Virtual Call Centers

Instead of having huge centralized call centers, why not have virtual call centers?

The employee clicks a button on an internal webpage that he’s available to answer calls. This is his “clocking in”. His hours get logged and all service calls go straight to his cell phone (or VOIP). The employee can click the same button to become unavailable and go to a doctor’s appointment or pick their kids up from school.

Some type of hours coordination and management might be needed, but if you have employees in enough time zones with different working time preferences, this may work itself out. You can even try paying different hourly rates for different times of the day to control supply and demand without a rigid command and control scheduling system.

Get the person a set of headphones and an unlimited calling plan, and you can save millions in overhead costs. No rent, no electricity, no time lost commuting, less internal tech support, less admin work.

Value added ways to invest these savings:

– Listening to more recordings of customer service interactions to ensure quality, reward your best and eliminate your worst employees

– Hiring more operators so every call can be answered by the second ring, thereby getting rid of those awfully annoying automated answering systems

– Hire Americans that speak and understand English fluently instead of the current off shore call centers, which would also improve customer satisfaction (this assumes your customers are calling from America, change this as applicable)

This type of flexible scheduling also increases your potential work force. Stay at home mom’s and elderly people, who tend to be more responsible but unable to commit to 8 straight hours a day can now help your business.

Even better, you’ll get less turnover in your work force due to the new flexibility you’re providing. It would also be good for the environment (less carbon emissions, no driving to work, etc).

Customer Friendly Hours

Most retail consumer businesses open hours that make it inconvenient for people who work full time to shop there. Banks are one of the worst offenders, with many working 930-430, 9-1 Saturdays and closed on Sundays. Anyone working 50+ hour weeks is gonna have issues getting in there.

What if a huge bank started working teller’s hours that were good for consumers, and not for them? Early mornings (7am – 9am) and evenings (5pm – 9pm) on weekdays, and open normal 9-5 hours BOTH Saturday and Sunday? Some small banks do this, but they have yet to turn themselves into a nationally recognized bank for doing this.

Do you think if a major bank did this, it would become way more profitable than all other banks, or would all banks simply be forced to do this with no net gain for any single bank as a result? (Of course I believe consumers would have a net gain, but it might not be worth the large fee increases as a result.)

Is this collusion in not acting or finally an example of rational decision making?

“Let’s all keep short banking hours, it’ll help keep down costs”

vs

“We’re not going to implement this because then all our competitors will, causing everyone’s cost of business to rise, without any additional revenue to offset it.”