U.K. Contact Centers Slow to Adopt Remote Agent Model

A report from market research firm ContactBabel shows that contact centers in the U.K. are slow to adopt the remote or home-based agent model.

According to the report, of the 960,000 contact center agents in the U.K., only about 3,000 work from home. This is way behind the U.S., where market research firm IDC has predicted 330,000 home-based agents by 2010.

During “Work Wise Week,” which took place May 15-21 in Great Britain, global communications company BT joined up with contact center technology company CosmoCom to promote adoption of green IT practices including the use of remote agents among contact centers in the U.K.

BT is one of the biggest employers of home-based agents in the U.K. The company’s strategy is to target over 55s, mothers returning to work, home care providers and the disabled to help with its corporate inclusion agenda.

“With proven technology available on the market to enable firms to be much more flexible about agent location, there is no reason for so many of the UK’s contact centers to accept the traditional contact center model,” said Natasha Clough, senior global marketing manager CRM for BT, in a release.

Contact centers using the remote agent model report higher agent satisfaction and reduced attrition rates. Because remote agents keep their jobs longer, they build better customer interaction skills and service levels are improved. This in turn leads to increased profits. Another advantage is that it is a more environmentally friendly approach to working: Remote agents do not need to drive cars or take public transportation in order to get to work.

The remote agent model has been around years, but recent advancements in Web technology, including the advent of Software-as-a Service, has led to the “virtualized contact center,” where all end points on the network are equal, no matter where they are located.

With the virtualized contact center, agents and supervisors can work wherever they have a high-speed Internet connection. Agents working from their homes can handle phone calls, e-mails and Web chats coming into the queue just the same as if they were in the main center. In addition, their performance can be monitored remotely – and they can get the same training as the other agents through e-learning and Web-based training programs.

Mona Sultan, an analyst with research firm Datamonitor, said in a few years “virtualized” contact centers will be so commonplace that there won’t be any need to use the term “virtualized” anymore.

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