Wednesday, October 17, 2012 10:30 AM
HOME AGENTS OFFSHORE: TAKING A FRESH LOOK AT A PROVEN COST-SAVING MODEL?
With recession enveloping most of the developed nations worldwide, organizations are making every possible effort to look for ways and means to optimize their costs/resources and increase productivity. As most countries are dealing with this uncertain economic climate, I believe this is the right time for outsourcing service providers to take the next step towards the “work-from-home” concept by using home agents in lower cost geographies.
Today, technology has rendered geography meaningless—at least when it comes to work that can be done virtually. As competition increases, outsourcing service providers are looking to distinguish themselves by offering assorted delivery locations and models, which include virtual or home-based agents. This concept is one of the fastest growing customer care services
in the market. Although many Western countries such as the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand have been using home agents for years, there are new opportunities to leverage this proven model in new geographies.
||Managing the Virtual Workforce
The concept of home agents in locations such as Asia will take time to gather steam and gain acceptance as a part of a normal service delivery platform. As we’ve seen in Western countries, the limited interaction between management and staff in a work-at-home arrangement is offset by the increase in your labor shed (i.e., the population base from which you are drawing talent), reduction of overhead (eliminating the need to expand your physical call centers) and increase in employee satisfaction.Virtual agent contact center services are creating new challenges and opportunities for established providers as well as new entrants in global markets.
BRIDGE THE GAP: LEVERAGING A VIRTUAL WORKFORCE
The rapid expansion of the digital and technology space has changed the definition of “work” today. A virtual workforce is slowly gaining momentum overseas as businesses compete for talent across the globe. Today, the virtual worker is being hired for a variety of tasks ranging from technical support
to specialized functions such as financial planning and risk management
, web development, etc.
Needless to say, the advantages of doing so are many:
- Minimal investment in infrastructure
- Lower cost of ownership
- Access to the best talent across the globe
- Minimal liabilities (as the virtual workers are often not on your payroll…)
But how do you leverage these advantages to the fullest? What are the pitfalls of this model and what steps can you take to avoid these? How can you make your virtual workforce more efficient?
- Define Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
It is important to clearly document and share the organization goals, expectations, performance and service objectives with the virtual worker. This allows you to start on the right note. Ensure that employees know the level at which they have to deliver and the parameters at which their work is being benchmarked and evaluated.
- Treat Them as a Part of Your Organization
Complexities arise when companies fail to treat and regard virtual workers as a part of the organization. Work-from-home agents must be monitored, trained, supported and rewarded at the same level as your permanent employees. To ensure optimum performance, you must be willing to provide sufficient training and information about your processes and business objectives to all your employees—in-house or virtual!
- Communication is Key
Communication enables transparency and creates a sense of trust between you and the employee. Today, organizations can leverage the power of technology to connect with people working across different geographies and time zones. You can share data, interact, conduct meetings and collaborate with a diverse workforce in real-time. Ensure that you connect with the external vendors on a daily basis and make them feel connected with your organization and its goals.
As more and more employees embrace telecommuting and home-based work arrangements, companies will also need to adopt a flexible mindset. This is especially significant for the business process outsourcing (BPO)
industry that is plagued by challenges such as high attrition rates, lack of specialized workforce and low cost margins. The traditional “nine to five” routine is slowly becoming obsolete, and to leverage the right talent companies will need to look at diverse sourcing opportunities.
I do believe this concept can prove to be the next game changer in the BPO industry.
Do let us know your views on the future of home-based agents!