The trend toward using large overseas call centres has been dubbed ‘offshoring’, so the new thinking for directing calls to IT service analysts working in their own homes has inevitably become known as ‘homeshoring’.
Homeshoring has many attractions for employers: it eliminates the high, fixed costs of contact centres; and capitalises on an untapped highly-skilled workforce of mothers, fathers, carers and the disabled who prefer/need to remain home-based. Both private and public sector organisations can benefit from a cheaper, yet more personal customer service.
This model is far from new; in the 1990s, BT was among the pioneers with its directory enquiries service. While the original model typically had a low skilled focus, the current one often includes a higher skilled resource in some part of the support process.
Since survey findings from the Service Desk Institute’s UK Service Desk 2007 Practices Benchmarking Report revealed that the ‘two-tier’ IT service desk is becoming the preferred service desk structure for the EU, this trend has certainly gathered pace. The ‘two-tier’ service desk, which enables first line IT service analysts to handle and resolve basic IT enquiries while more complex incidents are directed to highly technical service professionals, accounts for 56 per cent of all operations in the EU, a figure that increases year-on-year.
This preferred method of IT service support fits in particularly well with the homeshoring trend. Office based first line analysts can easily forward more complex enquiries to a highly-skilled, flexible, home-based workforce that is distributed across the UK. Alternatively, groups of second line analysts can be based in company locations across the UK, Europe or even globally, with the first level staff handling simpler issues and redirecting enquiries from home.
Offshoring is losing its appeal because of mounting security fears, accent fatigue and cultural disconnection. According to recent research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, almost a third of European IT managers have had unsatisfactory experiences with non-European service suppliers. Homeshoring, although still in its infancy, might just be a viable alternative.
However, there are the inevitable potential downsides – some people struggle with the isolation of home working, not to mention the daunting prospect of managing a dispersed workforce. Then there is the issue of company equipment being located in unsecured environments. It is therefore essential that a risk/benefit analysis is carried out before any decision to homeshore is made.
It is imperative that any business embarking on a homeshoring programme ensures that robust best practice guidelines and a standard method of control and measurement procedures are firmly in place. Remote workers need to have a clearly defined understanding of goals, ultimate targets and overall corporate objectives. Homeshoring is a proven technique – could the Home Front work for you?
*Howard Kendall is the chairman of SDI