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VMblog Expert Interview: Judd Bagley of Everise Talks Hiring, Decentralization of the Workforce, Work From Home, and Cloud Computing

interview everise bagley 

As you know, the latest jobless numbers are out and they aren't good as more people have filed for unemployment thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.  But one company filling the hiring demand that is out there is a company called Everise, a next-generation, disruptive, business process outsourcing (BPO) company.  Fortune 500 and high-growth technology companies are looking for transformational customer service solutions.  And Everise helps customers to grow and is winning new business from conventional BPOs that could not significantly transition their workforces to work from home.

Gone are the days of the kind of work traditionally done in large support centers, with rows of tightly packed agents answering incoming calls.  Such a structure makes sense because training and data security are easy to administer in a centralized way.  However, the pandemic changed all this for many companies.

But Everise was not disrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  This is important, so VMblog spoke with Judd Bagley, VP of Communications at Everise, to learn more.

VMblog:  Can you start things off by giving us an overview of what Everise does and explain what makes you different?

Judd Bagley:  Everise is a provider of outsourced customer and product experience support. Meaning, when you reach out to a company for help interacting with their products or services, you are frequently communicating with us, on the company's behalf. Our clients find it advantageous hiring us to do that work because we've made the investments in training and infrastructure that allow us to operate very efficiently. We've also identified places across the US and the globe that exist in that sweet spot of high quality of life, low cost of living and high economic, political and tech infrastructural stability. The world is flat, as they say, and this means we can do this work free of the constraints of geography. Among our many defining characteristics, we may be the leading provider of member support to healthcare companies in the US, with a particular talent for supporting Medicare subscribers.

VMblog:  We hear Everise accomplished something impressive recently, with regard to decentralization of your workforce.  What can you tell us about that?

Bagley:  The traditional call center model has been one of densely packed rooms full of agents providing support on the phone. Historically, this made sense given the ease of administering training and security in a centralized setting. Recently, the Millennial ethos, with its emphasis on work/life balance above all, began to challenge that approach, and plummeting internet costs paired with huge gains in data speed and reliability came along just in time to accommodate them. 

About three years ago, we started sending agents home to work. This wasn't a trivial feat. Data security is absolutely vital in this business, especially when it involves HIPAA and PCI, as many of our interactions do. What we discovered is home-based agents tend to be more experienced, gain more tenure with us - which translates to greater efficiency, have less absenteeism, and generally perform better than their centralized colleagues. Seeing this, we decided we would, over time, increase the proportion of home-based to brick and mortar based agents, and we made investments in the technologies needed to make that happen. At the beginning of 2020 we were at 20% home-based.

Well, then Covid-19 arrived, and from one day to the next, centralization became a liability, and many of our competitors in the space simply shut down. That was never an option for us, in particular because a large part of those we serve are Medicare subscribers, who are precisely the population most at risk for Covid-19 complications these days. That being the case, our service was labeled essential. We had to find a solution.

What ensued was a herculean effort to move thousands of employees across the globe home to work, mostly over a single weekend. This was complicated by factors nobody had considered, such as our Asia-based employees, who frequently lack private transportation, yet one day unexpectedly found themselves needing to get home with a desktop computer, two monitors and all the peripherals in their arms.  And yet we accomplished it. Within just two weeks, 90% of agents were working productively from home - and considering home in this case meant places as far flung as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Guatemala City, Tahlequah, OK, and many locations in between, this was a big deal. The 10% who weren't able to work from home for whatever reason, are now spaced out far enough apart inside our brick and mortar experience centers to safely comply with social distancing requirements.

VMblog:  How did this move impact your clients?

Bagley:  On one hand, it didn't impact them at all, in the sense that we made the transition quickly but following a stepwise strategy intended to not reduce agent availability.

On the other hand, it impacted them greatly, given their customers were able to receive the support they needed - often now more than ever - without  interruption, at a time when it seemed everything in our worlds was being interrupted. 

VMblog:  When we think of cloud-based solutions, customer support is not the first industry that comes to mind.  How has cloud integration transformed how Everise operates?

Bagley:  Our work at home platform is completely cloud based. Were that not the case, this miracle would not have been possible. We operate on Microsoft Azure's desktop as a service, with Citrix on top of that. Avaya Cloud provides our VoIP telephony solution. Those are the three key pillars, each a critical component allowing us to scale up seamlessly and securely add high quality service anywhere the internet reaches.

And the benefits of cloud computing extend beyond the service we provide. Workday, Netsuite, BlueJeans and Adobe Connect mean we can effectively recruit, hire, onboard and train the thousands of home-based agents we're currently working to add to our ranks without ever actually meeting them face to face.

VMblog:  Based on this experience, how will Everise change your approach to information architecture going forward?

Bagley:  Having these successes under our belt, we intend to build on our cloud investment and keep our workforce largely home-based, even after the lockdowns are over. We find that this configuration - being distributed so broadly in terms of geography, and then even more so as we get out into the suburbs and even rural areas - makes Everise and our clients more resilient to black swan events like natural disasters and, yes, future pandemics. The data security part has been solved. Now we are working to find solutions to the challenges confronting voice quality in areas without fiber penetration. Wireless data, eventually including 5G paired with VPNs, are the direction we will likely take there.

All told, Cloud computing has left us a profoundly transformed organization and will most certainly continue to do so.


Published Friday, May 01, 2020 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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