Homeshoring Call center agent from home by decree

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									Contact Center Today
Call Centers Are Heading for Home




In the big picture, experts view homeshoring as a complement to offshore outsourcing.
Judicious use of both options lets companies distribute call center work where it makes the
most sense. For example, offshore agents may be best suited for calls that don't depend on
cultural knowledge, while at-home agents in the United States may be appropriate for calls
that require local or geographic expertise, such as roadside assistance.




When they're not on the road for a service call, but they are on the clock, field technicians for Aspect
Software pitch in handling customer calls that require technical expertise. They can take calls from
their homes or satellite offices. Either way adding to the pool of agents is no big deal, says Gary
Barnett, CTO at Aspect.


Routing calls to employees working from home "is just about as simple as it is to set up agents in a
building," Barnett says.




Aspect, which makes call center software, has been routing customer calls to employee homes for
years. As a technology provider in the call center marker, Aspect is a natural fit for the leading edge of
a trend to extend call centers beyond the confines of brick-and-mortar facilities.




Others are catching on to the idea. Over the last few years, more companies have built virtual call
centers by outfitting agents to work from their homes. IDC calls the trend "homeshoring" and says it
will continue to gain momentum.




Home-based agents represent a small fraction of the 4 million-plus people who work in call centers in
the United States. Some companies, such as JetBlue Airways, use their own home-based agents.
Others hire outsourcers that use home workers.
There are about 112,000 outsourced home-based agents in the country, according to research from
IDC. By 2010, IDC expects that population will surpass 300,000. No figures are available for home-
based agents who are employed by businesses running their own call centers.

Alpine Access, LiveOps, West Corp., Willow CSN and Working Solutions are among outsourcing
firms that hire or contract with agents working from home. Some of their customers that have bought
into the idea of home-based agents include 1-800-Flowers, the Internal Revenue Service, J.Crew,
McKesson Health Solutions and Office Depot.

Driving the demand for home-based agents is the desire to streamline costly call center operations.
Call centers typically are challenged to find more-productive agents, achieve higher retention rates,
and find ways to deal with spikes and lulls in voice traffic. Using agents who work from home provides
a way to deal with some of these challenges.

Because at-home jobs are in demand, companies that hire home-based agents have a larger pool of
more-qualified candidates to choose from, experts say. In addition, companies can lower facility costs
by shifting staff to home-based workstations.

A big draw for companies and agents is the flexibility for home-based agents to take calls for short
periods of time, during call peaks. In a traditional call center, it wouldn't make sense to have an agent
drive to work just to take calls for 20 minutes. Round-the-clock scheduling also is easier with a
geographically distributed workforce.

Economic trends are helping to drive growth of home-based agents, says Stephen Loynd, a senior
analyst at IDC. High gas prices and costly living expenses in urban areas combine to make home-
based work attractive, which adds to the high retention rates companies achieve with virtual call
center employees. Traditional call centers report huge turnovers, in some cases approaching 80% to
100% annually Conversely virtual call center outsourcer Willow has a 15% annual attrition rate.


Willow, which was acquired last year by Accretive Technology, ended 2005 with 35 clients and 3,000
at-home agents, all of whom are independent contractors. The company expects to add 4,000 home-
based agents to its ranks this year, culled from five times as many applicants, says new CEO Angela
Selden.

About 15% to 20% of applicants make it through the company's rigorous screening process, Selden
says. The average agent age at Willow is 38. About 65% have college degrees, 75% have sales
experience and 50% have management experience. "The quality of these folks far surpasses the
average quality that you can attract to a physical, geographic location," Selden says.


Technology advances also are helping to propel adoption of the home-based agent model, Loynd
says. For example, VoIP
technology makes it easier for people to work out of homes, he says.

But VoIP is by no means a prerequisite. Willow, for example, doesn't route calls over IP networks. The
technology isn't dependable enough, Selden says. "Right now, what we've discovered is that voice
over IP still has enough instability that it doesn't provide us with the level of service our clients expect.
As voice over IP stabilizes and becomes more reliable, it could become an alternative for the future."
Broadband is a prerequisite for Willow, however. Agents need broadband to access call center
applications containing customer information and scheduling features, for example.

The availability of Web-based applications is driving use of home-based agents, Aspect's Barnett
adds. Being able to get data to home users reliably and in a secure fashion makes using home-based
agents feasible, he says. "It didn't do much good to have a call center agent who was able to talk from
home but didn't have access to the data that he needed, such as who a customer is and order-status
information," he says.

In addition, previous billing practices would have meant that telephone calls routed from a call center
to a home office would incur a metered charge for traveling over the public network, Barnett says.
"Now with many different fixed-cost options and voice over IP it's no more expensive to get that voice
out to a home than it is to get it to a desk in the office."

In the big picture, experts view homeshoring as a complement to offshore outsourcing. Judicious use
of both options lets companies distribute call center work where it makes the most sense. For
example, offshore agents may be best suited for calls that don't depend on cultural knowledge, while
at-home agents in the United States may be appropriate for calls that require local or geographic
expertise, such as roadside assistance.

The price of a home-based agent falls somewhere between in-house and offshore options, Loynd
says. "It's going to be cheaper, on average, to have a home-based agent than to have them working in
a U.S. call center, but not as cheap as going to a place like India," he says.
How Do You Tell If The Job is Legit?

Marta Wells




                                                                                28-Oct-05




Know More: MLM, WAHM Scams, Work At Home Agents, Work From Home Options



One of the hardest things about searching for a job that allows you to work from
home is knowing if it is a real job or some slimy scam or lousy MLM 'opportunity'.

One of the first things to note is that no 'real' job will ever ask you for money,
period! You might have to go through some unpaid training but when you see
anything asking for a 'fee' even if they say it is refundable or for required software--
run away!

There are Internet sites set up to help those looking for work-from-home
opportunities but many of these are scams themselves. Even if a site is legitimate
they can't be responsible for checking out all the job offers so you will need to take
that upon your own shoulders.

Just this morning I came across this site, West at Home, who hire At Home Agents
to handle their call center projects. The parent company is West Telemarketing and
when you find a company like this that looks professional, offers tons of
information, and clearly lists their company name, address, and phone number you
can be pretty sure it is legit.

This company offers IVR solutions, customer care and acquistion support and
more. They even won the 2004 Inter@ction Solutions Magazine's "Product of the
Year" award. Sounds pretty nifty eh? In just a quick review of their requirements it
looks like you can average about $10 per hour and just need a phone line and PC
with DSL or cable Internet access, sorry no modems.

Watch this blog as I put myself through the screening and training process. Follow
along with me and we might just find this is a viable solution for those of you still
searching for a work-from-home position!
                                                             Willow
                                      CyberCorp Workstation Requirements


         The links for Service Packs, Security Patches, free downloads and many more useful sites and downloads can be found at:
                                      http://www.willowcsn.com/Cybercorps/AdditionalRequirements.htm




Computer Equipment
                                                                                      Restrictions &
                                                                                      Unsupported

Processor:                 700 MHZ or better – ( 1.2 GHZ is recommended for
                           Windows XP users )                                         Operating Systems:
                           If upgrading from a slower processor, consider purchasing Windows ME, Windows 98, MacOS
                           a new system, it is usually more cost effective



RAM:                       512 MB for Windows XP – 256 MB for Windows 2000           Dual Boot
Hard Drive:                20 GB with at least 10GB of free space                    Dual Hard Drives
Modem:                     56K bps Internal or External modem                        Partition Hard Drives


CD-ROM & Floppy            32X Speed CD-ROM R/W, R/W DVD, or a 3 1/2 Floppy          (Where the OS and/or Application is
Drive:
                         (one backup device is needed, cd, dvd or floppy )
                                                                                    not on Drive: C or Drive: C is not
Sound Card & Speakers:   24 bit sound card and a pair of desktop speakers           1st drive)
Monitor:                 17” Color Monitor
Additional Hardware
                                                                                    Restrictions & Unsupported




DSL or Cable Modem:      DSL or Cable fast access internet service is a requirement Modem Equipment
                         Your Internet Service Provider provides the hardware


                         No connections to a Wireless Home Network at any           2-Wire Modem, most USB connected Modems
                         time with your computer used to work your Willow           (Wireless modems or routers are not supported or
                         Clients                                                    recommended )



Back up ISP:             A back up ISP is required. It can be a dial up as long as it Internet Service Providers (ISP):
                         is not the same provider as your primary ISP.

                                                                                    AOL, Prodigy, MSN, CompuServe, NetZero, Juno,
                                                                                    BlueLight




                                                                                    E-Mail Services:
                                                                                    All ISP’s from above, HotMail, Yahoo, IncrediMail, and
                                                                                    Email Spam Blockers
                                                                                Phone Equipment

                                                                                Durabrand or Lenoxx manufacturers
Printer:               Color Printer is better but not required


UPS Battery Back-up    Used to safely shutdown your PC during a power outage


w/ Surge Protection:



Telephone Line:        Standard POTS phone line dedicated to your business w/
                       no special features, ONLY Touch Tone and Dial Tone on
                       the line

                       (No VOIP, Fax or Answering Machines/Services and
                       No one should have this number other than your
                       Client & Willow )



                          Please add your Business phone line number to the
                                    “National Do Not Call” list at:

                                         https://www.donotcall.gov


Telephone:             Hold, Flash and Headset functionality
2 Headsets w/               Telephone Headset and a VOIP Headset (Voice Over
Microphone:                 Internet Protocol: connects to your computer)

                            NO WIRELESS PHONES or WIRELESS
                            HEADSETS or any combination of.

Installed Software
                                                                                        Restrictions & Unsupported




Operating System:           Windows 2000 (service pack 4) and all critical updates      Applications:

                            Windows XP (service pack 2, with applied Willow SP2 Fix Any Games, Pop-up Blockers, Norton SystemWorks
                            from CyberSupport, Automated Tasks page) and all critical (Use only the anti-virus portion), Norton Internet
                            updates                                                   Security
Anti-Virus Software:        AVG Free Edition – (at the same time, you can have any of
                            these other supported antivirus software’s: Symantec’s
                            Norton Anti-Virus, McAfee or other reputable Anti-Virus
                            Software w/ latest virus updates, but AVG Anti-virus MUST
                            BE INSTALLED


E-Mail Viewer:              Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express (Outlook Express is Any Firewall Programs, WebHot Bars, WebSearch
                            free and is included with all the Windows OS’s)          Bars, Go Back, Netscape (Browser), Mozilla, Opra,
                                                                                     any p2p software, LimeWire, Gator, Morpheus, DC++,
                                                                                     BearShare, Kazaa, Bonzai, Buddy, Grokster, Skype,
                                                                                     BigFix


Web Browser:                Internet Explorer 6.0 w/ latest patches and updates


Office Suite Applications: Microsoft Office 2000 or Microsoft Office XP (Must be able
                           to view Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files)
PDF File Viewer:   Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or above (This is free software)



Other Software:    Ad-aware (Newest version with latest definitions installed –
                   all can be acquired from CyberSupport, Automated Tasks
                   page)
                                          Alpine Access
Here is what we look for in our agents:


Professional, pleasant phone presence.
Ability to commit an average of 20 – 30 hours per week within the shift window you select.
Reliably quiet and professional work environment during work periods.
A reliable personal computer which meets the following system requirements: Windows 98 Second
Edition or higher, Pentium II 300 MHz or faster processor, 600MB free hard drive space, 256 MB RAM,
Internet Explorer 6.xSP1 or later, antivirus software with current and updated virus definitions, and
installed anti-spyware software.
Subscription to a reliable high-speed ISP service which has bi-directional speeds of 128K or more and
which is neither a wireless nor satellite connection. A wireless connection within the confines of your home
is acceptable as long as your DSL or cable connection is "hard-wired".

Ability to be on the Internet and on the phone at the same time without the use of a cell phone or
IP phone. The telephone must be a corded traditional telephone. No cordless, cellular/wireless, or VoIP
(e.g., Vonage, AT&T, CallVantage). Call waiting must be disabled before each work shift.
A corded headset with a noise-canceling microphone. The headset must be corded and plug into a
corded telephone to allow you to work hands-free.

              If this sounds like you, and you want to learn more, check us out! Apply Today!
Working Solutions
Q. What equipment do I need to work as an Agent?

A. Qualified Agents must have an up to date, reliable computer in their home, with a
minimum of 128MB of RAM, and at least a 350MHz Processor recommended. A broadband
internet connection (Cable, DSL, T1, ISDN, Satellite) is required for all projects—sorry,
there are no exceptions to this. Some call center projects are not compatible with Satellite,
AOL Broadband, or Wireless ISP’s. Computers must be current on Windows Updates and
certain projects have restrictions regarding firewalls, pop up blockers, etc. A Windows
2000 or Windows XP operating system is also required, so agents must be able to upgrade
to one of these versions before beginning a project. We cannot currently support Macintosh
platforms. Call center projects also require a telephone line, telephone headset, working
printer, and without exception, a quiet, uninterrupted work environment during all working
hours.
                                                 LiveOps
Q: Does LiveOps certify Agents in every US State?

A: LiveOps generally certifies agents in the contiguous 48 US States. However we make specific State to State
hiring decisions based on need.


Q: What are the work space and workstation requirements?

A: Offering services through LiveOps requires that your equipment be configured as follows:

A quiet workspace free of background noise
A PC with a 500MHZ processor or better, 128 MB (megabytes) or more of memory, and a monitor capable of
displaying at least 800x600 pixels
A sound card installed, and either speakers or a headphone
Windows XP (recommended), Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows ME
Broadband internet connection such as DSL or Cable (no dialup, no high speed dialup)
Internet Explorer, version 5.5 or 6.0.
System is configured according to Microsoft's recomendations outlined on their "Protect Your PC Web site".
These steps include:
1. Windows Update module enabled and configured to update automatically
2. Windows Standard Firewall enabled on systems where it exists.
3. Anti-Virus software installed and configured to automatically update
Please refer to the Microsoft web site for instructions on how to secure your system.
A separate telephone line, dedicated for use for LiveOps incoming calls. You may not use this phone line for any
other incoming calls.
Ad-Aware installed and run at least once a week.

Q: What are the internet connectivity requirements?

A: LiveOps requires a broadband connection such as DSL or Cable.

Q: Can I have DSL on the phone line I dedicate to talking LiveOps calls?

A: Yes. We only require a phone line for incoming calls different from your main home phone.

Q: How much money can an Agent expect to make?

A: As a LiveOps Independent Teleservices Agent, you are running your own business, so how much you make is
your business, too. LiveOps engage the services of Agents according to the work available from our clients.
Within those confines, you can work as little or as much as you like.

LiveOps pays Agent's per minute of talk time. Agents can earn up to $15 an hour, and some agents earn up to
$3000 a month.

Q: How long will it be before my home based business is generating revenue?

A: It is largely up to you how quickly you go through the certification process. The online application can be
completed in less than a day, but you should allow at least four weeks for the review of the application, telephone
interview, completion of background checks, self certification, and set-up.
                                    West
Computer Hardware:
Computer Type - PC compatible (sorry, no Macs)
Monitor size - 15 inches or greater
Minimus OS version - Windows 98 or newer (Windows XP highly
recommended)
Minimum RAM - 128 MB (256 MB highly recommended - On Windows XP,
256MB minimum
Minimum Processor Type: AMD Athlon, AMD Duron, Celeron or Pentium III or
better
Minimum Processor Speed: 800 MHz or better
Minimum Graphic Resolution: 1024 x 768 16 bit
Sound card with speakers or headset

Internet Connection – DSL or Cable connection only (Sorry, No Modem access)
NOTE: Satellite connection and wireless networks are not supported for
troubleshooting by the WAHA Helpdesk.


The WAHA Assistant is a free diagnostic tool offered by West Corporation that
will check your PC to see if it is ready for a successful experience as a Work At
Home Agent. Helpful links are included to provide you with access locations for
downloading required free software.

Note: This tool will ask for a valid WAHA UserID and Password, so you must
have completed the registation process to use this tool.

Copy this URL to your brower: www.workathomeagent.com/wahaassist
                                        Telefriendz
Minimum Requirements include:
Quiet home office or setting
Computer
DSL or Cable HIGH SPEED internet access
~or a second phone line dedicated to accepting inbound calls, with no features (no call waiting, voice mail etc.
waiting, voice mail etc...)

								
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