At-home Call Center Ranks Growing


    The Wall Street Journal in its Jan. 12, 2006 issue documents the trend of US companies keeping customer service functions in the states by outsourcing the work to operations that employ work-at-home folks. Their ranks include Office Depot, Sears Holdings and Wyndham Hotels. Workers include stay-at-home moms, people caring for sick or elderly family members, and others for whom the flexibility of being able to work in even 15-minute shifts is a step up from other options.

    One US outsourcing firm, Willow, said it will hire only a fifth of the 34,000 people who apply.

    Of course, it doesn’t sound entirely like paradise. Frequently, these people have independent contractor positions with service providers. That means they don’t get healthcare or other benefits. And the pay is limited. Most earn between $8 and $18 an hour.

    Yet, still they’re seemingly devoted to the set-up. According to research done by Gartner, 70%-80% of home-based agents have college degrees. They often have management experience and are older than the average call-center employee. And turnover tends to be half of the 40%-100% "attrition in traditional call centers."

    Aside from the aspect of having college education, these characteristics set this workforce on a different track altogether from the call center workforce in India. Aside from the obvious differences — youth, less experience, and a bigger temptation to jump ship — those Indian workers are more likely to be employees, not independents.

    This is still half-baked thinking, but I find it ironic that while the US stomps toward a free agent future on this side of the world, Indian companies are doing all they can to retain workers by upping benefits and pay on the other side.



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