Remote Customer Service Agents: Why Do You Need Them?

Remote Customer Service Agents: Why Do You Need Them?

Kelly McQuiston


Even with the media attention about companies like Yahoo and IBM bringing their remote workers back into the office, work at home arrangements continue to grow. As I interact with customer support operations leaders around the country, I find that discussions about remote work falls into three different buckets:

  • We are intrigued
  • We tried it and it didn’t work
  • We currently have remote workers

For now, I want to address the “we are intrigued” group. I will focus on the “we tried it and it didn’t work” group in a later post.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting among non-self-employed workers has increased by 115 percent over the past 12 years—and it’s easy to see why. Remote work can save employers approximately $11,000 annually per part-time employee due to not only decreased real estate costs, but also lower absenteeism, decreased turnover, increased productivity, and improved operational continuity. Moreover, with fewer geographical restrictions, companies gain access to a larger and more diverse labor pool. They can also expand their operations and workforces without increasing their real estate and geographic footprints. Finally, offering telecommuting options can help enhance a company’s corporate image, since more than 80 percent of U.S. workers would like to work remotely at least part of the time.

Remote contact centers can help improve customer experience 

Remote work offers a lot of potential for the customer support sector, especially in e-commerce. High quality customer support is critical to a brand’s growth and ongoing success. The Forrester® report titled “2017 Predictions: Dynamics That Will Shape the Future in the Age of the Consumer,” warns that companies will experience a rising revenue risk due to the growing role of customer experience (CX). For example, customers who feel neglected or angry during an interaction with a brand or company are 80 percent less likely to forgive that brand—and they’re willing to take their business elsewhere. This corresponds with Forrester’s research of a year earlier, which revealed that more than 50 percent of adults engaged in online shopping will abandon a transaction if they’re unable to find answers to their questions quickly enough. Additionally, almost three quarters agree that having companies value their time is the single most important aspect of good customer service.

Companies can leverage remote contact centers to create larger, more diverse workforces that can be scaled up and down according to demand. Moreover, with lower turnover, it’s easier to create experienced, skilled customer support teams. As a result, customers are connected to agents faster and receive higher quality assistance.

How to establish a remote contact center

The specifics of establishing a remote contact center depends on the industry. Companies in highly-regulated industries that require PCI or HIPAA compliance have to ensure their remote workers always meet compliance standards in order to mitigate risk. This involves putting the right policies, processes, and tools in place. Think of candidate screening, onboarding and training; webcam monitoring by supervisors; and home office security checklists that detail how sensitive information needs to be stored securely. Additionally, technological solutions such as VMWare and Dizzion can provide digital workspaces that enable workflow while simultaneously ensuring security and compliance. Of course, contact centers that handle less-regulated interactions have fewer security and compliance factors to consider.

The benefits of working with a partner

Before establishing a remote contact center, I’d urge you ask yourself, “Do we want to go this alone, or do we want to partner with an organization that possesses proven expertise in hiring and managing remote workers?”

My recommendation is to find a partner that’s an expert in remote customer support. This offers several distinct benefits:

  • A qualified partner will walk you through the process. Remote work isn’t just about talent; it’s also about enabling your people to do their work well. A partner will help you determine what policies, processes, technology, and other assets are required to create a good program.
  • A qualified partner will offer hybrid solutions. One thing I often see is that companies prefer to remain in control of a portion of the operations. An experienced partner will not insist on superimposing a preset managed solution, but instead, know how to create a tailored program that fits the company’s business model and objectives while ensuring both partners understand their risk and responsibilities.
  • A good partner can help you find the right managers and/or supervisors. Many outstanding brick-and-mortar supervisors don’t possess the right skills to manage a remote workforce. For example, at KellyConnect®, we can provide management talent who are specialized in day to day supervision, engagement or quality assurance for remote employees.
  • Your partner will be able to help you source the right talent. Even if you don’t have the geographic footprint to recruit, screen, and onboard your remote workforce, your partner should. In addition, your partner should also utilize talent analytics to determine the best geographies to focus the recruitment efforts.

Remote work isn’t going away. In fact, at some point in the future, not offering remote work might not even be an option anymore. That’s why forward-thinking companies that want to reduce costs while improving CX are best advised to start exploring the possibilities now so they can gain an advantage over their competition.

Kelly McQuiston is Director of Global Managed Solutions at Kelly Services with over 15 years of experience in contact center workforce solutions. Contact her with any questions about this blog post or for more information about establishing a remote contact center for your organization.