The use of homeworkers as call centre operatives can benefit both businesses and homeworkers. For companies, common advantages include cost savings, increased flexibility, reduced absenteeism and improved customer satisfaction. But there are also potential problems to overcome. By adopting a six-step model, business leaders can plan homeworking projects effectively, identifying the key areas they need to address.
In the early 2000s, there was a rush by organizations to outsource and offshore many call centres because of the significant cost savings that could be achieved. But offshoring has often led to a reduction in customer satisfaction, so businesses are increasingly bringing their critical customer service call centre operations back ‘onshore’.
At the same time, developments in communications technology, such as the availability of high performance broadband, have opened up new possibilities when considering where call centre operators should be located. This has led to ‘homeshoring’ or homeworking – where agents can work from their own homes. This approach has provided benefits both in terms of cost savings and customer satisfaction, and is becoming more widespread.
Agent homeworking has been used widely and successfully in the US, and this research suggests there is little to stop homeworking in the UK becoming just as successful.
The research reviews the current homeworking market and looks at previous research into the sector. Based on interviews with key managers in organizations that use homeworkers (homeworker project companies – HPCs), and homeworkers themselves, it then outlines the issues and opportunities from both sides.
The findings clearly demonstrate that cost savings, increased flexibility, reduced absenteeism and improved customer satisfaction are common among the HPCs. The homeworkers are also generally very happy with the arrangement. There are, however, issues that both the HPC and the homeworker must address, such as keeping the homeworker from feeling isolated.
The following six-step framework will help business leaders to implement a homeworking project effectively:
1. Decide on your strategy
2. Select strategic partners
3. Establish clear policies
4. Manage stakeholders
6. Learn and review
Homeworking, Harrington. A, Clark. M, The Henley Centre for Customer Management. The full paper can be obtained via The Henley Centre for Customer Management.
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