Work-at-Home Model Takes Off in Outsourced Agent Arena


Work-at-Home Model Takes Off in Outsourced Agent Arena

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  May 15, 2014

Telecommuting, as many of you already know, has its challenges. I’m not a fan of those times when I’m on a call and the doorbell rings, sending my dog into a barking frenzy. And those summer months when my lovely family is at home during the day are great, but do add a new element of distraction to my work environment at times.

But, on the whole, I have to say that working from home is awesome. I avoid wasting time on commuting. I can throw in a load of laundry when I get up to stretch my legs. And I can easily get a little extra work done if I wake up early, have some quiet time while my daughter is doing homework, or need to get some writing done while everyone else in my household is out for the evening at softball or soccer practice.

Despite Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting at Yahoo, plenty of companies give their employees the benefit of working from home. This trend continues, and contact center agents are no exception to the trend.

According to Ovum (News - Alert), the number of outsourced agents working at home will soon exceed 100,000 globally, and the variety of industries allowing for this is expanding. More specifically, the number of home-based agents, which is now around 84,000, is expected to reach 160,000 by the end of 2017, representing a compound annual growth rate of 17.5 percent.

Drivers of this trend include lower costs and the fact that leveraging work-at-home employees allows companies to draw from a larger – and often more experienced – labor pool.

“Outsourced home-based agents are starting to diversify beyond strict customer care functions to managing more complex enquiries across multiple channels,” says Peter Ryan, principal analyst in Ovum’s IT Services practice and author of a new report on this topic. “The long-time benefits associated with third-party home agents, such as competitive pricing and labor quality, have been determinants in helping to foster this significant growth.”

Ryan adds that “one of the successes of home-based agent outsourcing has been the ability to recruit large numbers of high-caliber agents. However, there are signs that attrition within this contact center segment is starting to creep up. To maintain a sizable pool of available agents, Ovum recommends that outsourcers seek out otherwise unexplored potential pockets of workers.”

Gating factors to further growth in this area include data security factors, infrastructure issues, and supervision concerns, according to Ovum.

Interestingly, for all the talk we hear about the secure security requirements of the health care space, it is the health care vertical that is expected to be the most aggressive adopter of outsourced home-based agent services between 2013 and 2017, increasing from 8 percent to 13 percent of total agents through this period, according to Ovum, which says most of this activity will be in the U.S. and related to new customer care demands related to the Affordable Health Care Act.

But Ovum says the financial industry – the other vertical that is best known for its regulatory compliance requirements – is a bigger challenge for this kind of worker model.

“It will be difficult for clients to move this work to outsourcers due to the heavy compliance requirements in this sector, which explains why the proportion of total home-based agents associated with financial services is slated to only increase from 11 percent to 13 percent between 2013 and 2017,” according to Ovum. “However, vendors should consider the opportunity to use the virtualized model to provide higher-value services to financial services clients, most notably brokerage support for capital markets and policy management functions in the insurance space.”

Edited by Alisen Downey
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