Go Green with the Help of Home-Based Agents




As the country continues to struggle with the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the damage has again elevated the importance of finding ways to operate businesses in an eco-friendly, socially responsible manner. As individuals, we are concerned with preserving the environment. Yet as business leaders we must also consider the revenue and profitability impact of implementing "green" policies.

Corporations are increasingly focused on corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship. According to a recent international survey in Corporate Responsibility Magazine, 62 percent of organizations reported they now have a formal corporate responsibility program. Unfortunately, while corporations are devoting greater resources to promote sustainability, the same survey also highlighted that nearly 70 percent of companies could not measure the profitability impact of their corporate responsibility initiatives.

There is one area of opportunity, however, where corporations can achieve balance between the desire to be "green" with the need to improve operational efficiency and profitability. For more than a decade, virtual contact centers have enabled many of America’s leading businesses to have a positive impact on the environment with a proven return on investment.

Saving the Environment and Securing the Bottom-Line

There are many compelling reasons to consider using home-based agents to handle customer interactions. For businesses, home-based agents consistently achieve improved call resolution, higher order conversions and better caller satisfaction scores than traditional brick-and-mortar representatives. For agents, working-from-home provides a flexible work schedule, reduced expenses and the ability to have true work/life balance. One additional, though sometimes overlooked, benefit of the model is the positive impact virtual contact centers have on the environment.

To understand the savings afforded by thousands of people working from their homes, consider the following:

  • The US Census Bureau estimates that Americans spend more than 14 billion hours commuting in to the office each year.
  • For more than 10 million Americans, it takes more than one hour to get to work.
  • The average American’s workday commute covers 39 miles roundtrip.

According to market research firm Datamonitor, 48,500 people avoid the daily grind of a commute by working from home as virtual contact center agents. By eliminating the need for these agents to commute, virtual contact centers enable an actual annual reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of nearly half a billion miles. While this number is compelling, there are an estimated 3 million call center agents in the United States who still commute into the brick-and-mortar facility. As contact centers continue to rapidly migrate to the at-home model, the industry could eventually reduce VMT by over 30 billion miles, significantly cutting traffic congestion and road maintenance costs.

To take this analysis a step further, it is possible to calculate the pollution and gas savings achieved by the growing adoption of the virtual customer care model.

Pollution Savings

Using emissions rates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, at-home contact center agents make significant contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating 3.8 billion pounds of greenhouse gases each year. In a November 2009 research report, Datamonitor concluded that virtual call centers are growing over three times faster than the brick-and-mortar industry. The following chart illustrates the environmental savings this trend could have on greenhouse gases.

Current at-home call center workers

Additional savings produced as virtual call center agents replace
x% of brick-and-mortar call center agents

25%

50%

75%

100%

# of workers

48,500

770,000

1,540,000

2,310,000

3,080,000

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction

472,875,000

7,507,500,000

15,015,000,000

22,522,500,000

30,030,000,000

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction (lbs)

3,795,536,725

6,024,638,372

12,049,276,745

18,073,915,117

24,098,553,489

Methane (CH4) emissions reduction (lbs)

32,318

513,087

1,026,175

1,539,262

2,052,349

Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions reduction (lbs)

33,360

529,639

1,059,277

1,588,916

2,118,554

Total greenhouse gas emissions reduction (lbs)

3,795,602,403

6,025,681,098

12,051,362,196

18,077,043,295

24,102,724,393


Gas Savings

Gas savings seems like an obvious benefit of commute reduction. Most people tend to think of gas savings in terms of the dollar amount saved, especially with the ever-increasing cost of a tank of gas. However, with their offices down the hall, home-based agents are preserving gas at a scale large enough to make a true impact on environmental preservation. If all call center agents worked from home, the U.S. would have to import 68 million fewer barrels of oil, the equivalent of nearly 35 oil supertankers.

Current at-home call center workers

Additional savings produced as virtual call center agents replace
x% of brick-and-mortar call center agents

25%

50%

75%

100%

# of workers

48,500

770,000

1,540,000

2,310,000

3,080,000

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction

472,875,000

7,507,500,000

15,015,000,000

22,522,500,000

30,030,000,000

Fuel savings (gallons)

21,017,000

333,667,000

667,333,000

1,001,000,000

1,334,667,000

Fuel savings (dollars)

$60.6 million

$962.6 million

$1.9 billion

$2.9 billion

$3.9 billion

Oil savings (barrels)

1,078,000

17,111,000

34,222,000

51,333,000

68,444,000


Companies that manage their customer care needs through home-based agents are getting the best of both worlds. These companies typically experience real bottom-line results in the form of larger order sizes, more efficient operations and more satisfied customers. Add these profit-producing benefits to the pollution and gas savings experienced through the elimination of commutes, and you have a win-win situation. By making the decision to utilize home-based agents, executives now have a way to satisfy shareholders while playing an important part in reducing the impact big business has on the environment.