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Summary:

What does the new way of working look like? Maybe something like Alpine Access, a Denver-based virtual call center. I spoke with Chris Carrington, Alpine Access CEO, about how he’s growing this business — #17 on Deloitte’s Fast 50 for Colorado — using experienced home-based workers, […]

Alpine Access logoWhat does the new way of working look like? Maybe something like Alpine Access, a Denver-based virtual call center. I spoke with Chris Carrington, Alpine Access CEO, about how he’s growing this business — #17 on Deloitte’s Fast 50 for Colorado — using experienced home-based workers, web-style computing, and online social networking tools.

Here’s how Alpine Access uses the new way of working to succeed:

Offer home-based employment. Alpine Access hires U.S.-based call center representatives who work from their own homes. Agents earn between $8 and $13 an hour, receive health insurance and other employee benefits, and can climb a career ladder into team leader and account manager positions. In contrast to some other virtual call centers who mainly hire contractors who don’t get paid for training and don’t receive employee benefits, Alpine Access chooses to hire employees in order to attract the very best candidates.

Hire for passion, skills, and experience, not geography. Because Alpine Access offers desirable home-based employment, they get their pick of people. While traditional brick-and-mortar call centers typically hire people in their early twenties with just high school education, many of whom take the job temporarily while looking for something better, Alpine Access attracts agents with an average age of 41 years old, 80% of whom have a college education, and most of whom are looking for a long-term commitment.

Alpine Access receives huge numbers of applications — over 200,000 last year — so they can hand pick each new agent to match their clients’ needs. They’re not limited to just the people in commute distance from a call center facility. For example, they only hire people with travel industry experience to serve their ExpressJet airline client.

Stay in touch electronically. Agents chat with their coaches and supervisors using instant messaging throughout the day any time they have a question about how to handle a particular call. Alpine Access’ call center technology allows agents and their managers to listen in on a call together.

Use web-style thin-client computing. Since employees are working from home, it’s not feasible for Alpine Access to install, configure, and maintain software on each employee computer. So they use a thin-client model where most of the processing happens on servers. Employees don’t download customer data; they just connect into a central facility that gives access to all the applications and data they need.

Create a virtual water cooler for employees. Alpine Access has deployed social networking tool HiveLive to provide a virtual water cooler to employees. This allows employees to get to know each other in a personal way even though they don’t work physically together. HiveLive is used to share photos, post birth announcements, swap recipes, and more. Some teams even use it to host virtual happy hours each week.

Do you want to know more about new ways of working? About home-based work? Check out Web Worker Daily’s book “Connect! A Guide to a New Way of Working” and the free downloadable bonus chapter on finding and succeeding with home-based work.

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By Anne Zelenka

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  1. Working from home at a call centre job?

    …that sounds like my worst nightmare come true…

  2. I happen to be one of those people, working for home, on a call center job, and if at all possible I hope to never have to go into the office in a brick and mortar again. Once you are used to working from home, traveling is not a pleasant thought.

  3. Now *THAT* is a good idea.

  4. Melissa Brewer Friday, January 11, 2008

    My company has published a directory of homeshoring companies like Alpine Access. Not every company uses the same model – AA employs employees, while companies like LiveOps pay per minute or phone call. It’s a really hot trend for businesses that don’t want a physical call center location – and don’t want to outsource to India. It’s also opened employment to many workers with disabilities and caretaking duties.

    Robert’s right – a call center job from home may seem like a nightmare job if you hate talking to people. However, there’s even a company in North Dakota (Verety) that actually pays people to simply enter drive-thru orders. There’s a lot of potential in this new model.

  5. macintosh user Friday, January 18, 2008

    This is all good and well.. but If you’re a Macintosh user.. forget about it… Alpine Access doesn’t want you !!!

    Their “Agent Requirements” state that one should have “A reliable personal computer” with Windows 2000 or Vista”. Hah !!!

    oxymoron |ˌäksəˈmôrˌän| noun
    a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

    Alpine Access, If you want motivated people, try a couple of Mac users. They’ll spend more time with your customers than screwing around with the problems that Windows brings to their computers (and your tech support people).

  6. » Some Virtual Agent Employers Contact Centers – Management, Human Resources, and Life: C3OC’s Contact Center Musings Sunday, March 2, 2008
  7. I’ve been trying to find a position with a company to work from home. Can’t say I’ve found anything. I keep applying and get shot down everytime. Is there a company willing to hire someone who’s typing isn’t great but can do many other things?If so please let me know.

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