Various ‘work from home’ or ‘answer calls from home’ employment ads can truly sound wonderful to the person who may be seeking a job, but those positions may not be as appealing to the person looking into partnering with an answering service.
There are some larger flaws and downsides to remote agents, especially in the areas of ongoing training and how they access and work with potentially sensitive personal and financial information.
While an individual’s interest in seeking employment and wanting to help people is definitely commendable, clients that are serious about privacy may prefer to work with a well-trained answering service where agents work from a central location.
Here’s why this approach makes sense:
Simply put, clients want to make sure everyone representing them knows and says exactly what they’re supposed to. Since these agents can often be right on the front line and the first ‘touch’ for customers calling with complaints or questions, it’s vital that a client knows that the customer service reps have received proper instructions to handle their account. With a call center, a client can be assured that everyone has received the same high levels of training and is familiar with the client, its products and services, plus all of the common reasons why people would be calling them for assistance.
Medical privacy and confidentiality isn’t just a good idea anymore; it’s the law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides a set of uniform standards for how people can access, disclose and discuss health information such as patient condition and medical history.
This applies to everyone from physicians to billing specialists, and violations of these rules can include fines in the thousands of dollars, even if they are accidental. Anyone working with this kind of confidential medical data must make sure that all standards are in place and explicitly followed, including physical security, network security and process security.
In a home-based agent situation, an independent operator may not be able to guarantee that they always follow proper HIPAA protocols. However, a call center can stress the importance of following these measures and enforce specific rules for all employees involved in handling this sensitive type of data to follow.
Companies that process, store or transmit credit card information also have a rigorous set of requirements to follow in order to maintain a secure environment for these types of data transactions. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS, lets customers and clients know that every required step has been taken to safeguard financial details, such as credit card numbers and related personal financial data.
Any merchant that has an official Merchant ID must demonstrate PCI compatibility before being allowed legally to accept this sort of information by phone. At-home agents have a difficult time establishing their own secure environment for this type of information. In the days of heightened security and fears of data breaches, clients, and their customers, need this reassurance.
Protocols and account information can constantly change and it’s vital that all agents are kept up-to-date with these changes. Part of traditional call centers includes a focus on ongoing training in everything from helping resolve different types of customer issues and situations to how to quickly and efficiently help customers.
Remote agents aren’t able to receive this sort of regular skill building and service training. They may be able to pick up a few things here and there with practice, but at best their training will be incomplete, and at worst, inaccurate.
Many agents may not feel as though they need to be managed, however, the right manager at a call center can do a lot of good. He or she can give pointers in helping agents resolve calls better, offer their expertise if someone needs extra assistance with a challenging caller, or even provide extra coverage depending on call volume. Managers can check in with people throughout the day and offer strategies on topics like using their time well, building rapport with customers and helping solve problems effectively and also quickly.
Good managers, who sometimes are promoted from within a company, can be seen as role models who have seen and heard it all, veteran/senior employees, or even a helpful mentor to newer employees in how to do things right. Also, managers can ensure employees are staying on task and getting the job done correctly. At home agents won’t have this type of supervision or the opportunity to have this type of interaction with their manager.
A client is interested in doing things by the book in order to protect their customers’ security and privacy. Failure to do so properly, especially when handling credit cards, could make you not only jeopardize your customer’s data, but also damage your company’s reputation.
A business has a lot on the line, and doesn’t want to risk a possible breach or privacy violation if a home agent doesn’t necessarily follow proper protocol. Instead, AnswerNow customer service center agents receive regular training on correct protocols and ways to handle medical and financial data, and are consistently held to the highest standards in service and compliance.
What answering service agents can really offer clients and their customers is valuable peace of mind, especially in the areas where concerns over medical privacy and financial privacy protocols have been noted. Any center must prove and reassure their clients that all required steps have been taken to ensure that the customer data and everything related to it continue to be safeguarded.
There are other benefits of course that at remote call center agents may be missing out on, everything from a better social experience to opportunities for increased wages over time. Overall, remote agents certainly can be a weaker link in these efforts.
Call Centers and R.O.I.
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