Frost & Sullivan’s most recent end-user research detailing the factors that motivate the adoption of a hosted solution has shown that 61% of companies have moved to the model because of the ease of provisioning and the ability to manage multi-site and remote agents.
According to Gartner Research, 1 out of every 10 international call centres is likely to shift at least partly to home-based agents – a trend known as “homeshoring”.
Bruce von Maltitz, director of 1Stream, a local hosted call center technology provider who has recently been given the Frost & Sullivan Most Entrepreneurial Hosted Technology Provider Award, says that this is very much in line with their client requirements. “We’ve seen companies move towards more call centres that are less premise-based for a few years now,” he explains. “They can create a queue that includes agents in multiple centers, or allow for skills-based routing – which does not require agents to be in the same location. This means that anyone – from a professor to a housewife – can work as call center agents, regardless of where they are based. Managers can schedule and monitor agents from any location in the world.”
According to Frost & Sullivan’s report, whilst homeshoring is still in its early years, the number of work-at-home agents are rising rapidly and “could become the industry norm in the coming years and in time, represent an appealing alternative to off-shoring”.
“South Africa is particularly well-suited to at-home-agents because we have so many different languages native to different provinces and geographic areas. Rather than build a call center in each area, we could have skilled workers in different areas, dealing with customer queries in different languages. This not only enables a workforce but reduces operational costs dramatically,” says Von Maltitz.
Renting floor space is no doubt one of the biggest expenses a call center undergoes, which is effectively eliminated by homeshoring, and some agents pay for or provide their own equipment, including computers, furniture and telephones. There are also other associated benefits, including boosting employment and reducing the carbon footprint of the call center, because there is no need to commute to work.
“Although many call center managers might see it as the riskier option to take, it’s not hard to manage a workforce without being in the same building,” explains Von Maltitz. “Start by hiring highly trained, experienced and motivated agents. A mature and proven workforce is vital to the success of a home-based model and so is the right technology provider that can advise you about the proper reporting and monitoring tools that need to be put into place.
Karen Kotze, remote worker for Flightsite,said "Working from home means that I can cut out the stress and time spent in traffic and have more time to myself (and for my family). I’m also able to balance my daily chores and work very efficiently. I’m also conscious of the fact that, because I don’t have to commute, we’re putting less cars on the road, which is much better for the environment. It’s convenient and easy – all it takes is a little self-discipline as an agent. I don’t know if I’d work in an office again!”
We asked Bruce von Maltitz a few questions around hosted solutions:
What percentage of their existing customers are using “Homeshoring”?
(1Stream did not reveal their own customer statistics) Statistics are not readily available but about 5% of South African call centres are using homeshoring and this is growing rapidly as companies dimply new technology that is able to support this.
How many entrants were there for the category of “Most Entrepreneurial Hosted Technology Provider Award”?
All the serious hosted call centre providers in South Africa were assessed, this included companies similar to the size of Telkom – there are about 10.
What would be involved from the “home user” to be able to operate from home?
Just a PC, headset and a decent internet connection
What would be needed from the central call centre infrastructure, over and above the existing systems?
They need call centre technology that is able to support home workers. As companies deploy new system they typically provide this type of functionality as standard. However, just because the technology is available does not mean a company can deploy home agents as they need processes to support this.
For the management of such “remote agents”, is the management inside existing call centre systems, or are there third party systems needed to manage these external parties?
Technology typically comes as standard with new systems.