To Be Secure, Go Home

| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

To Be Secure, Go Home

There is an understandable misapprehension that having programs handled by home-based agents is less secure datawise than those served by those in conventional employer-subsidized contact centers. These worries arises that because home agents are in seemingly uncontrolled environments criminals can more easily steal data from them than from their contact center counterparts.

One respondent to my blog post last month on StarTek's closing of its Regina, Saskatchewan contact center and suggesting a remote strategy instead ( "StarTek's Canada Closure: Can't See the People For The Cubes") wrote:

"That's all fine and good as long as your client allows you to set up remote systems, but many of the clients that outsourcers service are extremely security conscious and want everyone in a secure environment. As a manager in another StarTek call centre I fully agree that adding services like you describe are the best solution but our client will not permit us to use it."

The reality is that security is stronger at home offices and data is better protected than in conventional contact centers because in part, and ironically, there is more control of home agents than of contact center agents.

In fact if you want the best security, you should send your programs home....

Here's why:

1. You know, and can control who is sitting at the desk of a home agent i.e. the home agent.

You can, and many firms do, set up stringent home office access and usage policies including biometric (fingertip, voiceprint) sign in, home data network security, locks on office doors and keyboards, data downloading, and who is permitted in and out of the space during work hours, and shutdown procedures. You can also specify say screen exposure to windows to prevent prying eyes.Home agents eagerly comply because they want to keep working from home.

There are great tools such as remote access and control applications that permit organizations to watch what home agents do when on duty including checking the system for rogue software. West had come out with this kind of solution for its West at Home agents last year. Supplying your home staff with cheap, energy-efficient storageless 'dumb' network PCs like eeePC or emasculated conventional units also limits this issue.

In contrast you cannot be truly sure at all times who is sitting behind the desk of contact center agents. Another person, even a visitor can occupy agents' chairs or glance at screens.The same especially goes for outsourcing, as in the StarTek case. You are entrusting a third party, which may be handling your program in another country that is beyond the jurisdiction of your nation's laws, to protect your customers' information.

2. No one generally knows where your home-based agents are, but they know where to find your contact centers.

Home agents are generally anonymous. They don't have signs saying 'Acme Megabank home agent contact center' on their front lawns or apartment mailboxes.

In contrast contact centers are great targets for thieves both internally and externally. Employees can be watched entering and leaving, approached, and compromised, such as by being coerced or willingly installing sniffer software or other devices to steal information. Also the bad supervision, poor hiring and promotion practices and high stress that plagues too many contact centers are enough to make some employees want to 'get back' at their companies by ripping them off.

Contact centers are also excellent locales to wardrive: park in public areas and scan for data on less secure wireless networks. They are not hard to find, especially those owned by teleservices firms. They often have big signs to recruit staff.

3. Home agents are at less risk for crime and carelessness than those who typically work in contact centers. They are more mature, responsible, better educated, and have higher incomes and their turnover is less than their center-confined confreres. They have also more to lose i.e. the privilege of working from home, and aren't about to lose it.

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Do you think your post applies to all areas of the world? Every country? I would love your thoughts.


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