Let Them Roam Free: Remote Agents in the Modern Call Center

Years into the VoIP revolution, call center managers are recognising that it’s not necessary, or even desirable, to have all their agents located in a single location. High speed Internet access is ubiquitous, allowing the modern call center floor to be distributed over multiple locations. It’s no wonder that call centers have experimented with home-based and remote agents; it’s like having a location of one. If the center is already leveraging the multi-site capabilities of its call center software, the ability should exist to include additional single-user locations.

There many good reasons to consider this sort of move. Usually the first benefit that comes to mind is the reduced cost of infrastructure. If a home agent is willing to use their computer, Internet connection and workspace in order to work from home, this can be a cost win for the call center. Agents working from a remote non-home location don’t confer this same benefit, but if the center is expanding, it is very possible that finding a few locations for scattered agents may be cheaper than locating a single large location and moving current operations to the new location.

Staffing is another consideration. Allowing some agents to work from home, possibly with flexible hours, allows the call center to put more agents into the ACD at peak times without having to expand physical capacity. It also allows the hiring or retention of agents who may be unable to put in a full shift or who may be more comfortable with working for a few short periods through the day. Finally, the additional geographic dispersion of the workplace allows for attracting staff who may be unwilling to travel to the main call center.

Clearly there are benefits for the call center. Why would agents be willing to work from home, especially if they are providing space and connectivity to the call center for free? Convenience must play a huge role in the motivation here. Not having to spend time dressing up, commuting back and forth to the office, and having lunch and snacks readily available can free up hours of a worker’s day. Also, some of the same scheduling benefits that the call center enjoys are also available to the agent. Working shorter shifts or split shifts becomes feasible, and may work better with the agent’s outside schedule. The ability to work remotely also makes employment at more distant call centers an option as well, expanding the field of potential employers.

If working remotely offers benefits to the call center and the agent, what are the tradeoffs? There must be some, otherwise everybody would be doing it. There are a few disadvantages, and for some environments, these can be concept killers:

  • Less accountability. Supervisors can’t keep as close an eye on agents.

  • Harder to keep agents up to date. Operations changes and notices have to be communicated directly.

  • IT issues with remote access. The firewall can be more difficult to administer, for instance, and agents may not be savvy enough to connect in without help.

  • Infrastructure partially out of center’s control. If agents are providing any of their own equipment, or their own Internet access, the IT department can wind up with more (but less severe) outages.

When you are using a Cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) call center technology, the benefits of remote agents are even more visible. The ability to have your agents distributed geographically gives you the ability to start your call center from a single office, grow, then acquire a call center location when needed.  You can get started using a SaaS system right away, and start growing your business today.