By Rob Duncan
The Internet has made comparing prices before buying easy. Consumers love getting the best deals and are more price-conscious than ever before. Unfortunately, more comparison-shopping can mean lower profit margins and increased competition for many of today’s retailers.
Retailers must find new ways to operate faster and leaner. Every area of a retailer’s business is now under intense scrutiny, and divisions previously thought of as “expense” centers are being required to either generate revenue or be eliminated, including call center operations. To reduce cost without sacrificing service quality, many retailers are turning to home-based agents.
Whether it’s establishing an internal at-home workforce or partnering with a virtual at-home contact center service provider, home-based agents have been shown to save money through higher quality service, more efficient operations and higher revenues. Here’s how it works:
1. Hiring From Anywhere. The virtual contact center employee model allows organizations to recruit and hire the best talent, wherever it may be located. This advantage is particularly appealing to retailers because it allows them to target professionals with specific relevant experience. For example, a retailer can hire agents who have purchased specific products online or shopped at certain locations.
2. A Different Breed of Agent. With an average age of 40, more than 80 percent college-educated with 15 to 20 years of work and life experience, at-home workers tend to be more mature and empathetic. Connecting on a personal level with customers results in more efficient calls, higher first-call resolution rates and improved selling capabilities.
3. Lowering Costs. Facility costs, furniture and fixtures, property taxes, utilities and physical security expenses can exceed $10 million annually for many large centers. Instead, modern technology and networks can be used to create a virtual call center environment. Using a secure desktop, phone and Internet connection, assigned agents are routed calls and have instant online access to all the necessary support resources.
4. Staffing Agility. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar environments, an at-home workforce is designed to meet the flexibility and scalability requirements of the retail industry. Whether it is ramping up for the holidays or handling variable call volumes, with home-based agents it is possible to adjust staffing levels in real-time to ensure calls are always answered quickly.
5. Workforce Reliability. Dispersed at-home workforces and a flexible scheduling environment helps ensure that agents will be available to handle call volume fluctuations, preventing service interruptions in today’s highly competitive, 24/7 business environment. Flexing the workforce in real-time to handle call volume fluctuations helps keep service levels high, revenues up and costs down.
Businesses can lose up to 10 customers for every one that complains of poor service. By using highly qualified, home-based agents, customers will receive outstanding service, and retailers can maintain financial stability despite increased pricing pressures and competition.
Rob Duncan is COO of Alpine Access Inc., a contact center and customer relationship management outsourcer. For more information, visit the Alpine Access website at www.alpineaccess.com.