One of the most interesting things about contact center delivery over the past decade has been the shift in what enterprises look for when partnering with a vendor. And, with firms across verticals looking for a solution that reflects flexibility, higher-quality interactions and affordability, a good number continue to use home-based agents. However, there is a growing sense that this business model may have hit an apex. This view is unlikely to change until the outsourcing community truly builds the home agent differentiator around the long term value of providing better end-user experiences.
For many years, the willingness of enterprises to look at home-based agents had been predicated on this business model’s capacity to meld lower overhead costs with onshore delivery. This was effectively a panacea for any firm not wanting to pay bricks-and-mortar prices while keeping contact center delivery domestic, and to some degree this approach worked. However, what made sense in 2007 no longer holds water for in-house customer experience professionals that are being pushed by their management boards toward long term end-user loyalty through flawlessly-executed contact center delivery. Further, the efficiencies associated with outsourced home agents have narrowed somewhat over in recent years. To be clear, a team of virtualized agents is still cheaper to run than one based in a physical contact center, but the maturity of this business model means that today cost savings are likely to be in the high single digits, as opposed to levels in excess of 20% seen a decade ago.
Fortunately, for vendors of home-based agent outsourcing solutions, there remains reason for optimism. For one, the interest in high quality customer experience across industries favors virtual delivery, which tends to provide better-than-average outcomes. This is due to the strong levels of work experience and education that generally go along with home agent recruits. In addition, this business model is no longer a US-only play as in the past year the interest among enterprises in other parts of the world (notably the Northern Europe, Canada and Australia) has been anecdotally on the upswing.
Regardless of these positive noises, in order to sustain the strong levels of growth associated with home agent outsourcing, vendors of these services must focus on moving the discussion toward the value that this business model has proven to consistently deliver. Drawing on specific case studies where home agents have provided clients with augmented rates of end-user retention will be imperative, as will be demonstrating the capacity of a virtual agent pool to accommodate small pockets of multiple languages (a potentially huge point of differentiation in Western Europe). If this can be done at a price point even somewhat less expensive than can be derived within bricks-and-mortar contact centers, all the better. But, any cost savings must be seen as a bonus, not the basis of the value proposition if the home-based agent business model is to evolve.