The case for home-based call agents

Why not? — Technically speaking, all they need is a dedicated high-speed Internet line and a dedicated phone line. But if you don’t hire the right people, it won’t work, said Sandy Ward, vice president of service provider VIPdesk.

Speaking at the NCOF conference in Las Vegas in March, Ward said that when hiring home-based agents he looks for “Internet athletes.” 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.

And adaptability is critical — for company 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 train them. 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 have those capabilities already. “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, he added, perhaps by encouraging your home reps to chat with their contact-center counterparts and post pictures online.

Bottom line, home-based 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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