At LV= there is an all-pervasive belief that if you look after your employees, the business performance will look after itself. Homeworking began because people were asking for this flexibility, and it grew in scale as other understood the benefits they were gaining. Crucially, what started as a benefit for employees has had staggering benefits for the business, including: an almost 10% reduction in AHT; 10% increase in productivity; 33% reduction in transfers; and a 2% increase in adherence.
Plus, homeworkers are making planning easier, as they are able to take on split shifts and overtime (they take 40% of the contact centre’s overtime requirement). Both customers and advisors report a better experience, as there are fewer distractions and less ambient noise, making for a clearer, more focused interaction.
Making it work part 1: the people
Selecting the right people is vitally important. LV= looks for at least 12 months’ experience in the contact centre, with competent performance and attendance. An assessment centre ensures candidates have the confidence to work alone. Once accepted, a great deal of effort goes into making sure homeworkers remain engaged and motivated, including extra training for team leaders, daily catch up phone calls, and extensive use of the messaging. There is a homeworking newsletter and they are encouraged to take part in charity events and team socials.
Team leaders are based in the office and it’s important for homeworkers to come in for things like team meetings and appraisals. Frequency of these is flexible and advisors are trusted to organise their own time in collaboration with their manager. The key to success is a dedicated project manager, who acts as an essential conduit between senior management and frontline CSRs.
Making it work part 2: IT and planning
Homeworkers are required to provide a suitable working environment at home, which includes: a room with a door that can be closed; a desk; a chair; and adequate broadband connectivity and speed. From an IT perspective, each homeworker is treated as a virtual office and they are provided with a phone, PC, monitor, mouse, and a 3-meter Ethernet cable (wireless broadband is not permitted).
This ‘dummy terminal’ gives them access to the LV= network, with no data physically stored on the machine and no access to external Internet sites. There is a strict 4-hour service level agreement with the IT helpdesk for resolving network issues. If equipment is broken, an outsourced provider simply replaces the hardware and takes the old one away to be fixed. Homeworkers are viewed as a virtual site by the planning team, who have been instrumental in realising the benefits of homeworking.
The “psychological contract of trust” between management and advisors
Monitoring homeworkers and their targets is exactly the same as in-office employees. Homeworking is seen as a special opportunity and makes homeworkers want to do a better job, to stay with the company, and to be trustworthy. Sickness among homeworkers runs at just 1.8%, compared to 5% for in-office staff). The benefits (increased flexibility, zero travel time and costs, and increased income through split shifts/overtime) make homeworking very attractive. This mutual trust and commitment is paying huge dividends for both advisors and the business. It’s surely just a matter of time before many more contact centres offer homeworking as an alternative flexible working strategy.
Key results of the LV= homeworking initiative
– Homeworkers are 10% more productive than in-office staff and make 33% fewer transfers
– Adherence to schedule is 2% higher among homeworkers
– Sickness is much lower (1.8% compared to 5%)
– 97% of homeworkers said they were happy in their role.
– The customer journey is 9.56% shorter with homeworkers thanks to reduced noise and distractions
– Homeworkers are less likely to commit a compliance breach (6.79% compared to 7.06%)
– Homeworkers are 4 times more likely to fulfil overtime requests