The Benefits of Home-Based Telephone Agents
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
In the past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented move to pursue work-at-home opportunities in call centers. Granted, a few operations were already there. And some outright reject home-based staff as an option.
But others have embraced a distributed workforce as a new way of doing business. And most operations have moved in that direction, albeit with varying degrees of interest and success.
Work-at-home opportunities apply to all employees, both agents and non-agent roles. At the risk of reviewing what you already know, here are some reasons why you should consider tapping home-based employees.
Retain Existing Staff
Providing employees with the option to work from home may mean the difference between keeping a great employee and losing them to another company—even a competitor—who offers that option.
Sometimes an employee’s situation changes, and they can’t—or no longer feel comfortable—coming into your office to work. But you can keep them as an employee if you offer them work-at-home opportunities.
Attract New Staff
When you’re looking to hire staff, having work-at-home opportunities for them to consider may mean the difference between you hiring a new employee and losing a great prospect. Don’t miss out on an otherwise-qualified candidate because you don’t allow for them to one day work from home once they’ve proven themselves.
Expand Labor Market
Every call center, it seems, struggles to find qualified employees. Though most prefer to pursue hiring from the labor market where the call center is located, this severely limits your prospects. By offering work-at-home opportunities, you can expand your labor pool to cover anyone, in any area, who has stable internet service.
New Agent Solutions
There are also a couple of new work-at-home opportunities that present themselves once you remove the restrictions of working from a centralized office. Though these aren’t impossible outcomes to realize with your in-house staff, they’re much more realistic to achieve from a home-based workforce. These are split shifts and on-demand work.
Split shifts occur when an employee doesn’t work in one continuous block of time, but in two or even three smaller blocks. This can be ideal in meeting scheduling forecasts.
This depends on the specific needs of your call center and what your traffic looks like, but it could include working at the beginning of the business day and again toward the end. Or it may be taking calls for a few hours midmorning and a few more hours midafternoon.
It’s a lot to expect someone to travel to a call center to only work a few hours, leave, and then come back for a few more. But it’s much more realistic when someone’s already at home, can quickly login, work, and then log back out.
On Demand Work
Split shifts also point to another solution, which is on-demand work. This is effectively having someone on standby for when your call center gets busy. If they’re already at home and have a flexible schedule, they may be more than willing to log in and take calls to handle an unexpected traffic burst and then log back out when things return to normal.
Just make sure to treat your on-demand employees fairly. In exchange for their flexibility, pay then a higher hourly rate for on-demand work. It also means only contacting them when you really need them and promising them a minimum amount of pay when you do, such as for at least one hour.
What you want to avoid is having someone take calls for only a few minutes at a time, multiple times throughout the day. This will lead to frustrated staff and burn out.
Work-at-home opportunities abound. Make sure to make the most of them to best staff your call center, maintain a qualified workforce, and serve your callers.
Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.