At-home workers are an integral part of Restaurant Brands’ contact centre activities being delivered through Australian company SalesForce.
With 300 contact centre contractors across Australasia, around 10% of them in New Zealand, SalesForce claims to be a leading regional exponent of teleworking.
SalesForce@Home's general manager, Jacob Murray-White, spoke at TUANZ’s Teleworking 2008 conference in Auckland last week, saying the trend towards using at-home contractors for contact centre work has exploded in the US and answers a number of contact centre challenges.
In the US the five top employers of remote agents have over 10,000 each on their books and most call centre operators there have at least 10% of their workforce working from home. The model helps operators to compete with offshore service providers, he says, through cutting costs, increasing effectiveness and delivering high-quality agents.
SalesForce uses its at-home operators for a range of tasks for clients including Restaurant Brands NZ, Telstra, JetStar, Woolworths Australia and Origin Energy. They handle both inbound and outbound calls, call quality assurance and surveys.
Video: Computerworld interviews Bevis England, of Telework NZ, at TUANZ's Teleworking 2008 conference
The agents are paid by outcome, not by time, on a per call or per sale basis with a portion of the payment based on call quality, which is monitored. Agents can schedule their work to suit their needs down to half-hour blocks, Murray-White says.
He says the profile of the at-home agents is 83% female, 45% over 30 and 75% outside the CBD, with 37% in regional areas. One agent lives 300km north-east of Perth and one lives in Whangaroa in New Zealand’s far north. SalesForce has agents sprinkled across the North Island and had one in the South Island until they recently resigned.
Murray-White says the at-home model delivers high quality people. Some are at-home mothers, others are “sea changers”, some are disabled, some “prematurely retrenched” and some live in areas where other employment options are minimal. A lot have serious call centre experience, he says.
SalesForce manages its remote agents entirely remotely, with online training, online quality control and online assistance if needed, he says. Recruitment is also managed remotely by at-home recruiters through webinars and other online contact.
Murray-White says SalesForce doesn’t use video conferencing, saying he thinks it’s over-rated. Instead it uses Citrix’s GoToMeeting. A half-hour webinar was scheduled for Restaurant Brands immediately after his address at the conference.
Because of that and the way the agents are incentivised, they are what Murray-White calls a “self optimising, engaged workforce” with a personal interest in improving call effectiveness.
Murray-White says the technology behind SalesForce’s remote operations is quite simple. The company has an Avaya switch in Australia and an Alcatel Lucent one in New Zealand and uses Genesys callcentre software to route calls. The desktop used by the agents is delivered via Citrix, meaning the agents can use any hardware or operating system on their home PCs.
Murray-White says he acknowledges user experience with Citrix is variable, but for SalesForce it’s “just beautiful”.
The result, he claims, is a 10% improvement in sales outcomes and a 13% increase in sales value made through the remote agents.