Home is where the job is; Work-at-Home operations provide significant benefits to employer and employee alike.
At-home agents help corporations slash overhead costs and improve their carbon footprints while boosting customer satisfaction, staff performance and profits.
That’s why companies in all industries are turning to remote versus on-site sales and service teams.
Nearly one-fourth of U.S. workers labored at least one day at home weekly in 2014, compared with 19 percent in 2003, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Eighty-three percent of human resources managers expect this trend to continue, a survey from the Society for Human Resources Management revealed.
Let’s take a closer look at how virtual staffing succeeds:
1. THE TALENT POOL EXPANDS
Finding skilled labor within driving distance is increasingly hard now that unemployment has dropped to 5.3 percent in June 2015, versus 9.4 percent in June 2010.
Long-distance transfers are no easier: three of five workers decline to uproot, up three percent from five years ago, even when firms cover relocation costs, reports Atlas Van Lines’ 2015 annual national relocation 2015 survey.
Those who do agree to move expect not only aid with moving expenses but also temporary housing, partner job hunts, cost-of-living adjustments and finding child and senior care.
A virtual platform enables you to hire the most qualified prospects wherever they are. Online application forms, available 24/7 and not just during HR’s office hours, can shorten a potentially drawn-out hiring process.
Technology makes such searches less expensive. Computer programs can evaluate candidates’ skill sets and self-starting abilities or interview and then grade applicants on their responses to pre-recorded questions.
Composite scores can be based on the respondent’s vocabulary, articulation, tone, pace and listening skills. HR need only follow up with live one-on-one phone interviews with top contenders.. To further eliminate the uncommitted, virtual platforms can require interviewees to pay vendors directly for background checks.
Finally, Alorica’s research shows that virtual classes slash on-boarding up to 40 percent by allowing hirelings to self-pace their training online and at any hour. The time they’d spend commuting to contact centers can be spent on training itself.
2. STAFFING FLEXES WITH WORK VOLUME
Volatile consumer demand forces businesses to boost and shed staff as needed, which makes it tough to maximize use of capital, office space, furniture and equipment.
With outsourced staffing, businesses can adapt without wasted resources.
Having operations across the U.S. enables corporations to hike profits by taking advantage of some states’ higher populations and advantageous laws and tax codes. By spanning four time zones, support staff can monitor system performance and server up-time at any hour to eliminate delays in consumer queries or purchases. And a widespread labor force ensures no single natural disaster cripples sales or customer service.
The flexibility of home-based representatives is estimated to be twice that of brick-and-mortar centers—and triple at peak hours, according to case studies.
By dividing schedules into half-hour increments, employees report to duty when they can focus and be their most productive. At the same time, employers ensure complete coverage at peak hours without overstaffing or overspending. Remote representatives can be assigned to what would be the beginning and end of onsite center shifts without firms having to pay for overlapping full-time schedules of 8-5 and 12-8. Bookend agents can straighten out calls over the weekend so volume doesn’t overwhelm come Monday morning.
Seasonal businesses—such as florists and outdoor apparel retailers—can ramp up for their peak seasons or holiday traffic. Similarly, health care agencies can staff up during annual enrollment periods, utility companies during billing weeks and publishers during subscription promotions.
In one case study, a floral retailer was able to fluctuate staffing from eight to 200 agents, then down to 50 and surge back to 200 without idle hands and space during down periods.
Likewise, at-home agents in another case study enabled a satellite radio station to reach customers when they were receptive, by ramping up by 79 percent, then down 360 percent, and up 283 percent as needed during a 10-day period. And they didn’t need to lease extra office space.
Outsourced operations enabled another client to evacuate their internal contact center during Southern California firestorms without a drop in customer service. Instead, home agents boosted staffing by 169 percent within two hours so consumers could be rerouted.
3.OVERALL PERFORMANCE RISES
How can a company know whether off-site staff is working—or shirking—its duties? And can remote staff be as loyal or clear on the corporation’s goals?
Research shows that at-home agents perform at their peak due to fewer distractions. Instant messaging and video conferencing allow socially isolated staff to stay connected and on point. Plus, remote workers are able to balance work/home life better, leading to higher retention and a willingness to accept lower wages in trade for their freedom
A recent case study by Stanford University found employees were happier and half as likely to quit when they worked at home. Instead of being lonely, workers were more focused. Indeed, as reported in Harvard Business Review, productivity soared by 13 percent with home versus in-office workers. With no commute and no distracting ambient noise and water-cooler breaks, the virtual staff also was less inclined to take sick days.
Commute time alone saps labor loyalty and efficiency: eight percent of U.S. workers traveled an hour or longer to get to the office in 2011, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau American Community survey. Nearly 600,000 full-timers spent at least 90 minutes reaching offices 50 miles away or more.
A wireless provider’s switch from brick-and-mortar to home agents translated into profit: They saw productivity rise ten percent and savings of seven million dollars yearly, according to a recent case study. Not only that, in a company-sponsored contest pitting the at-home team versus in-office crew, the former outperformed the latter by 40 percent.
To get such results, it’s best to rely on remote staffing for routine tasks that can be tracked easily, such as sales calls, bill processing and tech support, versus more creative duties. Internal reporting tools are needed so supervisors can know real-time performance, to which incentives, bonuses, rewards and scheduling can be tied to performance, with the top producers picking their hours first.
When businesses share KPI data, employees may be motivated to boost personal output to match that of other remote agents.
The best virtual centers offer computer scheduling so representatives can trade or add to their shifts. Performance assessment liaisons (PALs) can be offered at all hours to help agents with technical issues, coaching or training. Top performers can become virtual assistants to fellow agents via such programs.
4.DATA IS MORE SECURE
Confidentiality of both corporate and consumer information is an increasing concern. Data breaches are costly in time, money and goodwill.
The Solution Professional consultants can ensure employees use locked-down desktops, with Citrix single sign-on capabilities and multiple points of security throughout the network. Such measures include curbing off-site agent access to sensitive and personal private data, credit card information, Social Security numbers, date of birth and health care information.
Look for a firm where consumers are able to enter credit and health data directly into the system without agents seeing their private information. Also make sure virtual contact centers comply with PCI (Payment Card Industry), SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) industry security standards and meet HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements.
Consistently, home agents are the ultimate candidates for sales and customer service positions. They work more quickly, effectively, nimbly and cost-efficiently—without the commute.
It’s no mystery that major employers from florists to electric companies prefer home agents to an on-site team. Virtual support teams allow firms to use a nationwide pool of the best labor available— thoroughly trained, highly motivated, securityvetted and flexibly staffed to meet companies’ specific needs. Alorica has the experience for home agent success, having been on the forefront since 2002.
The benefits are clear, including raised call capacity and improved responses to fluctuating sales and unexpected challenges—especially when you enlist the right solutions provider.