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Why homeworking is the most flexible reshoring option for service operators

10th Oct 2014
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Earlier this year, David Cameron claimed at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Britain was the ‘reshore nation’. One in 10 small UK businesses are considering reshoring their manufacturing operations (more than double the number heading East) he claimed, citing train set maker Hornby that was bringing production back from India to the UK, and fashion brand Jaeger, which 15 years ago stopped making clothes in the UK and is now returning an initial 10 per cent of its output.

Cameron also announced the setting up of a new Government body, Reshore UK, to encourage companies to reshore, in the same way as UK Trade & Investment helps British companies export.

The reshoring phenomenon is further proof, if any were needed, that competitiveness is about a lot more than just production cost. It’s about getting the balance right between overall costs, quality, customer requirements and a lot more besides.

As Cameron stated “Western companies want to benefit from being nearer to the consumer markets they serve to aid customisation and privatisation”. He also observed that “costs are rising in Asia, with senior management salaries in China now at or above those in the US and Europe.”

Reshoring isn’t just bringing manufacturing, textile and software jobs back to the UK. It’s impacting service operations too - with the AA, Barclays, BT, EE, esure, New Call Telecom, Powergen, RSA, Santander, United Utilities and others bringing thousands of offshored jobs back to the UK.

While most of these companies have set up new UK centres, or extended existing ones, many are now setting up homeworking-based operations as a more flexible and cheaper way of delivering high quality, localised customer service.

To set up a contact centre from scratch generally requires a company to:

- Find a location
- Build a contact centre
- Pay for the on-going costs of running buildings

With homeworking-based operations, all these problems go away. The issue of recruiting the right people within a limited geographical area (i.e. within commuting distance) also disappears.

HomeAgent working delivers numerous operational benefits. In a 2013 CCA/Plantronics survey, 92 per cent of organisations cited ‘improved flexibility for our workforce’ and 61 per cent stated ‘cost reductions’ as a couple of the key benefits of homeworking.

HomeAgent working is one of the fastest growing trends in the customer service industry with analyst company Ovum predicting that the number of home-based agents will increase from just under 84,000 to nearly 160,000 by the end of 2017.

While it is unlikely that ALL the service jobs lost overseas will ever be returned, UK organisations are undoubtedly now viewing offshoring opportunities in a more reasoned and strategic light, with many coming to the conclusion that certain activities, and the management of specific customer accounts, are better handled in the UK.

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