Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Top Reasons Work-At-Home Agent Programs Fail

While so many companies are exploring the call center work-at-home model and finding it very successful, why are others failing?  What makes the difference?

As a consulting company we commonly hear from our clients, “yeah, we tried that and it didn’t work for us”.  And usually their conclusion is that their situation is too complex or difficult to be done outside the office.  But when we start to dig into what they did, we typically find that their failure was due to one of the following oversights.

1.  Talent Mismatch.  This is the number one failure point for most companies.    The company tried to take on-premise agents and have them work from home.  Through the school of hard knocks, we have learned that successful work-at-home agents do not the same profile as those that work on-site.  So your recruiting efforts have to be geared toward finding a slightly different person to work at home.

2.  Lack of Tools/Support.  Companies often don’t think through the processes of how they will keep their remote agents tied into the call center group. 
  • These agents can’t turn around and ask their leader a question when they come across something unusual.  So how is this handled can determine the success of your home agents.  We recommend that they call or chat with an internal help desk group set up specifically for this purpose.  That way they can ask questions real-time just like those on-premise.
  • Also, agents need to be actively engaged with their leaders and peers and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion just like those on-site.  They need the ability to email or chat with others across the day. 
  • They also need to be able to “see” what’s going on across the center – such things as who is being recognized for outstanding performance, who’s on the birthday list, and how they can participate in a fund raiser, etc. Many centers use an internal website for this purpose.  It gives the same exposure as walking down the center hallways.  Don’t underestimate the necessity and value of these tools!

3.  Proper Equipment.  Many companies opt to have their agents use their own equipment at home (computers and headsets).  While this can save costs in the short-run, it can cause a lot of headache and challenges in the long run.  There has to be a way to ensure that the agent’s equipment meets a minimum capability and functionality levels (i.e. they carry certain virus/malware software), or else the company may be better off providing this equipment and software for their agents.

4.  Leadership Training.  Being that the agents are slightly different from those working on-premise, and the situation is very different (managing someone remotely), the leaders (supervisors, trainers, quality coaches, and WFM) all need to be trained on how to successfully work with their remote agents.

A survey completed by ContactBabel the first quarter of 2012, showed that 42% of companies are now using the work-at-home model very successfully.  And those using the model are realizing predicted savings and additional agent flexibility.  If you’ve tried work-at-home agents and failed, maybe you need to try again.  If you haven’t done this yet, maybe it’s time to start enjoying the benefits this model provides.  Share your experiences with us!