Live From NCOF: The Case for Home-Based Call Agents

Las Vegas—Considering using home-based call center agents? Why not—all they need is a dedicated high-speed Internet line, a dedicated phone line. But if you don’t hire the right people, it won’t work.

When hiring home-based agents, Sandy Ward said during his NCOF session that he looks for “Internet athletes.” Ward, vice president of service provider VIPdesk, said that someone who needs a lot of guidance or who can’t solve problems on their own is not a good candidate to handle calls at home.

Adaptability is critical—for management as well as for the home agents, Ward noted. “Give up any preconceived notion you have about what will work at home.”

Once you’ve hired your home reps, you need to take your existing training model and virtualize it. But Ward’s company doesn’t train reps on soft skills, such as handling angry customers—they have to already have those capabilities. “We spend our time focusing training on our clients’ brands,” he said.

How do you manage these reps remotely? You need to provide them with visibility into call center metrics so they know how they are doing compared to others, Ward said. You should also try to create virtual camaraderie, perhaps by encouraging home reps to chat with their contact-center counterparts and post pictures online.

Bottom line, home reps must understand that the job demands their complete attention, Ward said. “It’s pretty much a fireable offense to have a barking dog or crying baby in the background.”

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