Saturday, May 8, 2010

Some Surprising Findings

Call centers represent one of the fastest growing segments of customer service. A recent blog by Carmit DiAndrea of Analytics & Client Services brought this to the attention of The Customer Institute. There has been a trend toward work-at-home agents and some of the data suggest the number of work-at-home agents is growing at the rate of 40% per year. Other studies indicate the attrition rate of work-at-home agents is much less than the typical call center. One of the prime reasons is that work-at-home agents eliminate the cost of work space. While this may be of interest to those who watch the financial aspect of call center operations, the point of this blog is that in one case study there were two surprises. These surprises lead to the question: "is this an anomaly or is there something to this that needs to be investigated."

The first surprise was the likelihood to recommend the company's services was somewhat lower for the work-at-home agent than the call center and the second surprise was that satisfaction with service provided was also lower for the work-at-home agent than the agent at the call center.

Let me enter a few caveats here; namely,
1. This is only one company that recorded these results and that company has chosen to remain anonymous.
2. The differences between the call center agents and the work-at-home agents were concluded to be different but there was no test to determine if the differences were statistically significant.
3. This was not a controlled experiment. Thus, there may be other factors that caused the differences.

The company tracked these two parameters metrics for one year and based on the data asked the following questions:
1. Why did these metrics drop when one call center sent their top performing agents home to work?
2. What would cause these top agents to struggle to perform at an average level?

While there were no clear answers to these questions, the following ideas were presented without any evidence that they may be significant:
1. How were the work-at-home agents selected? Is there a difference between agents in the call center and work-at-home agents? Does it take a different type of person?
2. Should the expectations be different for the call center agent than the work-at-home agent?
3. Can the type of training make a difference?
4. Should the management of call center agents be different than work-at-home agents?

The bottom line is that there appears to be a sea change in the work force for call centers. Some of the questions that need to be addressed are:
1. Do we need a new way to train managers to manage the work-at-home agent?
2. Do we need to train work-at-home agents differently than the call center agents?
3. Do we need new metrics for the work-at-home agent?
4. Should there be different hiring requirements for call center agents than work-at-home agents?

Since we know that call center agents have a direct impact on both customer satisfaction and loyalty, this topic needs more research. One case is not enough. We are interested in the outcome and will blog any further results that are published.

1 comment:

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