Should You Untether Your Customer Service Reps?

When the Internet first came along as a viable channel, custom logo apparel cataloger Queensboro Shirt Co. thought it would be able to shut down its call center, according to chairman/founder Fred Meyers. “But that wasn’t the case,” Meyers said during a panel discussion at list firm MeritDirect’s Business Mailers’ Co-op on July 15.

Now that mobile and Internet technology allow for what panel moderator Don Libey called a “decentralized, untethered workforce,” should merchants allow customer service reps to work from home? Many do, but some caution that losing the social aspect of a contact center can have a detrimental affect on service standards.

For instance, panelist Mike Faith, president/CEO of Headsets.com, said that his company had some reps working from home. This saved the office telephone headsets marketer money, “but the quality isn’t as good when CSRs work from home,” Faith said.

Service tends to be better when the reps are all together because of the social aspect, Faith noted, so Headsets.com brought its reps back under one roof. It’s a slightly higher cost, he admitted, but the merchant sees that as the price of providing better service.

It’s not just about letting reps socialize with each other, although customer service expert Joanna Brandi said from the audience that “the social aspect of work is so important” and that “people crave interaction at work—especially today.”

An audience member shared that his company was starting to decentralize its outbound telemarketing and was finding challenges in minute details from not being able to provide instant feedback to handling training on new products. “Communicating the adjustments is more difficult in a remote environment,” he said.

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