Datamonitor Report Finds Growth of Home-Based Contact Center Agents
In a report published today, market analysis firm Datamonitor found 47,000 customer service agents work from home worldwide, and expects this number to rise to almost 224,000 (a 36.4 percent increase) by 2012. While the majority of agents still work at brick-and-mortar locations, either in the United States or offshore, companies have opted to move some of their workforce home for several reasons.
According to the report, agents offered home-based positions tend to be older, have more work experience, and more discipline when it comes to working without supervision. Given their knowledge of working in a contact center environment, these home-based agents frequently produce higher customer satisfaction rates.
"People who are going to do this work from home are more motivated," says Peter Ryan, senior analyst for contact center outsourcing and offshoring at Datamonitor. "This is not a stop-gap job between college and the first job, it's something they want to be doing."
Secondly, home-based agents save companies money; Ryan notes that most corporations save anywhere between 15 percent and 30 percent. Companies can save money in a reduction of their facility space, but are more attracted to the potential gain of capital resulting from strong agent performance.
"Fifteen to 30 might not sound like a lot, but when you add it all up, as well as the added value that seems to derive from happy customers, that is a fair amount of cost savings, as well as a long-term investment for revenue streams," Ryan states.
In addition, the home-based trend has spread primarily throughout the U.S., meaning more companies have the option not to offshore, because the new model saves them money. Ryan acknowledges that some American customers harboring anti-offshoring sentiment may be pleased by the new model, but also that corporations have said that they are, "paying more and more money for agents of lower quality."
But, while some end-users may appreciate speaking with a U.S. agent, the study points out that just because some companies have moved toward a home-based model does not mean that offshoring will disappear in the near future. For example, the demand for multilingual agents, many of whom come from off-shore locations, remains a priority within the contact center.
In addition, the Datamonitor report also addresses how great a role security plays in hindering the home-based model's acceptance. Ryan, however, points to companies performing thorough background checks, enabling real-time analytics within each home agent's desktop, and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for agents disobeying company policy as means to regulate secure transactions.
Despite common confusion, the two are not one and the same.