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Work-at-home Staff: the Feather in Cloud Contact Centers’ Cap | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Our last blog on contact centers focused on how next generation technology can drive new sources of savings in contact center operations. Now let’s turn our attention to how cloud-based contact centers create the opportunity to fundamentally rethink the traditional staffing model.

Hosting a contact center in the cloud removes certain technical limitations that dictate the location of your workforce, in particular the need for a centralized working site for employees and equipment. The consequence of this new freedom is the ability to decentralize your workforce, replacing traditional call center employees with work-at-home (WAH) agents. Among contact center services providers, such as Alpine Access, Transcom, and Xerox, we already see WAH agents as part of the delivery model. While a WAH model can significantly reduce the capital costs associated with renting and maintaining a facility and IT equipment, the more interesting – and to some organizations, highly enticing – implications are in its inherent flexibility.

Cloud-based contact centers eliminate the geographically imposed restrictions of physical call centers, allowing employees to simply login from wherever they may be. Thus, in a WAH staffing model, the pool of potential workers is limited only by the availability of skill sets. In fact, the pool for specialized skills becomes larger as workers with unique skills located out of the reach of centralized call centers can now integrate into virtual contact centers through the WAH model. Removing the geographical limitations of call centers also presents opportunities for workers who may have had challenges joining or remaining in the workforce due to age, physical disability, or the need to stay close to home. Due to both of these phenomena, the WAH model reintroduces domestic sourcing as a viable option.

Cloud-based contact centers also allow businesses greater staffing flexibility, as full time employees (FTEs) can be augmented with contract or temporary labor to meet fluctuating capacity requirements on a daily or seasonal basis. This approach also reduces cost obligations such as healthcare, retirement, and other benefits required by FTEs. While organizations may choose to use a high ratio of contractors or temps, Everest Group recommends they retain a minimum level of FTEs, WAH or otherwise, to ensure their ability to provide a base of capacity.

There is another more ambitious possibility for businesses willing to brave a next generation business model. A cloud contact center could be paired with a third-party staffing agency to provide the required number of agents on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. These sorts of relationships are already forming in the marketplace. For example, staffing and talent firm Manpower Group has a specialized contact center recruitment practice.  Using next-gen forecasting tools to anticipate demand and utilization, a company could embrace a total ”as-a-service” approach to its call center/s, wherein both IT capacity and the staffed call center agents are dynamically scaled against demand, people, and platform-as-a-service (PaaS.) Theoretically, this approach would attain the greatest possible efficiency, matching costs of call center agents and IT bandwidth to demand.

The WAH model has long been associated with additional benefits, such as lower attrition rates, access to specialized and hard-to-find skills, and the ability to offer 24/7 service at lower costs. However, until now, the technical challenges of managing a large number of WAH agents have limited the scope of adoption. We expect this to change, with more organizations using WAH agents in new ways, enabled by the ease and cost-effectiveness afforded by next generation contact center technologies.

Photo credit: Markus Spiering

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