Homeworking gathers momentum in Contact Centres
Within the contact centre industry specifically, many employers are responding to this by recruiting homeworkers. They recognise that being more flexible in this way can enhance their talent pool, and allow them to build a happier, more productive workforce.
Benefits of homeworking for workers
With the model most contact centres use, workers select the hours they want to work. If they can’t commit to a full day’s work, they don’t have to – they can just pick the three or four hours that work best for them.
This means they’re able to more easily fit work around their other life commitments. They might need to collect their children from school; perhaps they care for a friend or relative; or maybe they might volunteer for a good cause. Either way, it allows them to participate in the workforce, alongside their other life commitments. Furthermore, they don’t have to commute. So all their available time can be spent working. They don’t need to allow for a half hour commute at either end of the day.
What’s in it for the contact centre?
Allowing individuals to work from home means they don’t need to live anywhere near the contact centre they’re supporting. Your company might be based in Inverness, but that doesn’t mean a great Contact Centre Advisor in Dover is off limits. This dramatically increases the available talent pool for any given role. This is particularly helpful for those hard-to-fill jobs, such as those requiring multilingual skills. We partner with a number of UK contact centres to recruit multilingual candidates. So we know that it can be a challenge to recruit individuals with these skills – particularly German, Dutch, Nordic or Danish speakers.
Embedding homeworking into contact centres also allows organisations to more easily align to customer needs. These days, customers look for service providers who can make their life easier. They don’t want to be kept on hold, repeatedly being told “your call is important to us”. They want someone to answer the call, quickly.
By incorporating homeworkers into the workforce, contact centres can cost-effectively ramp up and down, in line with customer demand. If you’re experiencing high call volumes, you can incentivise more homeworkers to log on for an hour or two by offering a higher wage. It’s similar to the ‘surge’ pricing model that Uber uses to get more drivers on the road during peak periods. This is easily turned on and off, so it’s a great way to meet customer needs, without any unnecessary expense.
Considerations for employers
Whilst homeworking offers plenty of benefits to both workers and employers, a number of considerations need to be made before a contact centre embarks on a homeworking strategy. The first relates to technology.
Many contact centres simply don’t have the IT infrastructure in place to allow their Contact Centre Agents to work at home. And, even when that is resolved, there’s still a security concern. Some of the controls you have in a contact centre (like access passes) aren’t in place when someone works from home. You can never be entirely sure who is looking over your agent’s shoulder while they work. Carefully consider how you will ensure your homeworkers can access the systems they need to fully support your customers, in a secure and compliant way.
There’s also the issue of how you ensure high morale amongst a virtual team. Working from home can be quite isolating. Your homeworkers may never meet their colleagues, and may feel like they’re out on a limb. Before bringing lots of homeworkers on board, think about how you’ll ensure they feel supported, engaged and happy in their roles.
The question of trust
Trust is often something that many contact centres think will be an issue. But in reality, it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. In today’s technology-driven world, it’s very easy to see who is online and assisting your customers. And, importantly, who is not. It’s very obvious if they’re distracted and aren’t answering their phone. So, even if they’re not in the same building as you, you can still identify underperformance and take remedial action to ensure high productivity.
Nonetheless, working remotely does require self-discipline. It’s not right way of working for everyone. It’s critical that you select people who can work efficiently in this way.
That’s where Manpower can help. Using ROMA, our flexible candidate screening, assessment and management system, we help contact centres to fully understand the ability, aptitude, personality and skills of each applicant. It also includes bespoke competency-based interviews, giving a true end-to-end picture what each candidate is really like, before a hiring decision is made. If you’d like any information on this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on Andrew.Derrick@manpower.co.uk.