't?

The corporate world may have learn't a valuable lesson from the off-shore experiment. Try before you buy… (and drive your customers mad!)

Homeshoring has a warm feel to it and looks great on paper, but what are the risks?

- Security and data protection
- Productivity and performance
- Effectiveness of remote management


The industries due for a change, no one can argue with that. Customer service is appalling in the UK and seems to be have been hindered by technology (think automated waiting systems) rather than developed.

The question these companies should ask is ‘by enriching an agent’s job role, can we improve customer service in an efficient manner whilst retaining control?’ The BPO phase should have taught us this if anything.

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