Home-Based Contact Centre Agents Rapidly Becoming Mainstream

Datamonitor projects strong uptake in at-home outsourced call centre agent

The home is gaining new ground when it comes to call centres and stationing of customer services personnel. According to the latest research published by Datamonitor, there will be significant growth in outsourced contact centre agents based around the at-home model.

The report, “The future of customer facing technology in the outsourced contact centre,”highlights some of the key reasons for what is expected to be a new way customer care firms provide client facing mechanisms. Between now and 2012, Datamonitor expects the number of home-based customer service agents to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 36.4%, one of the strongest expansion levels of any outsourcing market sub-segment.

“The increase in interest in the at-home agent model is impressive, and does not appear to be slowing”, states Peter Ryan, Datamonitor senior analyst for contact centre outsourcing and offshoring. “Based on the heavy levels of investment that enterprises are making in this way of doing business, it is clear home agents are no longer a passing fancy, and are rapidly becoming mainstream.”

Total at-home customer service agents to hit 224,000 2012

Based on extensive research across the at-home outsourcing market, Datamonitor projects that the global size of the home-based third-party customer service agents working 20 hours a week or more, currently stands at approximately 47,000. However, based on expected growth projections from pure-play and bricks-and-mortar vendors, Datamonitor expects it to rise to almost 224,000 by 2012.

Currently, the majority of home-based customer care agents are overwhelmingly based in the U.S.

The prime verticals for this service are technology, healthcare, tourism and travel & insurance. This is due to the fact that all these sectors are highly specialized and in many cases, it is hard to recruit customer service agents for actual contact centres.

New demographics are driving at-home agent investment

Ryan is quick to cite the new agent demographic that has emerged with the at-home model. Specifically, vendors of home agent services indicate prospective employees tend to be somewhat older than call centre-based customer service agents, and almost always come with some work experience. Qualitative evidence suggests this translates into higher customer satisfaction scores and lower rates of attrition.

“Unquestionably, rising costs are causing contact centre outsourcers in western locations more headaches than ever. To a large degree, this inflation is based around employee churn, which is a phenomenon that the home agent model does not seem to have encountered to date. In addition, the reduction in overhead by using home agents has also served to lower overall prices of labor, which can be passed directly back to the client. If this can be tied to higher rates of end-user satisfaction, it translates into a winning investment for the outsourcing client,” says Ryan.

Alternative to offshoring?

A further driver for many firms to look to at-home agents is the alternative it provides to sending work to offshore or nearshore locations. With lower costs and less concern about the integrity of infrastructure and public security, investors are beginning to see the home agent model as a viable alternative to moving agent positions* to multiple locations globally.

However the home agent model will not impact that of offshore outsourcing massively over time. At-home agents serve a growing but specialized niche, and the need for large numbers of agents offshore with multilingual capabilities will remain a priority for outsourcing clients.

However, lingering questions over the security of home agents could slow growth

With many investors still worried over the integrity of customer data, there remain worries in the minds of many prospects over how secure the at-home agent model is. However, Datamonitor’s research has shown providers of these services have been able to address these concerns by deploying thorough background checks on prospective employees, as well as by providing real-time monitoring analytics.

Other concerns include that of home agent supervision. “Agent supervision comes up frequently, as outsourcing providers want to ensure that individuals representing their firm are working to full productivity. However, these vendors are quick to cite the high levels of motivation that come from an older workforce that has more experience in a professional setting. In addition now more than ever, outsourcers offering home agents are exercising a zero-tolerance policy, making these disruptions virtually obsolete.”

Despite certain concerns surrounding the at-home outsourcing market, Datamonitor feels that this business model is certain to gain significant traction from companies interested in lowering overall costs, while keeping their customer facing services onshore. In addition, the quality that can be derived from a typical home agent is reportedly very strong, which will be another driver for companies to gain from excellent end-user interactions.

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