Believe it or not, when you ring a customer service number in the UK of a major retailer, financial service company or utility, there is an increasing likelihood that the person on the other end is working from their home.

How can you tell? Here’s one scenario, which is fairly typical of a customer calling their insurance company to make a claim, answered by a home-based worker: One ring and the phone is answered. On the other end a warm and competent lady. She reassures you from “hello.” It’s quiet, you hear clearly and she hears you too. “Oh I’m so sorry to hear that, let me see what I can do to help,” she says. She understands your frustrations, and she’s always one step ahead of you, seemingly anticipating what you need. She also points out that your policy allows you to do more than you thought. The call finishes, you hang up in disbelief. You feel you were treated with respect, and given outstanding service. You remember that your policy is due for renewal and think that there are probably more competitive rates out there. After this second conversation however, you don’t want to go anywhere else.

Utilising the skills and tapping into the nation’s best people to deliver customer service are the likes of Argos, Aviva and the RAC, the person on the end of the line may very well be working from home.

The general public’s perception of a homeworker is someone who works from their kitchen table or sofa and sends a few emails in between feeding small children and running domestic chores.

The reality is exactly the opposite: homeworkers are focused professionals who work from a dedicated work space in their homes, making their work highly efficient, effective and accountable to the business. The results and benefits are so formidable, and the homeworking solutions now so advanced, that many of the UK’s biggest brands are entrusting thousands of homeworkers with their brands.

From a recruitment perspective, why be restricted to hiring only from the local vicinity when you can tap into a world-wide talent pool? If you need of Urdu speakers and your customer service centre is in Cardiff, your options may be limited. However by tapping into the homeworking community, you will be able to recruit people from anywhere in the UK.

Aligning the right people to the customer base is the secret to great customer service, however recruiting the best people is a challenge for almost every business. However homeworking overcomes geographic restrictions and enables access to an extensive, untapped talent pool which undeniably gives businesses much greater options to improve the end customer experience.

Technology has facilitated this. Today, high-speed broadband and home computing are pervasive and key enablers for homeworking. The technology now exists to support every single imaginable business process virtually, while providing employers with the highest levels of visibility, control, security, compliance, scalability and resilience.

Pressures from legislation such as the Disability Act and increased Corporate Social Responsibility programmes within large businesses has forced management to accept homeworking as a more acceptable option for employees.

And last but not least, the evolution of virtual processes – such as recruitment, training and coaching – has also led us to where we are today, Homeworking 2.0.

Hiring the best

Given the virtual nature of homeworking, the very best home agents are sourced, recruited and then deployed, whatever the profile (age, skill, interest, location, desired hours).

Through sophisticated virtual recruitment techniques, we can now find people who care, who are passionate about delivering great service, and have the closest possible affinity with customers. We can also identify – at an early stage of the process - people for whom homeworking simply isn’t ‘right.’

The other benefit of homeworking is happier agents. Homeworkers are often unable to work in traditional offices, can’t or don’t want to commute, yet with homeworking are able to access rewarding employment, can effectively balance their work and their domestic responsibilities, and are also able to engage with real career development as if they were in a traditional workplace. This allows them to achieve a work / life balance that can’t be matched by traditional bricks-and-mortar operations. The payoff is that they appreciate the opportunity, and are therefore reliable, committed and loyal brand advocates.

As simple work is gradually moving to automation and self-service, the knowledge demands are only going one way - up! So are customer expectations. When they pickup the phone, customers expect the service to be fast, effortless and personalised. Slick and robust customer-centric services are quickly becoming unique competitive differentiators.

So, in summary, homeworking is a powerful way for customer service operations to gain this competitive edge, because it allows them to do more with less, and secure the right talent with the right knowledge for their increasingly discerning and knowledgeable customers.

The key to excellent customer service is a magic blend of the people delivering it, the process and technology that supports it, and a collaborative relationship with the brand owners. Homeworking has made leaps and bounds in the past five years and we are now seeing that agents working from home are more engaged and more in-tune with the brands they represent than when working in a traditional contact centre environment. These changes are resulting in a step change in the quality of the customer experience, better employee engagement and overall, better business outcomes for the organisations that have adopted homeworking.

Homeworking 2.0 helps organisations unlock the quality, agility and efficiencies required to access the best possible people to provide the best possible customer experiences at the best possible cost. And these are benefits that any customer-focused organisation just can’t afford to ignore.

By Steve Mosser, Founder and CEO of Sensée