good old 1-800-FLOWERS has proven that American genius in buisness trumps stupid regulations in making “homesourcing” profitable.
JANUARY 23, 2006
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Graphic: Customer Service? Phone Home
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Call Centers In The Rec Room
“Homeshoring” takes off as moms and others provide an alternative to offshoring
Three years ago, when the offshoring debate was in full fury, the director of vendor relations at 1-800-FLOWERS.com ran a pilot project to see if the company should be taking advantage of the new labor arbitrage. Within weeks, the trial in India bombed. For the executive in charge, Lou Orsi, it was a reminder that customer service is as much about psychology as technology. Florists often double as condolence therapists, interior design coaches, and relationship strategists. “The folks were difficult to understand,” says Orsi. “We were afraid that we would lose sales, and we couldn’t risk that.” The company also needed to pour on the labor during spikes like Valentine’s Day. (When it came to answering customers’ e-mails, though, the dazzling prose of the Indians — many of them PhDs — outshone that of the Americans, most of whom had gone only to high school. So Orsi left some of the e-mail jobs overseas).
The phone work stayed in the U.S. But not just in brick-and-mortar call centers. Instead, Orsi looked for another way to cut costs. He soon realized he could capitalize on a different and far less controversial option: sending the jobs to a U.S. outfit that specializes in a new trend called homeshoring.
More and more, companies are moving customer service jobs out of high-overhead call centers and into what is possibly the lowest-overhead place in the U.S.: workers’ homes. The savings are about more than just real estate, toilet paper, and coffee supplies. JetBlue Airways (JBLU ) is perhaps the most famous practitioner; all of its 1,400 reservation agents work from home. But they are employees. Most of the new homeshoring jobs are independent contractor positions offered by outsourcing companies. The agents are on the hook for their own health care, computer equipment, training — even background checks.
Outsourced homeshoring jobs grew 20% last year, to 112,000 jobs, estimates tech-market researcher IDC, and will hit 330,000 by 2010. “Offshoring’s underestimated sibling, homeshoring, is about to hit a growth spurt,” says IDC analyst Stephen Loynd. Office Depot (ODP ), McKesson (MCK ), and J. Crew all use home agents. Homeshoring is less likely to risk the accent fatigue, cultural disconnection, and customer rage that offshoring can inspire. That’s not to mention the mounting security fears (once your private data — credit-card and Social Security numbers, medical and brokerage records — go overseas, they’re beyond the reach of U.S. law).
I’ve said for years with the computer technology we have now…why do we need modern office buildings?
well seems I’m not the only one to think that. and with “Homesourcing” we now have a real oppertunity to help homeschooling and the rebirth of the American community