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Ho! Ho! Home-based Agents

If you are in retail or another strongly seasonal business that peaks around this time of the year, I would wager a bet that you’d hire Santa and all his elves—maybe even Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, if only he could talk—to help stem the seasonal influx of contacts. Problem is: Santa, as we all know, lives at the North Pole, and so do the elves. And Rudolph, too. Assuming you are not planning to open a branch office in Barrow, Alaska, what is a contact center manager to do?

Santa Well, first off, you might want to consider whether Santa or the elves (or Rudolph) are eligible for working from the home office (I guess that would be Santa’s Workshop, in the case of our example). The advantages are pretty clear: while this approach will still require some preparation, and very likely an investment to get everything set up, deploying home-based agents during high volume times eliminates the need to scale your premise location(s) to accommodate the number of agents required to handle peak volumes.

There are other advantages to home-based agents. Take the weather, for example. When agents do not have to commute to a contact center location, they are a lot less susceptible to adverse weather. Santa’s sleigh may deal easily with snowstorms, ice and slush on the streets. The usual commuter vehicle: not so much. In particular around this time of the year, weather conditions can severely hamper your agent’s ability to get to the office. But when they work from home, all they need is a reliable Internet connection and they’re set, ready, and available to handle contacts.

Speaking of commuting; because home-based agents do not have to make their way to a contact center location, there is often a fair amount of scheduling flexibility. Putting in some hours during a peak influx to help handle the additional contacts, or working less preferable shifts is a lot easier when you don’t have to spend valuable time on the road. It’s actually easy if all you have to do is walk over to your workspace. Some agents may even consider it a perk to be able to get some additional hours in, holiday shopping is upon us, after all…

Another aspect you should consider when looking into adding home-based agents to your environment are qualifications. Now, the elves are quite multi-talented. Santa and Rudolph, on the other hand, have VERY specific skills and did require some extensive training before they got the hang of the job. Seriously, though: in particular for those hard-to-find skills, the ability to extend your reach into a previously untapped pool of eligible resources regardless of their physical location can certainly be a huge advantage. And for positions that require more extensive training, the flexibility of working from home (some, or even all the time) can help accommodate changing circumstances, allowing you to potentially keep a well-trained, successful agent that you might have otherwise lost. And last but not least, the ability to work from home is often considered a perk, that will help with not only agent retention, but also with overall employee satisfaction – it can really be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Granted, having home-based agents is not all gold and glitter. But the solutions are there to appropriately deploy and manage home-based resources. Using a cloud-based contact center solution, you eliminate the need to scale your physical locations to meet peak volume, PLUS you gain elasticity in agent licensing; you only pay for what you actually use, when you use it! Today, contact centers are also able to provide full HTML interfaces for agents that don’t require installation of any kind. Agents can see their colleagues’ presence state no matter where they are physically located. Many WFM and QM solutions are elaborate enough to accommodate home-based agents as well. Still thinking of hiring Santa, the elves and Rudolph? We say: go for it!