August 16, 2012
The Home-Based Agent vs. the In-House Agent
Filed under: Entrepreneurship
With the rise in “homeshoring,” whereby businesses are reversing the trend of hiring overseas call centers by hiring domestic (U.S.-based) agents, home-based agent jobs are in great demand. Many companies still use in-house, or on-premise agents, but the home-based agent model clearly has many advantages, including cost and efficiency.
Still, they’re not the solution for everyone. How do you determine if the outsourced home-based (or “virtual”) agent model or the on-premise model is the right one for you?
Management and Training
If your company would prefer to have total control over your contact center’s recruitment, management and training, clearly, an on-premise contact center will be your best bet. Many companies pride themselves, for example, on their “unique culture.” Zappos.com is a very popular example of a company with a home-grown, finely-honed customer service environment that’s difficult to replicate in a home-based setting. Another example is Active.com, which has its own brick-and-mortar contact centers as well as a network of home-based agents it recruits itself to handle overflow during peak seasons. Active.com’s contact centers are tightly integrated into its overall operations and serve as a critical talent pipeline for other positions in the company.
Outsourced home-based agent solutions, however, work well for companies with immediate call center needs but which don’t have the resources or the time to scale their operations. Launching a new product line or service, or filling demand during an unexpectedly busy period, are challenging enough without also having to recruit, train and manage a new team of call center staff. Most outsourced home-based agent firms such as ours have finely honed training and management practices in place to assist their clients meet their call center demands, typically at very competitive rates.
When it comes to budgets, home-based agent programs have time and again proven to be the most cost-effective solution when compared to on-premise centers. Investments in hardware, software, training, recruitment, and management, are all borne by the outsourced call center, not by the company. Working with home-based agents provides further cost savings on the part of the outsourcing agency, allowing them to pass on these savings to their corporate customers.
Many companies with sensitive data — e.g., government agencies, companies with government contracts, banks — may be reluctant to recruit home-based agents, either their own or those of an outsourcing agency. They’re concerned about potential security breaches and having their data housed in off-site servers and equipment. This is certainly a valid concern, and the rise in cloud-based computing has only exacerbated the potential threat of hacker attacks and viruses.
Fortunately, most experienced outsourcers that use the home-based agent model have years of experience addressing the risks and challenges of managing a home-based agent workforce. From rigorous screening and background checks to tight security controls on software programs, they have developed and refined processes to successfully deploy home-based agents for companies with confidential data and maintain high levels of security throughout.
Find the Solution That’s Best For You
Ultimately, the decision to outsource to home-based agents or to develop your own in-house call center should be one that you’re most comfortable with, from a financial, logistical and security standpoint.
The rise in homeshoring and home-based agents, however, and the increasing demand for cost savings in light of the depressed economy, has seen the growth and maturation of the home-based agent industry as it meets the demand for cost-effective customer service solutions. Many companies such as Working Solutions now provide the services of the customer-centric, secure call center, all at a much lower cost and with greater efficiencies and flexibility than the traditional call center.