|We've all heard about the
"offshoring" of call centres: outsourcing them overseas,
especially to the Indian subcontinent - all made possible by new
Even newer technologies, however, raise the
possibility of "homeshoring" - using home-based call centre agents
in the UK as a cost-effective alternative.
While these virtual call centres cannot compete on labour
costs, the reduction in property costs and telephony costs plus
the advantage of having first-language English speakers is now
making this a competitive option.
Having 630 ABTA-certified home-based operatives makes the
Co-operative Travel Group's Future Travel subsidiary the largest virtual
contact centre in the UK. And they are convinced of the
According to Peter Healey, Technical Director of Future Travel:
staff churn by offering flexible home working to, for example,
new mothers returning to work part-time, or older people looking
to reduce their hours but not yet ready to retire. In the travel
industry, an effective home working centre means that you keep
valuable knowledge and experience within the company. Being able
to add or reduce lines to fit peak booking times, such as
evenings and weekends, means that we can plan capacity."
Because of these kinds of
benefits, home-based virtual contact centres constitute one
of the fastest growing trends in the contact centre market.
Industry experts estimate
that by eliminating office-costs and associated administrative
overheads, the home-based contact centre operates at around half
the operating costs of a traditional site-based contact-centre.
Other benefits include:
- Home-based contact
centres see a considerable reduction in agent churn, usually
down to single figures. In a traditional site-based contact
centre, agent churn can be as high as 40% per annum
- Home-based agents
enjoy a net benefit equivalent to a 15% increase in salary - as
a result of travel-to-work time being eliminated, greater
flexibility and associated work-life-balance benefits.
- Quality of service is
improved. Organisations are able to recruit from a much broader
pool of available specialists, ensuring they can recruit the
highest quality agents and deliver a high quality of service to
How does it work?
Future Travel uses the SmartNumbers Virtual Contact Centre service to handle incoming
calls from customers that are booking new holidays and enquiring
about previously booked holidays. Incoming calls are distributed
by the Virtual Contact Centre service to agents working across the
UK based upon skills, agent availability, entitlement, and equal
distribution of calls.
The SmartNumbers service
scales easily, takes advantage of agents' existing broadband and
telephony connections and enables the Future Travel Contact Centre Manager
to quickly add or reduce individual queue capacity as required.
According to David
Picking, IT General Manager at Co-operative Travel,
"We have some unique
business models reflecting both the quality of service goals we
provide to our customers, and also how we compensate our agents.
It was therefore critical that the call distribution achieved
both a high-quality experience for the caller, as well as the
optimum distribution of calls to the most appropriate agent.
"These issues were
compounded by the fact that inbound calls have to be managed not
just across one or two sites, but across more than 600 unique
The solution was
implemented by Teamphone, who were able to configure its
SmartNumber services to match the precise requirements and provide
real-time statistics and queue-management tools for fine-tuning
these requirements as needed. Since the service works with
existing telephones and requires no additional hardware or network
infrastructure it was possible to go live in a matter of weeks,
and at a very low cost per agent. It was important that the
service worked on existing as well as VoIP and Mobile networks
both for business flexibility and business-continuity reasons.
Benefits for call centre
In addition to full
interactive voice response and automatic call distribution
technology the Virtual Contact Centre also provides real-time and
detailed statistics of all telephony and messaging interactions
Call Centre Managers can
see on real-time wallboards detailed information on:
- Service Level
Attainment - The quality of service being provided to customers
and the performance metrics required by their suppliers
- Agent Utilisation -
The efficiency and effectiveness of the agents working at remote
locations. Agents can be switched from queues that are
under-utilised to those queues with higher traffic in real-time.
- Call Resolution -
Determining the first-call resolution rate and further
statistics on each customer calling in.
"Even though we have
agents operating across more than 600 separate locations across
the UK, I can track in real-time the performance and effectiveness
of each our agents", says Alistair Rowland, Managing Director at
Future Travel. "In many ways, this provides me with better
information agent utilisation than I would normally get if all the
agents were operating in the single location. Here we can
configure queues and teams based on hard facts - and not just
perception of performance."