When call center industry veteran Dave Palmer joined the global BPO firm Everise as president of Operational and Strategic Performance a couple of years ago, he immediately faced a challenge: the unemployment rate in the United States was so low that the company was having trouble recruiting workers for its American operations. In a telephone interview, Parker said:
It sounds ironic now in view of the unemployment numbers caused by the Covid lockdown but our founder Sudhir Agarwal was interested in developing a work from home model back then as a solution to getting more qualified people. He even looked at acquiring some work from home companies but they mostly relied on the 'gig' model-part-time and 1099 employees. He wanted to have a traditional company with full-time workers who were trained and had the technology they needed to deliver all of our solutions, including omnichannel customer service, tech support, fraud detection, and content moderation, chatbots and natural language interactive voice response systems, from home.
Over the past two years, we have invested millions of dollars in developing talent, tools, infrastructure and security practices to enable staff that can deliver all of those solutions from home.
Palmer says the company's initial plan was to expand its recruiting pool nationally in the U.S. with the intention of keeping 20% to 30% of its work force working from home to start and then scaling up more gradually. After 24 months of trial and error, Everise felt that it had worked out the kinks and had the supporting infrastructure for what it calls W@H in place by the first of this year.
Then, of course, the global pandemic struck. Enterprises around the world were overwhelmed by the virus and the resulting lockdown mandates. Work from home became essential to survival for companies whether they were ready for it or not. Digital transformation projects that would have taken years in normal times were finished in months.
Because it had been developing and refining the W@H model for months, Everise was ready. In the two-week period between March 13 and April 1, the company moved 90% of its 12,000-person workforce to work from home.
The phenomenal thing is we were able to do that with no disruption from a client perspective. We've had no service interruptions which is remarkable when you consider the sheer number of companies where about half of their workforce was not able to transact with their customers.
And I think that's also a reason why we're earning more business from our existing clients as well as new clients; because of our ability to service their needs transparently without having little to no negative impact on the service delivery.
Palmer said the transition also revealed some unanticipated insights:
The interesting thing about this is we were able to use the same processes and the same technology platform that was developed for the United States and deploy it internationally in places like Kuala Lumpur and Guatemala City and the Philippines. Our ability to source, recruit, hire, train, and performance manage a large workforce globally in the work at home environment has turned out to be a real competitive advantage and we think it will continue to be going forward.
We have discovered that employee retention is significantly higher in our work at home environment. Our attrition rate is much lower than in a brick and mortar environment. That translates into more experienced, better-trained workers and that improves customer satisfaction. We've also found that the efficiency of employees in a work at home environment is significantly higher than when they have to commute to a building somewhere. All these factors have aided our ability to increase our delivery and satisfaction of our clients.Denho
The company's efforts seem to be paying off. In late August, ukUKEverise reported 29% domestic revenue growth during the first half of 2020, resulting in projected annual US revenue of $275 million to $300 million, driven primarily by expansion in the healthcare and technology sectors. Perhaps even more important to the Covid economy, the company said it is currently recruiting 4,500 additional full-time, home-based customer and product support agents across the US--a doubling of its domestic headcount.
The moral of this story is that in business there is no substitute for being prepared for the unexpected even when you're expecting to do something else.
The bigger lesson and one that is likely to resonate more and more as the Covid pandemic continues is that it is possible to source, recruit, hire, train, and manage a large workforce globally in a work at home environment. That has enormous implications-especially for tech companies-for the future.