My earliest recollection of interfacing with an at home agent was probably 5 years ago when calling Jet Blue reservation line for questions on a flight. I'm not sure I knew how they were at home — I think there was just buzz in the air about this somewhat new concept or I read an article. I was fascinated by the model as they employed part time workers (benefits optional) and agents like mothers who wanted to be home when their kids came home from school etc. . . .essentially they tapped a talent pool that would otherwise be unavailable if the contact center required them to come into a traditional contact center.
Since that time, we've all seen an increase in this model. Most use remote workers as a supplement to their traditional contact center reps in an office environment, but one company, a customer of ours took this model to the next level. They have over 300 agents all at home and none in a contact center building. Why? There reason makes sense: no overhead, no phone system to purchase and maintain, and talent pool wherever the talent exists vs.. expecting to find exactly what you want in the city where you choose to build the center.
This particular company does technical support, so they need highly qualified people to answer their phones, and on the job training for this technical ability is not an option due to the speed in which they are growing. For them, a remote workforce all throughout North America made perfect sense, and they are looking to expand in to other countries as well using the same model.
So how do you connect, control, and monitor remote agents where you cannot walk up to them and address them in person? Fairly easily actually. . . inContact gives you the management tools and reporting you need to ensure they are productive. The single screen monitoring makes all agents connected to the platform appear as if they were cube mates, even though they are spread out across the globe.
We have two preferred methods of connectivity to these at home workers: 1. traditional landline phone service – using their home phone or installing a new LEC line into the home for these calls. The "Pro's" are they are simple to set up and familiar to the agent. The "Con's" are cost of the per minute charges from the inContact platform to the agent phone, and the $30 or so dollars per month per line for the additional phone line. 2. VoIP signaling to either a traditional VoIP phone or analog phone with a small converter box, or even a softphone (software based phone that uses the PC and a USB headset).
There is not a 'right' answer as far as connection. It depends upon number of minutes, technical ability of the agent, high speed internet availability and what the company is willing to spend on equipment. There are options however and this is a very practical solution with the inContact application and connection solutions.
Some Do's if considering this: 1. select an option for connectivity that can be scaled to large levels and one that can be cookie cutter in its set up and installation. 2. If going VoIP, understand what else is going on at the home that could hog bandwidth and cause a lower quality call. Are they downloading videos, online gaming, streaming video or radio, or hosting a website. Make sure you understand the level of control you have over the environment.
Blog in if you have other questions specific to your organization.