Careful out there contact center managers, someone is stealing agents

I recently presented at a conference on features available for today’s remote contact center agents. A routine talk you’ve probably seen about functions like recording, coaching, multi-channel queuing and other contact center centric items that were once only available to office bound agents and supervisors. During the session I offered a few stories on different ways we’re seeing organizations use remote agents to further the reach of their contact center.

The audience was mostly contact center managers and the following story got more reaction than I had planned.

During a trade show a gentleman (we’ll use Smith to protect his identity) came to our booth to talk about supporting a group of remote agents, either by a hosted solution or a premise system that supports full features for remote agents. Typically we ask a few questions about what’s already in place, what might need integrated, etc. He smiled and said this was a new opportunity. It turned out he had been contacted by a company about coming on board to start up a new contact center for them. The company was expanding into a new product line and would be in need of a contact center to support the new business unit. They figured hiring a key player from a competitor would be a good start and they reached out to Smith through a recruiter. Probably happens every day in every industry.

They laid out a plan where he would move to the east coast and start staffing up, with just 5-6 initial agents on day one, but projected to grow up to 10-12 in the first year and 25-30 agents within 2 years. Staffed mostly with new hires and a few transfers from some other business units. They built a budget around how much training they would need to provide, and factored in the turnover cost they would see in a contact center within a 2 year span. They also budgeted space for 30 people, and ballparked the price for the technology/infrastructure needs. They did their homework.

Then Smith made a suggestion. "Why not just hire the whole contact center they needed from their competitor on day one?"

Interesting, but not very practical, the budget only had room on day one for 5-6 entry level agents, and the higher cost of seasoned agents coupled with the cost of moving 6 people across the country seemed crazy.

But Smith offered a plan, “Cut the budget you have for the space, most of the training, and scale back year one from 10-12 to 6-7 agents. We can take 6 agents I already know and they will easily handle the call volume forecasted in the first 12 months. And with the technology available, they can work from home.” Score one for Smith.

This was the point most of the attendees stopped pretending to pay attention to my slides and started whispering to each other. At the end of my talk several people came to the front. I figured they either wanted more information on some of the remote features I just covered, or they were going to tell me what a great presentation I delivered. Happens all the time. :)

Instead they offered more stories on how remote agent technology was helping and hurting their contact center. One attendee mentioned they could never get management to approve agents working remotely, especially from home, until they lost several key agents. One agent had moved because of a transferred spouse and another left that had just had a child. They were able to get them back with the offer of working remotely. Another attendee noted she had lost 2 of her best agents, not to a competitor, but to an ad they found online looking for quality agents who wanted to work from home.

What started as a session on the features of a remote agent ended in a round table on keeping, losing and stealing agents.

So, if you’re a CC manager without the ability to offer agents a remote option, be careful, free bagels on Friday might no longer be enough to keep them around.

Brad Herrington

Brad Herrington

Brad Herrington

As a Manager in the Solutions Marketing Group, Brad is responsible for the product direction and marketing strategy of the suite of products offered by Interactive Intelligence. Solutions Marketing is also the outward facing delivery team for webinar, seminar, analyst and media presentations as well as prospect and end customer demonstrations. His experience includes more than 20 years in the contact center and telephony industry, including the past 16 years with Interactive Intelligence focused on both the traditional and IP telephony markets.