What Do You Call A Call Center with Only Remote Employees?
I’ve been hearing rumors of it for a while but it’s actually starting to happen. Companies are dismantling their call centers and sending all of their employees home to continue their work from there. Many temp agencies have been utilizing work-from-home call center employees, but it’s been rare that full time call center buildings are closed in favor of a 100% remote workforce.
Last week, Asurion, a handset insurance and wireless roadside assistance company, announced that it would abandon its brick-and-mortar call center and replace it with a work-from-home model that it had been trying out for a while.
Exciting? Yes! Challenging? Definitely!
The company’s spokesperson, Betty Columbo, sited the following as reasons for the transition:
- Operating costs
- Infrastructure costs
- Success with initial roll-out of work at home model
It’s all well and good to look at operating and infrastructure costs, but what about the challenges of a 100% remote workforce? What are the major obstacles in managing a service organization with this type of workforce structure? I can think of a few…
- Service Level Agreements
- Customer Service Standards
- Shift Scheduling/swapping
Service Level Agreements: Granted, I am sure that the Remote Call Center Employees have calls automatically re-routed if they are unable to answer the phone (bio-breaks)… but what about the temptation for those remote employees to do household tasks while waiting for the phone to ring? I am not sure how it works, but I’d assume employees get in big trouble if their calls get re-routed multiple times during a shift. But, what if everyone decides to put in a load of laundry at the same time? No, really… what happens?
Customer Service Standards: Not related to if you answer the phone on time, but more like your attitude and focus. Whenever I am on the phone for more than ten minutes, my cat decides it’s time to scratch the furniture. I spend half my time listening to the person on the other end, and half the time shooing my cat away from the upholstery. Maybe the doorbell rings while an employee is trying to resolve a call, or maybe the employee is simply less focused so calls take longer, customers are less happy, and what’s the pro tocol for “Let me speak to your manager” when your manager is six towns away? No, really… what happens?
Shift Scheduling and Shift Swapping: I assume this whole process has to be automated somehow. It’s hard enough to schedule shifts for employees when they are present, but how much more complicated is it to alert people to open shifts, find people to cover no-shows, (how do they even learn about no-shows?), or handle last minute shift swaps that happen? The only possible thing I can think of is that people do all of this online, in a way that makes communication easy and two-way and isn’t time consuming.
Maybe I am niave, maybe the work-from-home workforce is much more technologically savvy than the call centers of the days of old. Maybe everyone is hooked up to a cool SaaS running on some awesome Cloud and there aren’t any of these hardships, but I just can’t imagine that to be true.
Has anyone ever had a work-from-home call center experience? What was it like? How did you handle the three obstacles I came up with? Were there others? Do you want to write a guest blog on this topic because I could use some insight, and I think other readers could as well.