Decentralised contact centres with remote agents working from home may be the future.
A recent survey suggests that 84 percent of managers in charge of large contact centres see the emergence of employing remote agents as the next big trend in the industry, paving the way to lower fixed costs and a new and even more qualified pool of candidates.
Contact centres’ traditional dependency on the local talent pool may be a thing of the past, as more and more traditional contact centres are looking into decentralising operations and employing remote agents, who typically work from home.
Being a remote agent conveys several advantages such as less commuting time and more flexibility in working hours to fit around the agent’s own schedule. The flexibility of the work hours can provide the agent with increased work satisfaction and the contact centre with a higher degree of agent retention, as remote agent initiatives allow stay-at-home parents, disabled people and people in rural communities to enjoy a full-time but flexible job.
In December 2011, Jabra and analysis institute Frost & Sullivan conducted a survey of 250 contact centre managers in Great Britain, France, the USA, China and India to investigate the connection between a good sound environment, employee satisfaction and increased productivity.
According to the survey, nearly eight out of ten contact centre managers saw the advantages of being able to employ qualified personnel from throughout the country and across time zones. This business-critical parameter was further underlined when managers were asked their opinions on the advantages of the remote contact centre agent model where access to a well-qualified pool of candidates was an important parameter.
When asked whether employing remote agents is the future of contact centres in their area, 68 percent of UK contact centre managers agreed.
“It is clear from our research that remote contact centre agents represent the future of the industry and we’re thrilled that contact centre managers are joining us in seeing this important trend,” says Brendan Read, Industry Analyst, Frost & Sullivan. “As we look to the future, we expect this trend to expand rapidly as contact centres begin to witness the increases in retention, efficiency and productivity we expect this model to provide.”
When asked to list the main disadvantages of the remote agent model, 96% of UK contact centre managers cited the lack of everyday face-to-face communication with their employees and 70% cited slow internet connections as possible weaknesses.
There is no doubt that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the model, which will demand more and different things of the contact centre management than today, in terms of both software and hardware and people management. The new opportunities and challenges of the trend are to be reflected in how well the trend is received by the different sizes of contact centres.
According to the survey, larger contact centres (84%) with more than 500 seats especially see the emergence of remote agents as an opportunity, whereas medium-sized centres (69%) with between 100 and 500 seats, and smaller contact centres (46%) with fewer than 100 seats are slightly more hesitant to adopt the model.
The remote contact centre agent has very much the same requirements as the in-house agent. However, whereas the in-house agent needs to block out colleagues and possible noisy office equipment such as printers, the remote contact centre agent needs to balance the sometimes not ideal acoustics of a home office as well as everyday sounds like dogs barking or children crying. This is why 48% of UK and 79% of American contact centre managers see the need for noise-cancellation headsets for their remote agents as well as their in-house agents.
“At Jabra, we are gratified to see that around half of all contact centre managers realise that headsets with noise-cancellation technologies can be critical to the success of their remote contact centre agents,” says Holger Reisinger, Jabra Vice President of Marketing, Products and Alliances. “Designed to help remote agents concentrate fully on the task at hand, Jabra headsets feature proven technologies to reduce background noises.”