The case is about a new type of contact center – the virtual contact center – that employs a geographically dispersed workforce in the cloud. Founded in 2000, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, LiveOps’ ‘home-shore’ business model combines a dual innovation: (1) it allows agents to work when they want and pays them only for the time they are serving customers, (2) it rewards its top-performing agents who handle the most calls with higher earnings. While originating as a cost-saving approach, the flexibility of the virtual contact center also responds to the challenges of matching demand for calls with the employee supply, which is typically impossible to predict.
After Hurricane Katrina, the COO of the American Red Cross (ARC), Harley Jones, has to set up a contact center within hours to help storm evacuees connect with their relatives. He needs to evaluate three alternative types of contact center: the traditional brick-and-mortar operation, the offshore model, and the virtual service provider (LiveOps), taking into account the following dimensions:
1) Promised service level. Providing a superior level of service is the first priority and key to successfully handing the Katrina crisis. What type of contact center offers the necessary capacity to cover an unprecedentedly high spike in call volume?
2) Fast scalability. Given the emergency and the time constraints of the situation, which service provider can most reliably “answer the call”?
3) Cost of the whole operation. What is the most financially viable option for a charity-based organization like the ARC?
4) Agents’ average profile. Given that different types of contact centers attract agents of various ages, educational, professional and cultural backgrounds, should the ARC utilize the workforce of a B&M, offshore or virtual contact center?
To learn more about LiveOps please visit the company website.
The main objectives of the case are to explore the opportunities of this new type of contact center, its suitability for time-critical operations, and the challenges involved in implementing a home-shore solution that has myriad applications beyond disaster relief. The case contains detailed background information about the contact center industry, and the origins of LiveOps and its business model, allowing for a comparison of the B&M, offshore and virtual options. As such it is suitable for undergraduate classes on queuing models, operations management related classes, as well as senior executive programmes.
- virtual call centre
- business model innovation
- flexible operations
- employee management
- distributed workforce
- online marketplace