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Stay-at-home Reps Stem Offshore Outsourcing

Some companies are moving call centers into home, turning to what a research firm dubs "home-shoring" as a way to keep productive employees and trim costs.
Some companies are moving call centers into home, turning to what a research firm dubs "home-shoring" as a way to keep productive employees and trim costs.

"The home-shoring phenomenon comes in part as a result of the significant challenges faced in the customer relationship management (CRM) and customer care space over the last four years," said IDC analyst Stephen Loynd in a statement.

Rather than outsource customer service to foreign firms in places like India, said Loynd, some U.S. corporations are letting call reps work from home. "Compared with traditional outsourcing and offshore, companies utilizing home-based agents can access highly skilled representatives that are closely attuned to the U.S. market at very reasonable cost," said Loynd.

IDC estimated that there are currently about 100,000 home-based phone representatives in the United States.

Outsourcing, particularly that done offshore, has been a sensitive issue in the U.S. as domestic call center jobs are slashed by companies after lower costs. Earlier this year, Forrester Research predicted that over 830,000 U.S. service jobs would be lost to offshore outsourcing by the end of 2005, and 3.4 million by 2015.

A U.S. Labor Department report of this summer, however, disputed the impact of offshore outsourcing, claiming that in the first three months of the year, only 2 percent of the jobs lost could be directly blamed on the practice.

IDC's Loynd sees home-shoring, also called "home-sourcing," as a way to keep the jobs inside U.S. borders.

"There is no doubt that home-shoring can result in attractive benefits for both the company and the agents themselves," he said. "However, companies need to consider certain dynamics before jumping into such a strategy."