Calltrol Customer Success - Innovative Software For Remote Agents
Piecing Together A Customer Care Network - Call Center Magazine

June 2000, By Lee Hollman.

An outsourcer of both live calls and email response Innovation Support, Doraville GA, operates two call centers and employs 450 “at-home” agents. The company provides services to a variety of clients and has been using Calltrol’s OTS™ since 1998.

The company expanded into employing telecommuters after developing the necessary OTS™ client applications to support real time CTI from the typical residence.

Randall Romanow, one of the key members of that team and also the owner of Innovation Support recalls the effort that designing the software involved.

It took about six months before we could begin using the system on a limited basis and another three months to work out the bugs,” he says. “[We wanted to] provide screen pops and data access through the Internet. We approached [several software vendors] about off-the-shelf software for that purpose, and they said they couldn’t do that. The name we gave it is AWARD: Automated Web-Assisted Remote Dialing.”

Innovation wanted to create a very reliable, inexpensive architecture, limiting the investment necessary to get someone up and running from the comfort of their own home. “All the agent using the system from their home needs is Internet access and two phone lines,” said Romanow. “One line is dedicated to voice, and the other to their Internet connection.” Agents log in to a Web site, pick up their phones and hear a confirmation message from our central OTS™ server stating they are successfully connected. Using a web browser agents see a context appropriate user interface showing for example that they’re in queue for the next available call. Agents may join a queue, enter customer information and save it to Innovation’s database.

Innovation Support’s AWARD software works with Calltrol’s OTS™, which the company first licensed in April 1998. OTS™ is software that helps developers build predictive dialers, IVR systems and ACDs. Romanow says that OTS™ enables Award to route calls and customer information to agents whether they are located in the call center or in their homes. It also lets supervisors view call statistics for all agents through a Web browser, store recordings of agents’ conversations, do live call monitoring and agent coaching and listen to conversation recordings from their PCs.

Romanow is quick to extol the virtues of working with remote agents. “The advantage over a traditional mega-center (he is the former owner of a 1500 agent operation) is that we avoid additional brick and mortar costs,” he says. “Every time we want to hire another 100 agents, we don’t need to build more stations.” An additional 30% savings results, because the remote agents work as independent contractors rather than as salaried employees. While he is firmly convinced from this experience that “the days of the mega-centers are drawing to a close” he also believes that live agent contact centers will not become 100% obsolete. There is an important balance between home agents and call center agents that Romanow believes will always exist. Both types of agents worktogether on the same calls. Home agents go through the initial presentation, qualify customers and transfer calls to our contact centers,” explained Romanow. “We prefer to have directly supervised “in-house” agents handling sensitive information like credit card and checking account numbers”

Between 50 and 70 of the more experienced at-home agents are qualified to act as supervisors at any time. Overall and individual performance information and management tools for things like monitoring and quality control are available to them at home via the web. These “remote” supervisors can view information like agents’ hours, the number of calls that agents handle each day and how many sales leads they confirm. Remote supervisors can also listen to agents’ calls and view the information that they have onscreen. They can even coach them over the phone or, if necessary, join the call to assist customers.

A team of supervisors at Innovation’s Atlanta and Norfolk call centers also monitor remote agents and delegate certain tasks to the at-home supervisors. There’s also a separate team exclusively supervising the agents at both traditional contact centers.

The benefits of at-home agents are clear. Not only does it reduce operating costs and improve staffing flexibility, it also enables Romanow to find its workforce from labor markets throughout the US. While they advertise in newspapers and on-line when necessary, most new agents come from word of mouth and referrals from existing agents. The possibility of working from home appeals to many prospective employees, including students and working parents. “Getting agents to work from home is not a problem. We have more agents who want to do it than we have work for them to do,” says Romanow.

For more information on Innovation Support’s Calltrol implementation see:
Piecing Together A Customer Care Network - Call Center Magazine, June 2000, By Lee Hollman.