Truth Behind At Home Customer Care

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Truth Behind At Home Customer Care

  1. 1. WHITE PAPER Cost Control and Quality – Can You Have Your Cake and Eat It Too? The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs
  2. 2. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs Contents: Executive Summary .....................................................................................................................................................3 Reasons to Outsource ................................................................................................................................................3 Cost...................................................................................................................................................................................3 Quality ..............................................................................................................................................................................3 Experience .........................................................................................................................................................................3 Stability .............................................................................................................................................................................3 Capacity ............................................................................................................................................................................3 Criteria for Success ............................................................................................................................................................4 Outsourcing Options ....................................................................................................................................................4 Offshore/Near Shore..........................................................................................................................................................4 Remote/Home Agents .......................................................................................................................................................4 Blended Solutions..............................................................................................................................................................4 Identifying the Gotchas .....................................................................................................................................................4 The Biggest Fork in the Road ............................................................................................................................................5 Lessons Learned – The Offshore Backlash .........................................................................................................................5 Staying Home: An Alternative to Offshore ........................................................................................................................5 The Key Principles of At-Home Agents ................................................................................................................6 Cost...................................................................................................................................................................................6 Quality ..............................................................................................................................................................................6 Control..............................................................................................................................................................................6 Flexibility...........................................................................................................................................................................6 West at Home: Disrupting the Economics of Offshore ..................................................................................7 Unparalleled Security.........................................................................................................................................................7 Proven Hiring, Training and Staffing Methods ..................................................................................................................8 Registration & Suitability ..................................................................................................................................................8 Live Interview & Background Checks ...............................................................................................................................8 Scheduling & Training ......................................................................................................................................................8 Fully Redundant Virtual ACD ..........................................................................................................................................8 Unmatched Communications, Service and Professionalism ...............................................................................................9 A Home-Based Agent Success Story ...................................................................................................................9 Summary ........................................................................................................................................................................10 Proprietary Notice This document is provided “AS IS” and the Authors assume no responsibility for any errors that may appear in the document, nor do they make any commitment to update the information contained herein. Nothing in this document constitutes, or shall otherwise be deemed to constitute, a guaranty, warranty, or license, express or implied, of any kind and the Authors make no representation whatsoever with respect to your use thereof. The Authors expressly disclaim all liability for any and all implied guaranties, warranties, and licenses. Additionally, the Authors retain the right to make changes to this document at any time, without notice. Copyright Notice Copyright © 2007 West Corporation. All rights reserved. 2
  3. 3. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs Executive Summary Outsourcing customer relationships to an offshore call center can be like working with Jekyll and Hyde. For companies who covet the cost advantages, offshore outsourcing is great. For others, the increase in customer complaints due to language barriers and quality issues is the bane of their existence. Some companies today feel that saving $7 million outweigh the negative effects on customer satisfaction. However, other companies are finding that there are new cost-saving alternatives to offshore outsourcing that could help them save $5 million and still maintain quality customer care through U.S. labor. How can your company tap into these cost-effective alternatives to offshore outsourcing? What kind of success are other companies having with these solutions? What is the best route to take? We’ve gathered extensive information from leading companies across major industries and analyzed their successes and failures to develop this paper. Inside, you will find valuable insight on what to consider when outsourcing your customer care and how to get the most out of the process. We will also share with you a success story from one of the world’s leading providers of IT consulting and integration services who is utilizing a new and growing alternative to sending their customer care calls offshore. Reasons to Outsource First, let’s review the reasons why you should consider outsourcing at all. ■ Cost: In today’s competitive climate, CFOs look to outsourcing to help them reduce costs, reallocate resources, and focus on their company’s core competencies. Though many corporations claim that they can do it cheaper “in house”, very few can when they consider the true costs associated with “in house” solutions. ■ Quality: Customer care executives turn to outsourcing to help them identify a broader pool of higher quality agents. Outsourcers of customer contact solutions often have multiple contact centers in diverse locations which give them the ability to attract a larger group of potential agents. This can include agents who have specific skill sets, traits and education levels that are typically not found in the call center environment. ■ Experience: For most companies, running a call center is not a central business focus. Top executives rely on outsourcers to possess extensive experience in all aspects of delivering a successful customer contact program including the hiring and training of agents, as well as workforce and operational management. ■ Stability: IT executives, who are under pressure to reduce costs and improve reliability, consider outsourcing to be a viable option. Many times outsourcers offer fully redundant, robust platforms that enable corporate functions to be delivered remotely and more efficiently. ■ Capacity: Most companies experience seasonal needs or spikes in call volume that require them to build out and carry excess capacity that is only utilized 10% of the year. Outsourcing enables companies to shift that burden and rely on the significant capacity and additional flexibility of their outsourcing partner. 3
  4. 4. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs Regardless of your reasons for outsourcing, it is important to find a provider who can deliver a comprehensive portfolio of solutions that is continually optimized to provide your company with the best results. Criteria for Success One of the most important aspects of outsourcing is defining your criteria for success. There needs to be consensus between you and your outsource provider on exactly what will be accomplished and how success will be measured at each stage of the campaign, including the completion of the project. Outsourcing – The Options Available What outsourcing option is right for your company depends on your specific goals, culture and requirements. Regardless of your choice, the information and advice contained in this white paper is applicable to any outsourcing scenario. For years, the traditional stateside brick-and-mortar call center has been the gold standard of outsourcing for the customer care industry. Today, technology has enabled a broader array of outsourcing options, including: Solution Characteristics Offshore/Near Shore Agents While offshoring provides a low-cost alternative to traditional domestic call centers, U.S. companies have reservations about pursuing the benefits of contracting with an overseas third party because of political pressure, potential data-security risks and privacy concerns. Remote/Home Agents More and more companies are gradually realizing the best place to handle customer contacts may be in the home. Companies like JetBlue Airlines, AIG and Travelers are utilizing their own home agents or outsource to companies that have home agent solutions. Blended Solution Often called multi-shore, this highly customized solution utilizes multiple outsourced components including stateside call centers, offshore, near shore and home agents as well as automation to deliver cost savings and increased quality. Identifying the Gotchas We know of the potential cost-savings of sending your calls overseas, but what about the downsides to offshore outsourcing? Perhaps the biggest gotcha of outsourcing your calls overseas is finding a balance between reducing costs and improving quality. Many companies are lured by the potential cost-savings of moving their call center business offshore, but soon realize that there can be quality issues and language or dialect difficulties which lead to resentment from customers. Another gotcha is your ability to maintain control of your call center operations. With drastic time zone differences, long trans-continental flights and potential political instabilities, companies find that sending their calls overseas creates additional operational challenges that can be difficult to overcome. 4
  5. 5. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs The Biggest Fork in the Road Once you have been presented with the options for outsourcing and have identified the potential gotchas, you’ll need to decide what path will help you reach your goals. The solution you choose should balance cost and quality, allow you to maintain a high level of control, be highly scalable and include automation for the most favorable results. For more and more companies the choices are boiling down to sending calls to offshore call centers or to home agents. Which one would you choose? Before you answer, consider the about-face one of the nation’s largest computer seller did to lower costs. Lessons Learned - The Offshore Backlash In an effort to improve customer service, Dell is no longer routing some corporate customer calls to a call center based in India. Dell executives attributed the move back to the United States to complaints from customers, a spokesman for the Round Rock, Texas-based company confirmed. Dell’s reversal comes as many U.S. companies are rushing to outsource operations to India, the Philippines and other nations with low labor costs. The main advantage to offshoring your The Best Shore Cost Comparison customer calls is cost. For example, a company may have labor costs of US Labor Cost of Services $300-400 a month per person in India, Home Agent compared to $3,000 - $4,000 a month or more in the United States. When Near Shore Canada & Jamaica you account for labor and infrastructural costs, a company may be able to save Offshore India & Philippines anywhere between 30 to 50 percent, according to a leading outsourcing Call Center Based IVR company in India. But the disadvantages of offshore call centers may outweigh its cost advantages. According to a recent survey by PA Consulting Group, 66 percent of companies were disappointed with their contracts moving work overseas. Language barriers, geographic barriers, as well as staffing and infrastructure quality issues are just some of the obstacles companies need to overcome with an offshore option. Staying Home: An Alternative to Offshore Because of the rising concerns about offshore outsourcing, in terms of quality and security, companies like JetBlue are becoming interested in an alternative to offshore: home agents. Traditionally, companies have steered clear of solutions utilizing home-based agents, because of skepticism over their ability to effectively recruit, train and supervise a large number of virtual agents. Another issue has been the capabilities of the infrastructure used. Because most home agent solutions – have been and still are – ACD based, they are limited to local calling areas, inadequate redundancy and constraints on ACD port capacity. This could limit a company’s ability to handle large call volumes. 5
  6. 6. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs In addition, security was a major concern for companies looking to implement a home agent program. Typically, security measures at the agent, desktop and system-levels need to be in place for a home agent solution to be truly effective. Some At-Home providers were unwilling or unable to invest in the infrastructure necessary to provide security at all three levels. The Key Principles of At-Home Agents Well, a lot has changed. The At-Home business model has undergone major improvements in infrastructure, data security and operations, which makes home agent solutions more attractive to many companies. Principles of At-Home Programs Why should your company consider an At-Home Quality solution for your programs? First of all, companies are able to tap into a large pool of higher quality agents. Many of today’s At-Home Cost Control home agents are educated “stay-at-home” workers. Agents In fact, over 80% have completed some level of college work and over 35% have attained either an associates or bachelor degree. Flexibility Second, At-Home solutions remove traditional staffing limitations. Home agents have greater flexibility in when they work, how long they work and where they work. For instance, some programs and campaigns may need several hundred agents for a prime-time push, but only for one hour. Home agents can fulfill this need, which is difficult if not impossible to staff for in a call center environment where the minimum staffing requirement is three or four hours. Of course, it would be unreasonable and cost-prohibitive to staff a call center with hundreds of people, only to send them home in 60 minutes. Finally, technology has helped remove ACD-based geographic limitations. This has given companies the ability to easily identify agents with specific skills and backgrounds, such as insurance reps, pharmacists, nurses and more. This allows companies to support a wide range of specialized applications. When combined with the latest technology, superior infrastructure and outstanding operational methodologies, At-Home agents are an excellent alternative to offshore staffing. Until now, few companies have unlocked the potential of this combination. One industry-leading customer contact company is leading the way with its home-based agents to deliver superior customer care through higher quality agents, at a cost that is lower than traditional live agent solutions – West Corporation. 6
  7. 7. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs West at Home: Disrupting the Economics of Offshore Solutions While home agent solutions have recently begun to make headlines, West Corporation began driving calls to home agents as early as the 1990s. Today, West at Home is a solution that combines cutting-edge call routing technology with a desktop application environment that allows West to deliver phone calls and access to a client’s programs at any remote location. The following blueprint shows the West at Home call process. West at Home Platform Blueprint What makes West at Home different from other home agent solutions? Through West’s Virtual ACD, West at Home provides access to an extensive network of educated and computer-literate people located in homes across the country, creating a virtual call center to handle all of a company’s customer contact needs. The West at Home solution provides companies with a larger pool of higher quality, better-educated agents who can help increase sales conversions by 15% and provide a 10% increase in quality against Key Performance Indicators. These highly professional agents have the ability to create their own schedule which leads to higher job satisfaction and lower attrition rates. In fact, attrition rates are less than half of traditional call centers. In addition, West’s proven hiring and training methods help reduce training times by up to 30% and increase knowledge transfer. The West at Home solution also improves customer interaction/call resolution thanks to West’s extensive infrastructure and capacity. West’s highly flexible and redundant platform delivers 40% more staffing flexibility to better support fluctuating call volume and ensure that no opportunity is missed. West has thousands of agents certified, trained and ready to take calls, giving them the ability to quickly ramp up to meet the specific needs of clients in a variety of industries. Maybe just as important is West’s ability to schedule agents in half-hour segments helping companies manage short-term call volume spikes without overstaffing. West’s cutting-edge call routing technology, superior agents, extensive experience and proven hiring, training and operational processes helps separate West at Home from all other home agent providers in the call center world. Unparalleled Security Security is the number one priority at West. That’s why West has invested the time, money and resources necessary to provide every West at Home program with unmatched, layered security protection at the agent, desktop and system-level. Prior to becoming a West at Home agent, every applicant must successfully pass a Suitability Survey and undergo a thorough background check. This helps to minimize problems before they happen. Once hired, agents can only log on to take calls when they are scheduled. To take calls agents must log on to a secure website with a unique ID and password. Password management ensures that an agent does not use the same password for an extended timeframe and requires them to utilize more complex passwords. 7
  8. 8. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs All client and West applications are accessed by the agent through an SSL-encrypted, secure “tunnel” to a redundant network of Citrix servers. Citrix allows West to keep all applications and data secure by providing a “virtual desktop” to the agents. Multiple firewalls and secured client network access, ensure that agents never directly access or manipulate databases that are resident at West or a client location and no data is ever stored on the home agent’s PC. West also monitors agents via their state-of-the-art Network Operations Center (NOC), and through system-generated reports. Every transaction is time stamped and West utilizes a dedicated Fraud Detection group to aid in the tracking of any suspicious activity regarding shipping addresses, credit card usage and other predetermined call parameters. In addition, West partners with NICE Systems to record 100% of all calls and to enable monitoring of PC screen interactions, mouse movements and key strokes. Proven Hiring, Training and Staffing Methods For any company, proper staffing is critical to the success of a customer contact program. That’s why West has incorporated almost two decades worth of contact center management knowledge into the proven hiring, training and scheduling methods that are at the heart of the West at Home solution. All recruiting, hiring, training and scheduling can be conducted over a standard web-based browser. By automating almost 100% of a company’s Human Resources functions, West has helped some of their clients reduce their HR costs by up to 50%, while increasing their sales volume by 15 to 20%. Registration & Suitability The hiring process is conducted completely online and begins with the registration process, which gives applicants a basic understanding of the job duties, gathers personal information and asks for specific skill sets. If a candidate’s answers meet West’s standards, they are given a professionally developed Suitability Survey, that screens potential home agents for customer service skills, honesty values as well as other work ethics. Live Interview & Background Checks Registrants who pass the Suitability Test are asked to pick a couple of times that work best for a live interview, with West’s Human Resources department. The interviewer is looking for the candidate’s ability to communicate, comprehend and demonstrate logical thinking. In addition, the candidate will read through a sample script to ensure that a candidate has good reading skills, appropriate voice inflection and can represent the clients well. Scheduling & Training SpectrumSM, West’s proprietary workforce management system, gives their home agents the ability to self-manage their schedules online. Spectrum helps agents decide when and how much they want to work, which helps to create more satisfied workers – and leads to some of the lowest attrition rates in the industry. Spectrum assures West’s clients that their campaign will be fully staffed and managed, no matter how many agents you need or when you need them. In addition to Spectrum, West utilizes user-friendly internet-based training tools which frequently reduce training times by up to 50% for highly motivated trainees. Every home agent must complete and successfully “test out” of each training module before they can move on to the next module. No other At-Home program has the cutting-edge technology and proven online systems that is found with West at Home. Fully Redundant Virtual ACD Unlike other At-Home solutions, West employs a Virtual ACD infrastructure that enables West to seamlessly direct calls anywhere in the world, eliminating the inherent limitations and restrictions associated with ACD based At-Home solutions. 8
  9. 9. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs West’s Virtual ACD is fully redundant and has more than 100,000 ports of available capacity with full IVR capabilities. West is able to route calls to the most qualified agent through skills and performance based routing, which helps improve customer service and increases first-time call resolution. West’s Virtual ACD gives companies peace of mind that every call will be answered by the optimum agent. Unmatched Communication, Service and Professionalism West is dedicated to providing its clients with agents who offer unmatched service and professionalism. That is why West utilizes web-based monitoring and communication tools that record 100% of all calls. These recorded calls can be replayed on a client’s PC within minutes of completion of the call. West also utilizes Team Leaders who are the operational point of contact and support for the home agent, much like a coach or supervisor in a traditional call center. Team Leaders are the building blocks of agent support for the West at Home program. Team Leaders communicate with home agents via email, online chat, instant messaging and can also be conferenced in to any phone session to assist an agent with a call. Team Leaders conduct quality assurance reviews on every agent twice-a-day and give appraisals once-a-week providing constant feedback on agent performance. In addition, the West at Home system automatically records all contacts between the home agents and their Team Leaders. A Home-Based Agent Success Story In the fall of 2005, one of the world’s leading providers of IT consulting and integration services was looking for a customer contact partner who could help them handle calls generated from the Medicare Part ‘D’ Prescription Drug program. Even though the company had two internal call centers, they knew the expected volume from enrollments and general inquiries would be more than they could manage. With the launch date approaching, the company turned to West “We called on a Friday afternoon in need Corporation to provide them with a robust solution that could handle of a solution and by midnight the next call overflow and remain within budget. The company chose West based on their ability to bring this solution to market quickly, provide a day it was ready to go. West has had a high level of quality and deliver solutions that could meet both their terrific willingness to partner with us in current and future needs. our hour of need. Their ability to move quickly while delivering unbelievable West had only five weeks to develop and launch a solution to handle support is outstanding.” the company’s enrollment calls. To add to the challenge, the federal government had not fully defined the program’s specifications. Given Principal - Senior Architect, these parameters, West’s experienced team of professionals immediately Global IT Consulting and began to develop a West at Home solution that would deliver the Integration Company flexibility and scalability necessary to make the program a success. The West at Home solution made it possible to quickly provide highly skilled, home-based agents from around the country to handle the calls. Once the agents were selected, they participated in a comprehensive certification and training program that helped them better understand the various types of calls that they would receive. After the program launched the client quickly realized that the call volumes were significantly outpacing projections. West was able to scale up rapidly with hundreds of additional work-at-home agents and meet the client’s growing demand. At the same time, West developed an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution that would “front-end” all calls, including the company’s internal call centers. Callers could access FAQ information directly in the automated solution or the calls were intelligently routed to the most qualified agent to complete the transaction. The initial IVR functionality was set up and handling calls in under 24 hours. Within a matter of days additional features were brought online, including the ability to handle both English and Spanish speaking customers. 9
  10. 10. The Truth Behind At-Home Customer Care Programs The client also utilized an Internet-based form to enroll participants to the program, but many of the online enrollments were left incomplete. The client asked West to develop an outbound calling campaign to facilitate the completion of the enrollments or to answer any additional questions. West was able to launch a fully integrated solution within three days of the client’s request. As the program grew, the client turned to West’s home agent solution to manage 24x7 customer support and to handle additional call types including: formulary, application status, fulfillment and other general inquiries. The extraordinary flexibility and scalability of the West at Home solution, allowed West to ramp up from an initial projection of 52 agents to over 1,900 certified agents in less than 60 days. Not only was West able to bring this solution to market in an extremely tight timeframe, but the company was also able to help the client reduce their cost per call by 20%. The West solution enabled the client to increase call capacity from an average of 10,000 calls per day to over 100,000 a day during the peak enrollment period. By maintaining a call abandonment rate of less than 1%, West was able to help the client capitalize on every opportunity. Without the West solution in place the vast majority of enrollments would have been lost and along with it, approximately $84 million dollars in annual revenue. West’s comprehensive portfolio of contact solutions and our ability to seamlessly blend a variety of services together gave the client the ability to rapidly adapt to program changes and in many cases, enhance scripting or make program changes in less than 24 hours. As the program continues to grow, the client looks to West as a strategic partner to help them improve customer care and create additional revenue opportunities. Summary Outsourcing customer care can be a daunting task, but with proper planning and the right partner, it can be a successful and highly beneficial project. Companies who see the greatest results with outsourcing have found solutions that can deliver the perfect combination of cost, quality, operational methodology, infrastructure and technology. West at Home offers that perfect combination. As an industry leader for almost two decades, West Corporation has earned its reputation by delivering successful outsourced customer contact programs to many of the nation’s leading companies. West’s solutions have provided companies just like yours with a higher level of care, increased revenue and significant cost savings advantages. In fact, West at Home is an exciting new chapter in a long history of innovative solutions designed to help companies succeed. The truth behind At-Home customer care programs is clear. You can have your cake and eat it too with West at Home. 10

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