In the second of our guest blogs we would like to welcome to the stage Gillian Bell – Gillian is presently a Management Consultant with At Home Customer Contacts, a business which focusses on home-sourcing across the UK and US markets. Gillian was previously an International Operations Director for a global leisure business and has over 20 years experience specialising in operational delivery and leading change to achieve strategic goals whilst sustaining customer service and employee motivation.
As Customer Service Directors, Contact Centre Leaders and organisations continually strive for the best options available to them with regards to call and contact centre agent resources, home working or home-sourcing could be a viable and cost effective option. Gillian would like to provide some insight and information into the market and possibilities – over to Gillian;
Latest statistics from the US show that 30% of Contact Centres now utilise Home Workers and this is expected to grow to 75% by 2013, according to global analysts Frost and Sullivan. In the last few years many financial organisations have embraced Homeworking with companies like Capital One, The Hertfort, Kaiser Permente and American Express developing these programmes.
Comparatively speaking the UK is still in its infancy; however, there is a huge interest in the subject due to the benefits the model can bring. In a 2011 survey conducted by At Home Customer Contacts of 100 UK companies, the main drivers for considering the Home Working model quoted were; cost 38%, employee retention 24%, customer service improvements 19% and business continuity 19%.
The cost benefits from reducing facilities, rental and electricity are quite obvious; however, when the Homeworking model is deployed correctly with relevant processes re-engineered and appropriate technology adopted, the following hidden cost savings can be experienced on average;
– Reduction in turnover of 35-50% on average due to employees commitment to the programme as it suits their lifestyle
– Improvement in productivity due to fewer distractions in the home environment 3-5%
– Productivity improvement from improved scheduling in short staggered shifts 6-10%
– Virtual training and self paced learning reduces learning time by 15-20%
– Absenteeism can reduce by 30% on average due to less effort to get to work
– Improvement in sales conversions or strike rate by 20-25%
In addition to these improvements increases are also experienced in customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.
The reason for all these improvements lies in the demographic profile of a typical home worker and this summary by Frost and Sullivan from 2010 summarises it well;
|Traditional Bricks and Mortar Agent||Work from Home Agents|
|Average age 23||Average age 38+|
|30% have some college level experience||80% college-level or above|
|40% management experience|
|Best fits : stay at home parents, retirees, disabled and life choicers|
People who are attracted to the homeworking model are on average more mature, tend to be of a high calibre, have more life experience and value the opportunity to have a flexible lifestyle. They are not generally attracted to normal Call Centre roles however, due to a desire to work in their own environment. When working at home they typically feel more comfortable and in control, so will be attracted to the homeworking model. It is this homeworking demographic which makes homeworking work.
It is no surprise that employee retention is a business driver for 24% of the UK companies surveyed, if on average companies are experiencing 25-30% improvements in their statistics when moving to the homeworking model. The person who is attracted to working from home is looking for flexibility in their lifestyle and has to be given just that. If the flexibility is achieved then the employee has the ability and desire to work from their own home, with schedules that suit their lifestyles and are much less likely to give that up. In addition to this companies who move to homeworking also experience increases in employee satisfaction surveys as the happiness factor from homeworking can be high. Helen McCallum, the Home Working Project Manager at Tesco Retail Customer Service confirms; “I could never have anticipated the positive impact working from home has had on our staff. It really helps them strike the perfect balance, whether that’s looking after young children, caring for families, getting back into work after illness or coping with a disability”.
Customer Service Improvement was the main reason that 19% of companies surveyed stated they wanted to adopt homeworking. Customer Service improvements are achieved in many ways but one of these is having well trained employees who will understand the customers issues from their perspective. Retention is a huge part of this solution; keeping trained staff and having employees with a good tenure improves the overall customer experience.
Finally, 19% of companies surveyed said that the main reason for piloting and adopting the homeworking model was to accommodate Business Continuity. It is reasons like this that have seen companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Tesco Retail not only trialling successful pilots but making subsequent changes to business strategies utilising homeworking. Rachel Folkmer, Group Manager at Enterprise Business Support confirmed; “We have already had to test the disaster recovery benefit from Home Working. Our building was evacuated one evening due to a false fire alarm but we didn’t drop one call thanks to our Home Working team. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago.”
The overall case for homeworking evidenced with improved costs, employee retention, customer service and business continuity solutions is a compelling one.
What do you think? – Are you considering homeworking, or do you have any experience as a homeworker or in utilising homeworkers, if so, please do let us know.
Alternatively you can also join Gillian, At Home Customer Contacts and industry leaders from American Express, Tesco, Dell and Enterprise Car Rental amongst others to share their visions, objectives and best practices for home working in the UK and Europe at the homeworking event of the year. Please use the following link here for further information and to register http://www.customercontactstrategies.com