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Offshore? Move Home, with Work-at-Home Agents

In an effort to slash costs of providing customer support, in the past several years many companies decided to offshore their customer service organizations.  They found fertile ground in countries such as India, where poverty was widespread, unemployment high, and where many young college-educated employees were looking for work.  So, droves of companies began to move their contact center operations overseas.

This approach seemed like a win-win.  Companies seeking highly educated employees for relatively low wages were able to find them far more readily overseas.  And for new graduates entering a difficult job market in these countries, they were able to find employment in a professional environment that paid relatively good wages.

Sounds great!  So, what’s the rub? 

Customers complained.  Although the contact center agents spoke English, sometimes it was with a heavy dialect.  Sometimes the agents didn’t understand the context of customer inquiries, or weren’t sure how to handle requests that deviated from the dialog in their scripts. 

And, as more companies moved their operations offshore, several things happened.  In many of the countries that were becoming popular spots for offshoring, the influx of tens of thousands of jobs meant agent salaries began to rise rapidly.  With more companies moving in and others expanding their presence, agents had more opportunities to move to other contact centers. 

Attrition rose, and with it the costs of hiring and training their replacements.

At the same time, queries directed to contact center agents started to become more challenging.  Consumers began to self-serve, finding a plethora of information on companies’ web sites and in social forums.  Additionally, most companies were now providing voice portal systems to self-serve. 

Today, when customers actually pick up the phone and make a call, it’s because they haven’t been able to find what they need or the solution to their problem in other places.  They may already be frustrated because of fruitless searching.  

Now we have the perfect storm.  Callers have more difficult problems, and they may encounter an agent who doesn’t have the needed expertise.  Or, they talk to someone they find difficult to understand and become even more frustrated.  This scenario provides fertile ground for the company’s competitors!

But what is the path out of this conundrum?  As companies become more focused on delivering outstanding customer service as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and yet reduce costs, the trend to “nearshore” or “homeshore” their customer service is gaining momentum.  Call Center Software magazine documented this approach in an article entitled “Offshoring, Nearshoring, and Homeshoring: What to Choose?” This article quotes data showing that this approach garners significantly higher customer satisfaction rankings, and that the number of first call resolutions were 20% higher.  Two major US-based airlines have taken this approach and closed their offshore contact centers.

All this data gives companies one more good reason to consider other approaches for reducing costs – such as implementing home agent programs!

With work-at-home agents, a multitude of studies prove companies can hire more highly educated and dedicated workforce, reduce attrition (and therefore hiring and training costs), eliminate real-estate costs, and deliver higher agent and customer satisfaction. Home Agents are a win-win proposition.