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Large Scale Service With Small Scale Costs, Part II
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By Mary Naylor

In a previous issue of Smartbiz, we outlined the benefits of utilizing home-based customer service agents for small business owners. If you believe this business model would help your small business, then are some pointers for evaluating costs and benefits to your company and details on how to turn interest into profits.

Is Your Business A Fit?

Home-based customer service operations are not suited for every business model and type of customer interaction. Excellent customer interaction fits include traditional inbound customer service, product/service order taking, outbound campaigns, reservations, and customer surveys. Industries with seasonal spikes in call volume or demand for around-the-clock staffing are also ideal candidates, as are those businesses whose rapid expansion has exceeded brick-and-mortar capacity. Certain operations, such as require complex fulfillment, may be less suitable.

Next, evaluate the cost involved with establishing a center. Also, be mindful of the need to establish new communication channels to engage remote employees.

Key cost considerations for creating a home-based workforce include software licensing fees; telephone charges; hardware purchases and installation; remote recruiting; computer-based training; distance management programs and communications channels.

Buy or Build

If you decide to build your own home-based operation, you will incur startup technology infrastructure costs. While less than the cost of building a facility, you are looking at a $50,000 to $250,000 investment. Savings, quality and revenue growth will eventually offset this, but it can be a hurdle for smaller companies.

To evaluate the benefits of home agents, consider outsourcing first, and then building your home-based network. Outsourcing to a virtual call center vendor would provide instant access to a network of well-established web-based services, including: state-of-the-art telephony switching; skills based call-routing; automated IVR with multi-level prompts; inbound and outbound call recording; fully integrated web-based customizable CRM; consolidated reporting and; web-based quality grading, call listening tools, and an employee resource portal.

These providers include Alpine Access; LiveOps; VIPdesk; Willow and Working Solutions.

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Mary Naylor is the Founder and CEO of VIPdesk.
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