Brands are increasingly recognising the value of a work-at-home element to their customer service.
For businesses considering work-at-home, there are several models available, each offering individual benefits that companies can choose from, deciding which is right for them.
A recent article in The Times looked at how companies, perhaps looking to reduce the cost of customer service, adopted a model utilising agents as contractors with no guaranteed hours.
It’s easy to see why this model is attractive, only paying for the agent-hours used, but it quickly becomes apparent that this approach comes with a human cost. The article quotes that the key benefit of this model was that it helped companies “squeeze wastage out of a typical workday.” The issue however, is that this squeeze is on the lowest paid person – the agent – so is not about transforming and streamlining business processes.
Because agents in this type of home-based support programme are self-employed, they have different rights to employees.
They may not receive holiday pay, sick pay, or paid comfort breaks. In addition, contractors usually pay for their own training and equipment, and are not guaranteed paid hours each week. This, effectively, reduces people to a commodity, rather than being viewed as a valued employee.
As a result, this approach doesn’t build brand loyalty or knowledge with agents, and it doesn’t create long-term service delivery. Instead, it appears very much geared towards short-term gains.
From a buyer’s perspective, this model may be very appealing, but is it one that is offers long-term value? In the dash to scale quickly or save money, companies may well compromise their customer service or undervalue their agents, not to mention the potential damage to their brand’s reputation when an article like the one above is published.
Buyers do well to consider the pros and cons of every model when considering a contractor work-at-home customer service approach. They must consider their brand’s ethos and values – are they confident that there’s enough in it for each worker, rather than them being negatively impacted to achieve cost savings? Wouldn’t they want to foster an environment in which agents, even when outsourced, are employees and feel protected, nurtured, and developed accordingly?
So, is there an alternative? All SYKES agents are employees with agreed hours of work and no zero-hour contracts. We don’t require them to provide equipment or pay for their training. Work-at-home agents provide their own safe and comfortable place to work, and internet access. Through these high standards, we provide a competitive, high quality work-at-home service for our clients, their customers, and our own people.