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Industry Research : Work-from-Home Gains Ground as Call Centres Run Pilots


Over the last two decades, call centres typically meant large buildings full of young employees on headsets taking hundreds of calls.

That model may be changing though.

People are now taking calls from home, in what promises to be an Uber-like disruption in customer service.

Global business process outsourcing (BPO) companies have begun pilot work-from-home projects with Indian e-commerce and health-tech startups. This will enable them to provide services that are cheaper and one that can be dialled-up or down based on demand.

To be sure, BPO companies have long had work-at-home-agents, a group the industry calls WAHA. Several clients, however, agreed that only key employees could have that option. This was for business contingency planning or to mitigate costs in delivery locations such as the United States.

However, with a near shutdown of large parts of China due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the work-at-home call centre model is likely to spread, industry executives said.

"Work-at-home has been available, but its uptake by clients was not there. Now, in China, with the coronavirus, we have 2,000 agents working from home," Bhupender Singh, President of Group Transformation at BPO provider Teleperformance, told ET. "It is an unfortunate thing, but the side-effect is that clients are now open to this."

The company has about 1,400 agents working from home in the United States, he said. Teleperformance has over 330,000 employees globally.

The work-from-home movement is coming to India as well despite challenges over the need for designated workspaces in an agent’s home, landline networks and connectivity.

"At Startek India, we also provide WAHA for a health-tech company, as it gets more scale (when required), which means that the number of WAHA product specialists can be adjusted to the demand for seasonal labour," said Rajiv Ahuja, Global Chief Operating Officer at Startek.

Teleperformance is also piloting the work-from-home model with two Indian companies, one of which is in the ecommerce space, Singh said. "Around sales, there is a need to have more agents, but it does not make sense to invest in capacity that won’t get used after that period ends. Work-from-home agents help in dealing with the capacity needs."

The model is also cheaper, a significant plus for clients and call centre operators in India. Work-from-home not only removes physical centres from the matrix, but also transportation costs that are typically borne by companies.

But there processes that companies need to put in place before they can move to work-from-home model.

"It requires a combination of Hub and Spoke business management model, robust centralised workforce management, technological capabilities (virtual desktops) and security and compliance controls," Startek’s Ahuja said. He added that the company had a virtual desktop integrator platform, which takes control of the machine until the agent logs off the platform, limiting the incidence of information fraud and the potential to compromise data security.

Experts tracking the space say the model is helping clients get better quality talent on projects and helping curb attrition.

"Typically, you get older workers or householders that are interested. We have seen this in the developed markets in the US and Europe, but we are also seeing it in delivery markets such as the Philippines, China and India," Peter Ryan, Principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory, told ET.

Teleperformance has shut some centres to move to a work-from-home model. Other providers such as Sitel and Sykes are also increasing work-from-home agents.

Singh of Teleperformance said the shift would also help employ more women, particularly in India.

"If this expands, we can see it helping with women’s employment in India. You could have housewives who work from home for a few hours a day. The model is flexible," he added.

The Indian government is looking at incentives to help BPO companies generate work-from-home jobs, ET has reported previously.


Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent

Company LogoStarTek is the customer care expert in business process outsourcing. Our job is to improve and manage the customer experience for our clients. StarTek’s suite of solutions includes sales, order management and provisioning, customer care, technical support, receivables management, and more. We offer clients a variety of multi-channel customer interaction capabilities including voice, chat, email, IVR and back-office support. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, StarTek has delivery centers onshore, near shore, offshore and virtually through its StarTek@Home workforce.
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Published: Monday, March 9, 2020

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2023 Buyers Guide Messaging Systems


miSecureMessages is an encrypted messaging application designed as a pager replacement for healthcare organizations, call centers, and enterprise environments.


Voice to Digital Connect, Agent Guided Workflows
Cielo helps companies improve customer service experiences in the voice channel by connecting them to ai digital journeys that resolve issues.

Voice to Digital Connect works in the IVR and gives mobile customers the option to skip the wait and connect to an ai chatbot that is built to resolve specific low-touch repetitive issues, all via text.

Guided workflows automate the many steps agents need to take to resolve a customer issue with AI-powered procedures, all within one agent-guided screen. It integrates directly onto the agent’s desktop with digital applications that create a hybrid voice + digital experience that reduces AHT and improves first-call resolution.

Our Application...
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eGain Corporation

Messaging Hub
eGain has rearchitected its platform to handle the messaging channels in a new way. eGain Customer Engagement Hub™, the platform that unifies knowledge, AI, analytics, and conversations to ensure that no channel is left in a silo, also powers the eGain Messaging Hub.

Startel Corp.

Contact Center Software
Startel is a leading provider of unified communications, business process automation and performance management solutions for contact centers. Since its founding in 1980, Startel has established a loyal customer base from a variety of industries, including contact centers, education, healthcare, insurance and telephone answering service. Startel's solutions are designed to enhance the customer experience, improve employee productivity, reduce operating costs, and increase revenues.


Chat, Synthetix’s multichannel live chat solution offers customer support in real-time, driving huge efficiencies.

When customers have complex queries that require human intervention, live chat proves far more efficient than traditional channels. Not only is it quicker and more convenient than waiting on hold to be dealt with, but with AI-powered features, it produces massive ROI.

With concurrent chat slots, a live key-press feed and AI-predictive suggestions that recommend articles in real-time, Synthetix Chat reduces average handling times by up to 50% compared to standard live chat.

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