Satellite TV operator DirecTV (News - Alert) Inc. plans to hire about 100 people for a "virtual call center" in southwest Virginia, according to published reports.
Employees will work from their homes in the Christiansburg, Abingdon and Bluefield regions.
These home-based agents will be paid an average $10 per hour, with an opportunity to earn an additional $650 per month based on performance.
DirecTV is among the many organizations that have transitioned to the home agent model as a way of reducing operating costs while at the same improving customer service. With the home agent model, organizations can cast a much wider net in terms of recruiting, because the agents can work from anywhere. By eliminating the geographic boundaries that often prevent candidates from taking call center jobs (due to the length of the commute), and significantly widening the recruiting area, call centers be much more selective about the agents they hire.
What's more, recent research shows that retention rates among home-based agents averages 80 to 90 percent, whereas at a traditional "brick and mortar" call center it averages 20 or 30 percent.
In addition, the demographics of the agents tend to be better - which in turn helps improve customer service and agent retention. Many of them are retirees, homemakers, veterans and the disabled, which means the average age of the agents is higher (typically around 40) compared to agents in a traditional call center (typically around 24). As a result they tend to be smarter, more courteous and more reliable. Many are college graduates and some even have post-graduate degrees. Some are past call center agents who no longer have the desire (or the ability) to commute to a brick and mortar facility anymore.
The home agent model brings other advantages as well: For example it offers improved business continuity and redundancy; should the power get knocked out at the main center or your corporate offices, or the network goes down, your home-based call center agents, who are distributed across a region or the country, can continue to take calls and deliver customer service. Then there's the advantage of lower operating costs stemming from reduced facilities usage; with the home agent model, you don't need to lease as much space for your call center, which also means reduced utilities usage. What's more, the home agent model can significantly reduce your company's carbon footprint, simply by getting more cars off the road.
Most companies make the transition to a home-based agent program gradually, deploying a handful of home-based agents at first and then expanding the program over time. Helping to facilitate this gradual transition greatly are today's software-as-a-service or "cloud"-based call center solutions. These Web-based systems, which are fast, simple and affordable to deploy, facilitate what is called the "virtual call center," which means the call center software environment can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. These Web-based systems are contributing significantly to the growth of the home agent model by making it many times simpler for companies to securely connect remote agents to their call center systems.
With a virtual call center solution, home-based agents can have access to all the same applications as they do in the main center. In addition, multimedia contacts including phone calls, emails, Web chats and SMS messages can be routed to home-based agents just as if they were in the main center as well.
Many of today's virtual call center solutions sport Web-based administration, which enables call center managers to monitor and record home-based agents' phone calls - plus they can capture metrics and KPIs in real-time, regardless of the agent's location, using a single console. What's more, most of today's virtual call center solutions allow managers to coach and train home-based agents while they're at their desks as well.
Contactual's OnDemand Contact Center is a software-as-a-service or "cloud"-based virtual call center solution that is ideal for facilitating the home agent model. The fully Web-based solution offers a suite of core call center technologies, including ACD with universal queuing for multimedia contacts and skills based routing; IVR for speech-enabled, self-serve options; and CTI (News - Alert) to facilitate integration with CRM systems and databases.
To learn more about how Contactual's virtual call center solution can help you quickly and affordably launch your own home agent program, click here.Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard