Groundbreaking Research: Is the Call Center WFH Model Here to Stay After COVID-19?

SQM Group has conducted groundbreaking customer and employee benchmark research with over 500 leading North American call centers to better understand what companies think about the WFH model post-COVID-19.

Is the Call Center WFH Model Here to Stay After COVID-19?

The call center industry is starting to determine if their current work from home model is sustainable after COVID-19. SQM Group has gathered customer and employee experience benchmark research to determine if the work from home (WFH) model is here to stay post-COVID-19

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most SQM call center clients decided to have their agent and support staff WFH. Furthermore, SQM's 2021 call center employee research shows that 87% of agents are currently working from home vs. 2019 when 19% of agents worked from home. As most call center practitioners know, it was a sudden and drastic shift to a WFH model. SQM's research examines the impact of pre/post-COVID-19 by assessing operational, employee, and customer experience data.

Most call center leaders now believe that the WFH model has been one of the great unintentional positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to higher employee and customer satisfaction with reduced operating costs, most call center leaders will continue with a WFH model.

SQM predicts that the call center industry's post-COVID-19 workforce model will be 60%-80% agents WFH, and 20%-40% agents work in a call center facility-based model. This agent workforce allocation forecast is based on the fact that agents prefer WFH, forcing call centers to have a WFH model to attract and retain agents, especially when considering the current competitive labor market.

The following are SQM Group's major findings for customer satisfaction (Csat), calls transferred, average handle time (AHT), agent turnover, and agents WFH from 2019 to 2021: 

  • Csat (stayed the same or improved since 2019): In 2020, this percentage was 75% and in 2021 it was 63%, which suggests that the WFH model is conducive to achieving high customer service
  • Calls Transferred: Comparing 2021 to 2019, 38% went up, 6% stayed the same, and 55% went down
  • AHT: In 2019, AHT was 545 seconds and in 2021 AHT was 589 seconds (an 8% increase)
  • Agent Turnover: 35% in 2019 and 28% in 2021 (7% increase)
  • Agents WFH: In 2019, 19% of agents WFH and in 2021 87% of agents WFH (68% increase)

To learn more about SQM's FCR research and the software they use to track and report on these metrics, visit their website.

Source: SQM Group