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Look into lower-priced call-center options

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Traditionally, call centers have been too pricey for small businesses that need only a few employees (or temps) to handle sales and customer-service calls. But now, more call centers are hiring home-based phone agents, making the service more affordable for small and mid-size businesses.

About 20 percent of U.S. call centers now use at least some at-home agents, say Booz Allen Hamilton consultants.

Reasons for the trend: Call centers pay an average $31 per hour in overhead, training, health insurance and benefit costs for in-house agents, compared to $21 an hour for home-bound workers. Call centers pay at-home agents only for the time they actually spend on the phone.

Some large companies, such as Jet Blue and 1-800-Flowers, have turned to home-based customer sales reps to replace their own in-house agents. For them, it’s easier to add and subtract home-based workers than in-house ones. And, these companies use home-based agents as an alternative to overseas centers that draw frequent customer complaints.

Because of overhead savings, call centers typically pay at-home agents $10 to $15 an hour, compared to $7 to $9 for their office-based counterparts. Home-based agents tend to be college-educated and experienced. Reason: Call centers can hire more selectively because of an oversupply of applicants who want to work from home.

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