AAMI’s work from home call centre model

AAMIs work from home call centre

AAMI’s work from home call centre model

From the editor: We hear mixed reviews on the success of home agents however a recent article on SMH certainly paints a pretty positive picture!

And the home call centre agent looks like showing no signs of slowing down with over 30% of Australian call centres already offering work from home options for their employees.

And with Hosted PBX solutions, setting up a call centre home agent model has never been easier.

Fully scalable, low cost and with access to all the same functionality as a desk-based call centre agent – all you need is an internet connection and an IP Telephone.

AAMI’s work from home call centre model is bucking the trend and paying dividends for all parties.

Three mornings a week, Shermaine Fitzgerald sends her three young children to school and childcare, and then commutes the few metres from the kitchen to her home call centre office to take calls for insurance company AAMI.

On the occasional day that one of the children is home sick, they have learnt to sit quietly and draw.

“They’re amazing. They know if they don’t behave I will have to go back to the office, and they love having me at home,” she says.

Mark West, another AAMI employee works from home three days a week to be near his 10-year-old son.

Apart from the occasional yapping of two large Great Dane crossbreed dogs, customers rarely know Mr West works from home.

If anything, they often say how quiet it is compared with noisy call centres.

These homes near Newcastle seem anything but “electronic sweatshops” – the term often used for call centres because of their high turnover and density of staff.

Work from home was touted five to six years ago as the next big thing.

However, Australia has lagged behind the US, where many large call centres had realised that hiring stay-at-home parents resulted in better retention rates and lower costs, Tim Morse, a former senior partner with consultants McKinsey & Co, said.

Apart from Vodafone, which increased local reps saying customers were sick of overseas reps, most companies continue to move service abroad.

AAMI is bucking the trend.

Within a year, about 50 per cent of its service reps, of whom 80 per cent are parents, will be working from home offices.

Many log on at night or early in the morning; others work during school hours.

“Our people love it so we want to continue expanding it,” AAMI head of distribution Renae Bullen said.

The insurer has been testing two different work-from-home models. In Newcastle, work from home is a privilege offered to existing service reps.

In Narre Warren, Victoria, it is hiring new work-from-home reps who live within 30 minutes of a hub that offers training or a change of scenery.

What are the benefits of home agents?

“Employee engagement is improved, customer experience is better if not the same, and turn-off and absenteeism is improved,” Ms Bullen said. Retention rates were also higher than the industry average.

Ms Fitzgerald, of Gwandalan, said she worked harder because she wanted to continue the arrangement. “Not all workplaces offer that. Because it suits my lifestyle, I really want to make sure it works.”

Graham Howard, a consulting director with LimeBridge, a company that deals in customer experiences, said Australia was still not seeing many companies increase their local customer service operations.

“The wage arbitrage is so great that if companies have got to improve the bottom line, offshoring is the simplest way, quickest way of getting cost savings,” he said.

If customer service cost a dollar in Australia, it would cost 35¢ in India, 45¢ in the Philippines, and 55¢ in Cape Town, South Africa, where some companies were moving.

But Ms Bullen said it was not only about the costs.

AAMI was trying to turn the industry on its head and see if it could make working in a call centre – remotely and on-site – a great experience.

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