Understanding consumer concerns about home-based agents


25 Jun 2024

How do consumers feel about dealing with contact center agents who are working from home?

That was what we wanted to find out when we asked 1,000 US consumers about their attitudes toward and experiences of dealing with home-based contact center agents.

This felt like a huge gap in our understanding as an industry. After all, employers rapidly embraced the working from home (WFH) model when the pandemic disrupted working patterns. And many agents continue to enjoy its greater flexibility.

But no one had asked consumers what they think – and that matters in a sector handling the private information of millions of people every single day.

The vast bulk of consumers (89%) stated that it’s important the companies they purchase from ensure their payment information is kept secure when handled by a contact center agent. But they have worries about sharing that information with an agent in their home.

There’s much more detail in the full Hitting Home study here, but in this post, we’ve highlighted some of the main findings.

Consumers’ data discomfort

The key message from our research was stark: a majority of consumers are uncomfortable about agents handling their personal information at home.

Three specific stats stood out:

  • 55% of US consumers consider contact center agents that work from home a risk to their personal privacy.
  • 53% do not want to share their payment information or personal data with home-working agents.
  • 41% say that they only want to engage with brands that do not have contact center agents that work from home.

Simply put, consumers worry that agents’ domestic environments are not as secure as traditional contact centers.

That’s understandable, frankly. They don’t know who else is in the home with the agent, who can see their screen, or what information is visible. Given that many consumers will also WFH some of the time in their own jobs, they know how life can get in the way and security policies aren’t always as strictly adhered to as they should be.

Furthermore, consumers’ discomfort with home-based agents isn’t purely hypothetical. Many of them are prepared to take action against brands they don’t feel have robust security measures in place:

  • If it became apparent that a contact center agent was working from home in a not completely secure environment, 26% of all consumers would not engage with that brand again.
  • A further 22% of all consumers would stop the call immediately and consider not using that company again, while 38% would continue the call but ask for extra reassurance that their payment information and personal data is secure.

A wake-up call

There’s no question that these findings should worry everyone in the contact center industry. They pose a profound challenge to today’s status quo.

For contact center leaders, this needs to be a wake-up call. Unless organizations do a better job of securing customer data and reassuring them about the solutions in place, businesses risk losing out.

In other words, organizations must give consumers peace of mind. And if they do, consumers will reward them:

  • 74% of consumers want companies to be more honest about whether they have contact center agents working from home.
  • 78% want companies they engage with to be more open about the security measures in place to protect payment information and personal data.
  • 76% agreed that they are more likely to engage with an organization that has put robust measures in place to ensure data security.

Providing reassurance and security

In our view, responding to consumers’ demands will take three things: a culture shift among businesses, investment in the right tech tools, and a new relationship with their agents.

First, on company culture, leading organizations could seize the initiative and make their WFH policies a positive point for their brand. Instead of ignoring the reality of WFH today or – worse – having to explain their policies after being found out, they could operate with openness to build trust with their customers.

Second, on tech, there are great tools available to safeguard all of the personally identifiable information that consumers want to keep secure, while agents are in their home environment. Our research found that consumers’ preferred solution was the ability to input payment information using technologies that prevent the agent from seeing or hearing their data while remaining in conversation with them (chosen by 39%). Such tools are now an imperative, not merely a nice-to-have.

Third, when it comes to the agents themselves, organizations need to remove the burden off their shoulders. It’s possible to design contact center systems today so that employees have no access to sensitive information. That simultaneously saves bottom-line costs and removes vulnerabilities and risk. It’s fairer and better for agents, for organizations, and for customers.

Futureproofing the industry

WFH is here to stay. The contact center industry isn’t going back.

But unless we reassure consumers about the security of the data, even as it’s being handled by home-based agents, the future of the industry is at risk.

With new policies and security solutions, we can reinforce the credibility and legitimacy of the WFH model with consumers. That will also futureproof the contact center industry itself.

Hitting Home

How secure is the Home Contact Center?

To read more about our Hitting Home research, or to find out how Eckoh can help enhance the security of your home-based agents, visit our dedicated page.

Big Rock Hitting Home Report

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