Propelled by the adoption of IP telephony, more contact center managers are getting serious about ramping up their home agent program. Many pilots for home agents are now expanding into larger agent populations and compelling companies to take a closer look at its benefits and risks. Forrester’s 2010 survey of contact center decision makers found that 35% of companies had plans for expanding their home agent program during the next 12 months.

I think to successfully augment contact center operations with home based agents you need to take the proper precautionary steps to ensure a secure environment for both workers’ and customers’ data, have adequate help desk support available during all shifts and establish clear guidelines for managers of remote agents. Forrester clients with home agents report positive benefits, such as improving their recruitment opportunities, attracting higher educated and more experienced workers, and lowering their absenteeism and attrition rates. However, there are also concerns regarding the management of home agents, such as more time troubleshooting for PC problems and less visibility on their after call work activities. I believe these factors can be reduced by appointing a virtual support team to supervise remote agents and providing them with easy access during working hours to subject matter and technical experts who can deliver immediate support for the more complex issues.

Additional benefits for creating a virtual contact center include lower infrastructure costs, improved business continuity and a lower carbon footprint, as agents no longer need to commute. But the most significant benefit is having a dedicated, experienced workforce capable of working independently without visual supervision. This all begins with sound hiring practices and clear performance guidelines. With a large pool of potential employees who want to work flexible shifts from their home, I predict this trend will continue and will redefine how most companies view their contact center operations. Let me know what experiences or problems you have encountered with engaging home agents in your contact center.