Industry Commentary

Work-at-Home Agents – Now is the Time

By September 11, 2018July 25th, 2023No Comments

While perhaps overused in general, the cliché Carpe Diem – Seize the Day cannot be ignored by BPO companies aiming to provide their clients with work-at-home agents.  Undoubtedly, there will be those enterprises that choose not to consider this delivery model.  But recent research shows that more firms than ever are considering how remote workers can augment their consumer relationships.  The key for the outsourcing community will be to grasp this opportunity, and make fresh inroads into companies that have not previously used this business model.  How long this window is open remains to be seen, and outsourcers have little time to waste in cementing their work-at-home offerings.

The application of home-based agents is not new in contact center delivery.  This approach has been in existence for over a decade, and it has been met with varying levels of success, depending on the location and industry in question.  The inherent advantages have been known for some time. Compared to brick-and-mortar operations, the benefits of work-at-home include lower levels of attrition, and an agent profile that tends to have greater degrees of education and work experience.  However, while these attributes have been used as the basis of promotion for this business model for some time, it is also accepted that work-at-home agents have only been adopted by a minority of contact center service clients.  Notably, of late there appears to be a change in the air, with more enterprises exploring how virtual agent delivery can work in their favor.

In the recently published 2018 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus Survey, enterprise buyers were clear that outsourcers with a work-at-home capacity hold a distinct competitive advantage relative to those that don’t have this capability. This is a sea-change compared to even five years ago, when work-at-home capability was not seen as a competitive selling point among most BPO buyers.  This may have to do with the fact that the concept of home-working continues to permeate the contemporary professional culture.  In the UK, some estimates indicate that within the coming two years, roughly half the workforce will be working remotely in some fashion, with a similar proportion now the norm in the US.  And, a recently-published Inc. article highlights some of the broader reasons why this trend appears to have taken flight in corporate boardrooms – this business model lowers costs, while raising employee productivity and morale.  These factors will not be lost on an evolving segment of BPO buyers.

This is not to say that outsourcers can ignore the challenges that come with home-agent delivery.  To date, while this customer experience management approach has overwhelmingly been adopted in the US, it has yet to gain mainstream traction in Canada or Western Europe.  From a vertical angle, the main deployments of work-at-home agents have been heavily in the retail and travel sectors.  Concerns around information security and fraud prevention linger in the minds of executives unfamiliar with this business model. So, too, do worries about home distractions and remote team management.  These have been important inhibitors for home-working gaining interest across the broader contact center market.  But, with more thought-leaders leaning to the advantages of this business model, and enterprise executives recognizing the benefits its agents bring in quality and value, the time for outsourcers to position their own respective offerings is now.  Carpe Diem.