The days of the ‘call centre automation’ are over, predicts BT futurologist, as the industry looks for highly specialised experts
BT has predicted a surge in the rise of homeshored contact centre advisors for 2008, as businesses face up to a growing dilemma between the need for cost reductions and an increasingly demanding customer base.
The company has warned of a potential recipe for disaster brewing as contact centres fail to deliver either their efficiency targets or their customer promises. Homeshoring, which made its entry into the Macmillan English dictionary this year, is emerging as the most viable solution, according to Dr Nicola Millard, a BT futurologist who has been examining the subject for some time.
Dr Nicola Millard, BT Global Servcies, said: “Bringing the contact centre home – literally – is without doubt the best route for consumer-facing businesses now. Although the ability to ‘telework’ from home has existed for almost 20 years now, homeshoring is a very different and more complex proposition. It requires a skilled workforce with disciplined shift patterns integrated into the operation of a virtual contact centre and the access to real time voice and data to allow specialists to answer customer calls based on skills based routing.”
Still in its infancy, the concept of homeshoring is predicted to grow considerably over the next few years. Despite around 7.5 per cent of the UK’s workforce working from home at least one day a week (according to the Office of National Statistics), very few “traditional” contact centre advisors are afforded this option. However, according to a report from Exony1 , a homeshored strategy could save the UK contact centre industry up to £5 per hour which equates to approx £6000 per agent per year along with the benefits of job creation, reduced carbon footprint and improvement in customer experience. Gartner2 estimates that organisations can save up to 10 per cent of their costs through homeshoring.
Millard believes there are five main drivers that point towards the growth of the homeshored advisor:
The increasing costs of recruiting and retaining staff. In the homeshoring model, recruitment is not confined to people that live within reasonable commuting distances from the contact centre or want to work traditional hours.
The changing nature of contact centre interactions – with many customers starting to do the simple stuff themselves, contact centre staff are becoming more specialised.
The perceived consumer criticism against offshored call centres coupled with increasing wage bills in popular offshoring areas, making offshored call centres a less attractive prospect.
The falling costs and increasing reliability of broadband connectivity to the home.
The sustainability agenda. The environmental benefits of working at home are increasingly well known. Exony estimates that the four million contact centre agents currently working in UK, US and Canada produce more than six million tons of CO² each year.
Millard added: “Homeshoring needs to support the needs and aims of the organisation and must have buy-in at every level from the CEO to supervisors. It will not be appropriate for everyone and culturally, companies will need to adapt. Many managers will lack confidence in their ability to “manage at a distance” and some will not have faith in their staff’s commitment to be as productive as they would be in a contact centre. However, systems and processes can be carefully thought through to counteract this and this is far from an insurmountable challenge.”