The on-demand economy is defined as economic activity created to meet a consumer demand via the real-time delivery of goods and services. The instantaneous nature of our lives has generated customer expectations for fast, simple, and efficient experiences that rival those of messaging, e-mail, media, and other online functionality available instantly via smartphones.
This on-demand model is revolutionizing commercial behavior and has been rapidly adopted by consumers everywhere, transforming industries such as ground transportation (think Uber or Lyft), travel (think Airbnb), grocery (think InstaCart or GrubHub), and freelance labor (think Upwork or Fiverr). Other categories run the gamut from the obvious to the outlandish, such as on-demand parking spaces, dog-walking, manicures, car repairs and laundry services.
The Harvard Business Review reports that the on-demand economy is attracting more than 22.4 million consumers annually and $57.6 billion in spending. It is also attracting investors. According to The On-Demand Economy, over $4.8 billion in capital has been invested in on-demand companies, with $2.2 billion invested in the last 12 months alone. Seems the on-demand model is here to stay.
Growing trend of customer service on demand
Today’s consumers also have high expectations for customer service. Providing customers with fast, helpful service and easily accessible information is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have in order to keep customers satisfied and avoid churn. On-demand customer service is emerging as a viable solution to compete in this fast-paced market.
Work at home (WAH), also known as remote work or telework, is a talent-sourcing model for contact centers, where agents work from their homes rather than from brick-and-mortar call centers. Equipped with a computer, network connection and business process management tools, agents can often set their own schedule or be activated during the company’s busy times or seasons. The entire workflow is virtual – from training to supervision – and agents may never even meet their employers face to face.
As of 2017, roughly 3.7 million employees—2.8% of the workforce—work from home at least half the time, Global Analytics Workplace reports, many of them in customer service roles.
A concept whose time has come
The growth of the on-demand economy means more and more people choosing the work they do and when they do it. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of adopting a convenient, anytime, anywhere communication system for real-time support. This resource availability, coupled with the digitalization of customer service ,cloud-based contact center solutions and robust and reliable connectivity, all indicate that the time is ripe for on-demand customer service to be adopted at a quicker pace.
The market has already produced a number of models for Customer Service as a Service, with a range of automated business processes and systems that support customer service. Businesses can outsource an outgoing call center that is fully manned by work from home agents. Crowd-powered platform can be integrated into a workflow, where power users engage as needed to help the customer and are rewarded for their efforts. These CSaaS models allow enterprises to pay either a flat fee or scalable pricing for email, chat, and phone support by customer service professionals whose operations can be integrated directly into existing support solutions.
BPOs facilitate the work-from-home trend
While some companies may choose to hire on-demand call center agents, many choose to contract with business process outsourcing firms (BPOs) who provide call center services for a fee. These Business Process Services, or BPS, benefits stretch beyond the usual techniques of offshore labor and technology automation. According to a report by Cognizant, BPS can deliver better skills and industry knowledge, introduce new technology and streamline processes.
As specialists in the field, BPO companies have the skills and resources simply not found in internal departments of an enterprise — and can offer a priceless outside-in perspective. They bring fresh ideas, innovative technologies and best practices to the table.
When it comes to customer service on demand, BPOs can propose concepts such as the cloud, predictive analytics and social collaboration in order to utilize the relevant staff with the necessary expertise at the right time. Criteria may be based on experience, geography, or other specific requirements determined by the enterprise. BPOs often manage the onboarding process, agent training and quality assurance SLAs to ensure the customer experience is the best it can be. Most BPOs offer a variety of business models and pricing structures that can be tailored to fit the enterprise needs.
Benefits of on-demand customer support
With days filled with frustrated customers, confined to a cubicle and often on a low pay scale, it is not surprising that according to a report by Forrester, agent turnover rates below 20% are considered low. With on-demand customer support, agents benefit from managing their own schedules and working from the comfort of their homes. The flexibility it affords is unprecedented as agents can choose to work for multiple companies, do it as a side gig, or only be activated on weekends.
Employing an on-demand support model offers the enterprise a number of tangible returns and low risk of failure. While companies may need to relinquish a measure of control, on-demand support enables companies to offer a follow-the-sun structure and provide 24/7 global support. It provides the flexibility many companies need for scaling up or down depending on business needs, and enables access to a wider pool of resources and skill sets that may be unwilling or unable to commute to your call center. It also allows for back-office cost savings on real estate for support centers, employee maintenance costs and agent churn. According to Forbes, by implementing remote work options, Aetna eliminated 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million. American Express reported annual savings of $10 to $15 million thanks to its remote work options.
Customer service on demand is a new and growing trend. While in the past, a call center was comprised of a physical building filled with live people and lots of hardware, today a call center can be set up virtually within minutes. Forward-thinking enterprises have begun capitalizing on this possibility by taking advantage of the opportunities the on-demand economy offers – for themselves, for agents and most importantly, for their customers.