I participated in a very interesting discussion concerning work-from-home customer support professionals at last week’s LOMA Polilcyholder Service Conference. Approximately 30 customer service executives and managers shared their best practices in call-center management.

One of the more striking conversation threads was the experience companies are having with home-based service representatives – call-center employees that provide customer support from their homes. The most common approach mentioned is to use this model selectively with proven high performers and as a motivation and retention tool. But, it was also clear from the specific examples that there are meaningful business benefits to be gained. Here are a few selected comments:

· The consensus in the room was that work-from-home reps were 25 percent more productive than their office-bound counterparts. Call center monitoring tools allow service work to be measured very precisely, giving this estimate a high level of credibility.

· Although not as scientific-based, there was agreement that the quality of home-based workers was higher. Some of this may be attributable to the fact that those chosen for this model are star performers to begin with.

· One regional, Philadelphia-based insurer reported that their distributed workforce allowed them to remain in operation during last winter’s snowstorm. Their physical call center was closed for two days.

· The cost to the insurer of a home technology set-up averaged around $5,000. At one company, the employee bore the entire expense of needed equipment.

· Companies reported that they managed expectations and clarified responsibilities through the use of a formal, written contract signed by the employees participating in the program.

This was a powerful example of the combination of technology and flexible workforce management that leads to decreased costs, increased quality and decreased operational risk.

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Celent.

Mike Fitzgerald is a senior analyst in Celent's insurance practice, and can be reached at mfitzgerald@celent.com.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Mike using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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