Homeshoring Helps Companies Improve Customer Service

Ann All

We blogged recently about increasing interest from U.S. companies in locating operations in small American towns rather than offshore locales like India. With offshore salaries on the rise, it's an economically friendly option, since companies can save on remote management, travel and other costs. And it's a politically friendly move, hailed by folks who want to see more jobs kept on U.S. soil.

 

An even more cost-effective alternative for customer service positions is employing folks who work out of their own homes. The CEO of one company doing so tells the Christian Science Monitor that this model is "redefining how Americans will work in the future."

 

Research firm IDC says there are some 110,000 home-based contact center agents in the U.S., a number it believes will grow to 328,000 by 2010. Southwest and Jet Blue are among the companies that employ such agents.

 

The same broadband Internet connectivity and Web-based software applications that make it feasible for companies to employ workers in foreign countries also allow them to extend their hiring reach across the U.S.

 

This is a key advantage, says the VP of a staffing agency specializing in such positions, because companies can draw on a broader and more experienced talent pool rather than employing "kids out of high school who never had a job before." The average age of contact center workers for one company cited in the story is 41, and 80 percent of them have at least some college education.


 

Using home-based employees also helps reduce the turnover rate for contact center agents, which is often quite high, says the VP of marketing and products for Five9, a company that provides on-demand contact center solutions. Read the full IT Business Edge interview: Home Is Where the Call Center Agent Is.

 

At the risk of sounding xenophobic, it also allows companies to employ native English speakers. Customers consistently rank speaking with agents with a limited command of English as one of their top contact center peeves.

 

The model is likely to become even more popular as Indian workers begin to shun contact center work for employment in more sophisticated sectors such as product development.

 

Some caveats: Home-based workers must be self-directed and highly motivated. They must enjoy speaking with people -- a lot. And they should have good reading and writing skills. The last tip comes from Convergys, a company with a large workforce of home-based agents. It's important because such agents typically communicate with supervisors via e-mail and instant messaging.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 5, 2007 3:40 AM Robert Thornton Robert Thornton  says:
I agree that a shift in locations is happening. Most of our customers specifically request or state that do not want work done offshore. Some of this is for security reasons but mostly they are requesting this because they have come to realize that although rates may appear to lower at first in the long run they end up spending the same amounts as they would have if they had used a US based company in the first place.Technically offshore companies for the most part are extremely proficient in the programming service area, the differences lay in the level of communications. What would take 5 minutes to explain to us often times takes hours to properly convey to an offshore team. Sure offshore companies have people that can speak English, but having them understand the language and the meaning of what is being said are often times two different things entirely.US based companies also generally have more business experience than the offshore company and are operated by people who have more practical hands on background for business and sales operations as well.Robert ThorntonWeb Global NetWebglobalnet.net Reply
Nov 6, 2007 7:30 AM coly aziz coly aziz  says:
I think that one should rename homeshoring into officeshoring or workshoring due to the fact that agents involved in such processes are behaving as real workers and are located in real offices.The term homeshoring sounds like if there was some kind of leisure in their daily practises.And the main avantage of "workshoring " is that any places with a broadband connection can be used and be fully operational by any company of any size. Reply
Nov 9, 2007 7:46 AM Nedra Harris Nedra Harris  says:
The term "homeshoring" was specifically coined to refer to the growing trend of utilizing home-based agents for call centers -- that is, agents who actually work from the comfort of their individual homes, using their own personal computers and phones. Statistically, these agents are better educated, more mature, and have more years of professional experience than their brick-and-mortar counterparts ... at a lower cost.Nedra HarrisWorking SolutionsWorkingsol.com Reply
Apr 10, 2008 6:28 AM Don Kosis Don Kosis  says:
You mention that Jet Blue and Southwest employee homeshore employees. I have not heard that Southwest has such employees and if so how would one get more information as to applying for a position with them. Thanks for the information Don Kosis Djpkos@msn.com Reply

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