Everyone Wins When Employees Work at Home


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Working from home is a rare grand slam, game winning business trend. In the contact center and elsewhere, the transition from commute to telecommute benefits employers, employees, end user customers and the environment alike. Employers can turn their business models upside down and have a huge advantage when contact center agents work at home. More and more businesses understand that the agent-employee — whether in customer service, sales or help desk — is a key asset, and retaining that asset is a must-do.

Outrigger Hotels had over 100 agents in a Denver contact center to serve its properties in the Hawaii, Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions. Over the course of a few years, Outrigger moved all of its contact center agents to work-at-home status, utilizing a Software as a Service-based contact center solution. The move significantly reduced tardiness and reduced agent turnover by approximately 35 percent. The shift also enabled Outrigger to shut down their building facility, further cutting overhead expense for the company.

VoiceCurve, a contact center outsourcer for major corporations based in Seattle, did the same thing. It started out with a traditional brick and mortar contact center and transitioned completely to a work-at-home model. Now, more than 200 highly-educated professionals work as contact center agents from their homes to serve several thousand VoiceCurve customers. VoiceCurve’s employee turnover has been reduced by 75 percent.

For most companies that rely on a contact center to serve customers, the costs of turnover — and the related costs of employee retraining — are a significant budget expense. Employers aren’t the only ones who pay the price; their customers suffer as well when new, less experienced agents take longer to answer questions and resolve problems via phone, chat or email. Work-at-home programs can help retain experienced agents who generally provide the best customer service.

As Outrigger and VoiceCurve demonstrate, work-at-home programs can also drive big facilities savings. A company can actually shut down its physical facilities and run a virtual contact center staffed by hundreds or thousands of employees working from their homes.

Businesses have two choices to enable work-at-home agents: invest in hardware and software or adopt a Software as a Service-based contact center infrastructure as Outrigger and VoiceCurve have done. Besides the obvious benefits of no CapEx associated with the Software as a Service model, another key differentiator is the speed to implement which is often less then 60 days vs. the one year plus it would take for a business to buy hardware and deploy it all themselves.

For employees, the work-at-home advantage starts with the commute. On average, working at home saves 90 minutes of commute time per day, plus the cost of gas. Those savings are likely driving the turnover reductions by immediately enhancing at-home workers’ quality of life, which can, in turn, improve health and reduce the number of sick days. Actually, some employees may be more inclined to work at home with mild cold symptoms because they don’t have to endure the hassle of commuting or worry about infecting their co-workers.

Other employees who lost their jobs to offshoring are beginning to see work-at-home advantages luring those jobs back onshore. In an offshore contact center, cost savings can be offset by language issues resulting in poor customer service quality. Now, companies are moving many of those jobs back onshore to U.S. soil, hiring agents who work at home either full time or part time. Onshoring their contact centers with at-home agents lets these companies differentiate their businesses by cost-effectively providing better customer service.

Work-at-home initiatives are also good for the environment. We burn less fossil fuel by not driving to work alone in our cars — something that more then 75 percent of the U.S. commuters do (according to U.S. Census Bureau data). So, working at home fits the green movement by helping reduce greenhouse gases, as well as turning off the lights and power to contact center facilities no longer needed by the business.

Behind the game-winning business, employee, customer and environmental benefits lies a core of enabling technologies — voice over IP (VoIP) and Software as a Service-based contact center solutions. Over the past several years, these solutions have matured to the point that employees working from home are just as effective — from a communications standpoint — as their office-bound counterparts. Some businesses have deployed the Software as a Service model both for their work-at-home agents and for those agents continuing to work from the companies’ facilities. Today, with just a DSL connection or high-speed modem, a contact center agent working at home can handle both voice and data communications and maintain high quality for both. Moreover, the flat fee for a broadband Internet connection permits unlimited usage, unlike metered fees charged for traditional phone service.

The work-at-home contact center agent model provides some clear benefits across the board, from saving money to improving quality of life and the environment. And for companies that value both employees and interaction with customers, migrating contact center agents to work from home can improve the quality of service they provide to customers. Your initiative is good for business and great for your work force.



  1. We have office space in Seattle to get together when necessary, but our entire Fuze team mostly works from home. With all the inexpensive (if not free) Web-based software available now to manage projects, facilitate collaboration and just communicate in general, we all believe that the flexibility provided by this distributed work environment provides the best possible ecosystem to get lots done fast while enjoying the comforts of our home.

    On average, our team’s commute is less than 15 seconds and those unexpected things that come up around the house are easily dealt with.

    I personally do some of my best thinking when doing a late night soak in the hot tub.

    What else can be so effective in optimizing things for Fuze, our customers/partners and the planet? Nothing!

    As long as clear objectives are defined and proactively managed, working from home can work for virtually anyone!

    http://www.fuze.com Provider of the only collaborative knowledge base http://www.kb2dot0.com
    Enterprise-grade customer care and knowledge sharing without the enterprise price.

  2. I’d really like to be able to back this idea wholeheartedly. Technology lets home-working happen but that doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do, or even a good thing to do.

    We have recently concluded an engagement with an organization that had grown at between 50% and 100% per annum over the last few years (recession? what recession, they cried!). It was constantly recruiting new staff to its contact centre and was running out of physical space. It had taken over a second floor in the high-rise office block it occupied. It was implementing multi-tasking, hot-desking, extended office hours and job-sharing in order to meet its customer service obligations.

    One of our recommendations was that they implement home-working deploying VoIP technology. It took them about 5 minutes to reject our carefully costed recommendation (yes, it was a great idea economically). On what grounds, you may ask? First, they felt that independent home-working would be inimical to the culture of the organization. They liked to believe they were family. Second, at the contact centre they were organized into small work groups and were able to physically move and talk to colleagues about problems that they faced, to ask advice, to talk about any other issue, or simply socialise. Third, the organization felt it would be unable to provide adequate help-desk service to the distributed staff. Fourth, managing a distributed work-force presents a very different set of challenges from managing an assembled work-force, challenges the client felt they were unable to meet.

    You and I might agree that none of these objections are terminal but they were powerful enough to deter this client from adopting our recommendations.

    Dr. Francis Buttle
    [email protected]

  3. At Outrigger Hotels and Resorts I utilize a variety of hosted solutions to compliment our main hosted contact center solution, Echopass. These solutions help keep employees connected with both the business and management.
    It is very important to understand all of your employee needs as well as supervisor and management needs prior to the implementation of any work at home solution.
    As I have said for the past several years, try it, it can work very well for the majority of customer contact businesses. I implemented the work at home solution over three years ago. I have been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years while at the same time enhancing and upgrading our customers experience as well as our employees.


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