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Why BPOs need 'home agent culture'
Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai | September 06, 2005 09:28 IST
Call centre agents don't desert the companies they work with; they simply leave the bad supervisors! This theory of Oscar Alban, the patriarch of the global call centre industry, could help in discovering a formula to contain the attrition rates in Indian call centres.
The panacea to stem the exodus, according to him, is the introduction of a 'home agent culture', permitting employees to work from their homes like they do in the United States.
"In the US, over 100,000 agents work from home. A majority of them are women and they have set their own working hours. This has helped in containing the attrition, as these agents are making use of the available free time to gain some extra money," Alban, who was on his third visit to India, told Business Standard in an exclusive interview.
India should introduce the home agent culture and this would go a long way in containing attrition in the country's call centre and customer service outsourcing sectors, he said. The attrition rate in these sectors is as high as 50 per cent.
Alban is one of the pioneers in contact centre and customer service arena. His sayings are manna to the outsourcing industry across the world. He had started his career as an agent 25 years ago, at a time when call centres were unheard of, and rose to become one of the best brains in the industry.
Currently he is principal global market consultant of the US-based Witness Systems Inc.
One of the challenges before the Indian BPO firms is their working hours. Most of the contact centres here work during the night time, which is day in the western countries.
"This creates a tremendous stress on the workforce, apart from contributing to the attrition issues. There should be plans to ease this burden, like initiating employee-assistance programmes that can help them deal with the change. There could be counsellors," he said.
Universities in India should look at implementing courses and certification programmes on how to manage call centres. This would create strong leaders for the future and would improve the image of the industry.
"It is going to be important to put training initiatives in place. Call centres that have strong on-going training programmes and have developed agent career path initiatives have seen a tremendous decrease in agent attrition," he said. Alban offered some free tips for the Indian contact centre industry.
Creating good frontline supervisors, bringing in a balance between quantity and quality of services, managing agents' schedules, charting a career path for them and creating strong leaders in the industry are the other advises he offered.
"Supervisors form the youngest managerial levels in call centres and are usually pressured to deliver numbers, which might not be the wisest way to operate. The balance between the quantity and quality of delivery needs to be clearly defined for them," he said.
The supervisors need to be trained and supported well by the senior management to be able to function effectively. They also need to be provided with the right tools to be effective and right investment should be made for their development. Certain organisations view them as an overhead expense, which is not true.