Thanks to a business trend called “homeshoring,” home is where the jobs are. Companies are capitalizing on the efficiencies of technology to use workers who can make their customer service and support calls from the comfort of their own homes.
Traditionally, call centers have been located in office buildings with hundreds of cubicles and buzzing phone lines. Homeshoring has cut the cost of facilities and commuting and created a more intimate relationship between work and home.
Arise Virtual Solutions has pioneered the homeshoring movement. Founded in 1997 by the state of Florida, an entrepreneur, and a local telephone company, Arise initially aimed to offer jobs to people with disabilities. Now, 78 percent of its workforce consists of women, whose average age is 42 and average business experience is 10 years. Most of them are stay-at-home moms, most likely because homeshoring allows workers to choose their own work schedule and achieve work-life balance . Arise also attracts large numbers of retirees, students and people looking for a second job.
“The basic beauty of homeshoring is that you’re able to tap into a talent pool with individuals who are highly educated,” said Peter Hargittay, Arise’s vice president of marketing. Eighty-six percent of Arise’s agents have had some college experience, which is surprisingly high, compared to the agents in a traditional bricks- and- mortar call center, Hargittay said. A deep talent pool is accessible since there are no geographical limitations of homeshoring, which Hargittay said is paramount to Arise’s success.
The airline Jet Blue prides itself on customer service . It has been using homeshoring since the company began in 1999. Mateo Lleras, a corporate communications manager at Jet Blue, believes that homeshoring bolsters the Jet Blue experience from the moment the customer calls one of its at-home agents.
“Seven J.D. Power awards in a row speak for themselves,” Lleras said.
To manage its virtual agents, Jet Blue hires a company like Arise (Lleras would not disclose the actual holding company) to manage its agents.
Another homeshoring company, Working Solutions, has recently launched an innovation in homeshoring by using social media to communicate with customers. If someone posts a comment on a blog or social media site that mentions one of Working Solutions’ clients, the company has the software to track the comment and allow the homeshoring agent to provide feedback immediately to the poster.
“The end goal is to provide excellent customer service,” said Aaron Kannowski, Working Solutions’ marketing and media manager. “And in order to do that you pretty much have to step up.”
Kannowski said he does not see the rapid growth of Working Solutions or any other homeshoring company slowing down anytime soon.
Arise is keeping up with innovations as well so that calls can be directed based on personality and geographical distance.
“If you’re calling in from Louisiana, we want to have that call routed to as close to that location as possible,” Hargittay said. And using sophisticated technology, Arise wants to pair the caller with the most like-minded agent.
As demand for homeshoring increases, Arise has plans to expand internationally. While it sounds counterintuitive to homeshoring, Hargittay insists that this proven business model can be used in other countries.
“The idea is to provide localized service and use local talent,” he said. “And all that matters is keeping the customer and the homeshored agent close to home…wherever that may be.”