ContactBabel, a UK based consultancy and research firm, recently released their 2011 US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide. Based on extensive interviews with 209 contact centers across a broad number of industry groups and agent size, this well-researched report covers topics focused on people, process, and technology.
In our new blog series, our goal is to present our thoughts and comments on three findings within the report based on our data and experience. Our first topic will cover the home agent model, which continues to draw significant interest from call center operators. In 5 years, 60% of the ContactBabel respondents believe agents will not be centrally located but will be working from home or spread throughout the company.
The Home Agent Model
The home agent model continues to draw significant interest from call center operators. The attractive economics, labor pool benefits, and political benefits are driving more and more contact centers to establish a home agent model.
This momentum around the home agent model was confirmed by the ContactBabel research findings. ContactBabel asked decision makers to think about the contact center in five years. One question asked the respondents whether agents will still be centrally located or will they be working from home / spread throughout the company. 60% of the respondents believe that agents will NOT be centrally located but will be working from home or spread out in the company.
As we have discussed in previous research articles, home agent models can have two structures:
Hub model. Home agents work near or around the contact center but usually are within a pre-determined driving distance. This is the model commonly used when high performing agents are promoted from the brick and mortar facility into a home agent position.
Virtual model. In this model, the contact center hires agents “virtually” far beyond the labor pool constraints of a hub model. The agent can live almost anywhere the organization can support.
FurstPerson’s research suggests some caution is needed when adopting the home agent structure. When FurstPerson compared candidate quality between candidates in a traditionally defined labor pool like a hub model to those in a virtual labor pool, the candidate quality is very similar. But, we know that home agent models consistently outperform traditional brick and mortar models. In our experience, the key benefit in the home agent model is the ability to utilize the virtual model because more highly qualified candidates can be reached which pushes the candidate to hire ratio higher allowing for greater selectivity by the recruiting organization. As a result, a higher percentage of the new hires are in the above average performance zone already.
In the ContactBabel report, “most US respondents believe homeworking is an effective ‘carrot’ to dangle before their staff.” In fact, of those that have some homeworking experience, 34% strongly agree that sending agents to work from home would be useful as a performance incentive or reward for the best agents and 43% strongly agree with this statement.
FurstPerson’s concern with this approach is that organizations that stick only with the hub model may be eliminating the key advantage to the home agent model which is the ability to be ultra-selective in who is hired into the organization. Being able to run a 15 to 1 hiring ratio compared to a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 for some organizations is a huge advantage and leads to a very highly qualified call center talent pool that will perform better.
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Topics: Work at Home