By Mary Naylor
October 15, 2009
Customer service is the lifeblood of most companies-without customers purchasing your products and services, it is nearly impossible to stay in business! And without customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing, a good reputation can be hard to maintain. Unfortunately for companies trying to improve their environmental friendliness, the physical infrastructure required to support extensive customer service functions is often anything but environmentally friendly.
The answer: homeshoring your customer service function. Homeshoring is the use of home-based, domestically-located customer service agents, also known as “virtual customer care.” Virtual customer care has been proven time and time again to provide stellar customer service while helping the environment at the same time.
Homeshoring = Helping the environment
Utilizing a home-based customer service department allows both the company and the employee to help the environment. Employees use fewer natural resources due to the lack of commuting, and companies use fewer natural resources due to the lack of building and maintaining a large physical call center.
The most obvious environmental benefit of homeshoring your customer service function is eliminating the gasoline used by employees commuting to work. If, as posited by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average roundtrip commute is 24 miles/day; a 100-seat call center commutes a total of 2,400 miles/day, or 12,000 miles per five-day work week, or 600,000 miles in a 50-week work year. Using average automobile fuel efficiency of 25 miles per gallon, the cumulative total of gasoline used comes to 480 gallons per week, or 24,000 gallons per year.
There are other environmental factors to consider that amplify the environmental benefit of keeping employees off of the roads. Four major pollutants are emitted as byproducts of burning fuel in a vehicle’s exhaust system. These pollutants are hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hydrocarbons and NOx are both recognized contributors to smog, while the link between CO2 and global warming has been proven.
In addition to the environmental benefits that a lack of commute brings, there are other environmental benefits for businesses that utilize a home-based customer service workforce: primarily related to non-maintenance of a large physical call center. There is no use of natural resources for building a facility or use of resources such as electricity required to maintain a large facility. Then, due to the virtual nature of virtual customer service, many documents such as training materials and policies and procedures are stored online versus printed out, saving even more finite resources.
The bottom line is that homeshoring of any corporate function-especially customer service-has unbelievable environmental benefits that can help a company of any size “go green.”
Homeshoring = High-level customer support
Homeshoring has definitely been proven to help a company “go green.” But environmental benefits are often overshadowed at the end of the day by the benefit of any initiative to a company’s bottom line. As such, does virtual customer care actually benefit the bottom line? The answer to that is: yes!
The first business benefit of utilizing a home-based workforce is that you can work with the highest-caliber of employee, no matter their location. When it comes to customer service, this means that instead of working with the “best-of-the-best” who live within approximately 30 miles of your centralized call center, you can instead work with the best-of-the-best, nationwide. You can work with customer care representatives who really do that-care. You can recruit professionals with a specific interest in your company, your mission, your products and services, your future plans.
It is easy to see how this translates into better customer support-the more someone cares about the company they work with, the better job they will do and the more passion they will have for their job. The better job a customer service agent does can directly be mapped to higher revenue via upselling, cross-selling and more. In addition, better customer support means happier customers, which results in beneficial word of mouth, customer loyalty and return visits.
More information on homeshoring
For more information on homeshoring and virtual contact centers, more information is available from The Telework Coalition (TelCoa) at www.telcoa.org. A whitepaper written by industry analyst firm IDC, “VIPdesk Helps Chart the Future: Homeshored Brand Ambassadors and the Shifting of the Customer Management Landscape,” can be downloaded at www.vipdesk.com/whitepaper.
Mary Naylor is the CEO of VIPdesk in Alexandria, VA, the pioneer of the virtual call center industry. She was named the Small Business Administration’s “Home Business Champion of the Year” in 2009, and is a five-time receipt of the Inc. 500/5000 award. Contact her at [email protected].