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Author patilint
#1 | Posted: 17 Apr 2007 06:31 
I have a question- do you think someone could do good customer service from a home office? Set up would include phone for incoming customer calls, computer with all necessary programs, time zone that works for the market base - for example West Coast USA customers - office would be in the West time zone. They would be part of the main company located on the East coast ..
hours of operation 8:30 to 5:00 local time.

Let me know your thoughts or if you want additional information.


Author KarenSB
#2 | Posted: 18 Apr 2007 14:46 


(You had to know there would be a but, yes?)

It would probably be best to be someone with lone wolf tendencies, as opposed to social butterly tendencies. It also has to be someone who has the self-discipline to actually do the work. For what it's worth, I think that many of us fantasize about being able to work from home...stay in slippers and pajamas all day and be productive. Reality is much different. And I've been there, done that. I wouldn't say I'm a social butterfly, but I definitely prefer the noise, chaos and energy of a busy work environment than the silence at home.

Good luck!

Author cedennis
#3 | Posted: 18 Apr 2007 15:04 
I agree! It can be done well, and it often makes a lot of sense. I have used this strategy as a manager, and was able to extend the (US East Coast) business' hours to accomodate the West Coast customers, without having to create a second shift, and possibly have to pay more in salary to have people work the late shift.

I myself have done this kind of work as a consultant for a UK company, serving their US customer base. It worked out fine.

However, as mentioned above, it does require the right kind of person. I would emphasize the self-discipline aspect and the trust issues more than the social butterfly vs lone wolf aspect. Evaluating the performance of a remote rep is probably the most challenging thing. But through the wonders of technology, it is possible to give a thorough evaluation of a remote rep's work.

Like with the in-house reps, the hiring is the most important thing. When you hire the right people, everything else falls into place a lot easier.

Best regards,

Chuck Dennis

Author ayaree
#4 | Posted: 19 Apr 2007 20:29 
Pati, you've been at this longer than me and others. You have your set of rules of thumb you stand by, I have a few of mine. It is of course the discipline and the ability to stay on top of home base by remote. But for me, it's knowledge and the ability to share it properly that is at the foundation of customer service success. I have interrupted days off to join in on client calls to kick off new projects by remote, and I felt like I was doing great, but I wasn't right there in person.

So I think it definitely works, provided you have all that you need at your fingertips. It just takes more orchestration for the people at home base to keep all team members, remote and in the flesh, to be on the same page, just as it takes the attentiveness and discipline for the remote person to do their thing as an individual. To me, it would depend on ironing out all the variables and preparing for the unexpected--but you have to do that in a context that involves people showing up for work in person anyway!

I ask with the understanding that this doesn't need to be answered (ha ha): are you exploring the option of being a west coast person as opposed to an east? Or is this about someone else?

Author Michele Eby
#5 | Posted: 20 Apr 2007 07:48 
It definitely would work and the benefits have already been mentioned. And although hiring is critical to ensure you have a person who could be successful in a home environment, I'd like to add that the right management approach is also important.

Because a remote person is out of sight, a manager needs to work to ensure that the employee still feels part of the team; still feels part of the company's goals and efforts; still feels a sense of belonging/identity with the manager and the team. Creating and maintaining a strong connection with the remote employee is important and will help the employee be successful. A strong manager does that with each team member anyway, it'll just take a little planning to make sure it happens with a remote employee as well.

Michele Eby

Author patilint
#6 | Posted: 25 Apr 2007 09:11 
Sorry - I had a few days off and was at the beach with 4 friends from high school....wasn't on the computer so am catching up.
Ayaree- to answer your question, yes it is me....my son and family moved to Arizona about 3 years ago. I have 3 grandchildren there and I miss all of them terribly. I do not want to quit my job- I love my job and I do need the income for a few more years (maybe 3). I thought that if I could convince my company of the benefits of the office being in that time zone...I could do a job for them and see if I liked living out there (possible to retire there) and have my family also.
Selfish on my part - I want it all....but could really be a benefit to my company.
I am trustworthy :) and would do a good job :) as I am the type of person who wants customers, peers and management to rely on me to solve the problems and concerns as they arise. If sucessful, it could open up the possibility of others working from a home office in the future.
I know I will probably get resistance at first cause its not been done here before (except for the Sales Reps)but maybe after thinking about it - they will consider it. That is why I need my ducks in a row before I make my proposal..... all of your help is greatly appreciated.
Thank you all.

Author ayaree
#7 | Posted: 25 Apr 2007 18:43 
Well, we would lose another sensible person to the west coast if it worked out, ha ha.

As far as the likelihood that the proposal would have enough weight, I guess it would matter to them how long you have been with them. And then also how long you would be staying with them (sounds brutal to say it, but in their mind would they be thinking "why would we try this out if she is going to be leaving in the fairly near future?").

It's interesting that you think there would be a benefit to a presence out in the west, you must have reasons why, and I guess it would come down to finding enticing reasons how it would translate into cost savings or stronger customer relationships.

Just throwing around ideas...If there is a small sales force present in that neck of the woods, maybe there is a way to see your being there physically as an asset. Without turning the role you are envisioning into something totally different, maybe there is some kind of value to you being connected to sales people that are within 50 or 80 miles from you? Not sure if that amounts to a hill of beans.

It makes total sense that you would want to be closer to your son and grandchildren. Have you got people in your immediate midst (offline) that would be able to take a look at your rough ideas and add weight to them with their perspectives (examples: what's good for the business; what's going to create efficiencies; what technical things can be put in place without a lot of hassle and risk; what's the long-term picture if we do this)? If not, then it's a good idea to see what you can dig up here, especially because there is an unbiased perspective.

And at the end of this exercise you are cogitating, maybe there is something more entrepreneurial that would come out of it all if the proposal to your employer does not work out. For example, I knew someone who was not able to work as a permanent employee because she could not physically be in the office for long periods of time (she needed to look after health issues frequently and have her own work calendar). So she employed herself by providing various administrative services as an independent supplier and filled in the gaps with temporary assignments between "gigs." You may not be "self-employed material," and maybe you wouldn't know where to begin, and you're not trying to reinvent your entire professional life, you just want to sustain something good and be with the people you want around you. However, you have started to ask questions about alternatives to a present situation and presenting proposals to an employer and identifying new and different ways to do things so that in the end your OWN needs are satisfied, and there is something entrepreneurial about that. Who's to say you necessarily need the employer to comply if you're so good at finding ways to provide services away from your current home base? Again, more ideas I am kicking around.

Author patilint
#8 | Posted: 26 Apr 2007 05:31 
Not to go into alot of detail, but some of the benefits of having someone on the West Coast -
Our hours here are 8:30 -5:00 PM EST
That means the west coast customers only have till 2 PM for contacting us.If someone were in that time zone- they would have coverage till 5PM.
Our shipping department is moving to San Antonio Texas in Sept and they are an hour behing EST...so if someone were on the west coast, that person would be there till 1 hour or more after the 5PM time in San Antonio....
I am sure you can see the obvious benefits from these...
This would give the east coast customers and sales reps (from the entire country) someone to call if an emergency arises for up to 3 hours after the office is closed in PA.

I am not worried personally about being "part of the group" as I have been here for 28 years and know that I am and would be. The hardest part is not being physically here for the times you need to jump up and go do something yourself instead of waiting for it to happen in "channels". Meetings are not a problem - we have Net meeting and that works nicely....also conference calling, etc.

Guess I will give my proposal and see what happens....I have to wait for our new manager (just hired) to start mid May....

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