Working From Home Interview with Dickon Moon
Dickon Moon, Director of Strategic Sourcing at Arise UK talks to Remote Employment in
an interview about working from home with Arise.
This is a must read interview for anyone who wants to know more about what working from home with Arise is really like!
Arise UK is the global leader in sourcing home workers for home based call centres across the world and recently set up a dedicated office in London to continue to recruit home working professionals for flexible jobs working from home in the UK.
This interview took place with Dickon (seen left) on Feb 11th 2014 ... Dickon (DM) is answering Ken Sheridan (KS) from Remote Employment.
Section 1 – Arise UK Continues to Grow!
1. Arise UK is now very well established in the UK, what have been the most exciting overall changes recently?
DM: I think they fall into two categories. The first would be systems and process improvements and the second would be new clients and therefore a new range of opportunities for our agents who work from home.
Referring to systems and processes, Arise has now implemented and integrated a series of online assessments that allow our potential agents to assess themselves free of charge against the given criteria set down to become a partner with Arise. We utilise a product called ‘Admissions IQ’ that can be run in your own time, so you don’t have to book a time with Arise anymore as you used to, and it can be completed in evenings or weekends.
The second one of those enhancements as seeing the point of which an agent is about to pay to learn about a specific client, we also now a free test prior to that payment in order to make sure you are not going to pay for something which you have no hope of certifying. So a good example, we have a new road side assistance client, there would be no point in you paying to be certified on their systems if your knowledge of the UK motorway network was poor. So they would be two systems enhancements that I think have been fantastic in the last year.
….And your new client progress, how has the Arise UK client base altered?
On the client front, we have made significant progress. We have a seven year agreement with BT to provide emergency service support, which I think is very important in terms of the client, and have added a number of household names to the client portfolio.
We also have one of the leading roadside assistance companies on board and that program is growing rapidly. Indeed, even as we speak there are meetings afoot to drive that to a bigger number.
We have a travel company signed up and we also have the country’s leading digital television subscription company, along with one of the world’s leading warranty sales companies. So all very significant companies, three of whom have been added in the last year, and there are more household name companies that we hope to announce in the coming months.
So it has been a year of momentous client base growth and those above have been the most significant changes.
2. What changes have there been to how Arise partners with its agents in order to meet the specific challenges of working successfully from home?
DM: The most significant change is that we are seeking partners (ie. suppliers of potential agents) who represent organisations who present people who are already thinking about home working. In the past we felt that we might be better suited to forging partnerships with Work Programme Providers, but we quickly realised that there is a very large group of people who are very capable who perhaps aren’t working, who aren’t necessarily claiming any benefits at all. So there has been an emphasis change on our part to go for people who already have some home working experience or are already at home. This has been very important.
It is also means that people can get through our processes a lot more quickly because they are already sold on some of the ideas behind home working.
So when I arrived here nearly three and half years ago it took the best part of six weeks for someone to get through, end to end, our admissions processes. Now it takes one week. It is therefore much swifter.
3. So how would you summarise the big success stories for Arise UK?
DM: Certainly our spread across the country has been something that has given me great satisfaction. So for example, we now have agents on Sanday in the Orkneys to Folkestone in Kent; we also have people right across Northern Ireland.
Indeed we occasionally eulogise about the 80s TV ad selling a drink that you can have ‘Any time, any place, anywhere’ - we like that phrase because we think we have the ability to service any time our clients need it, from any place there is a good broadband connection, anywhere in the world!
4. What type of changes has Arise noticed in the work from home market within the UK?
DM: There are some noteworthy changes in the last year. Perhaps the most important has been that the attitude towards home working has changed and we know this because we have been to a couple of professional presentation days, open days and networking events, in particular within the customer contact arena, where large corporates, looking ahead, are now talking about home working as part of their overall contact centre blend. That is a step change from where we were even two years ago.
I think that has been the greatest change and the dawning realisation within certain industries that with the advance of technology, home working is no longer quite the negative step that people felt it was back then and indeed, it is a positive way of engaging with a wider and more engaged work force.
5. DM to KS: On the same issue, what type of changes has Remote Employment observed within Arise UK and the work from home market overall?
KS: Remote Employment, and more recently iHubbub, has worked with Arise for quite a few years now and some of the changes we’ve observed would include the following:
• We get fewer questions about Arise itself – questions such as who are they, what do they do, tell me a little about them. Therefore the whole general authenticity and stature of Arise UK has risen significantly, witnessed by the fewer enquiries we get about who you are and what you’re doing.
• We do not get complaints directly from anyone who has got involved with Arise through iHubbub or Remote Employment, for example on things such as certain things didn’t happen when they contacted or joined Arise etc.. So noise within our system about people grumping about Arise, is just not there. This is a good sign that what people were expecting to get by becoming involved with Arise is what they ended up getting.
KS: In terms of the home market, I would agree with the points you have made and would also add:
• People still mention ‘isolation’ as their biggest fear or issue when working from home and whilst this can be the case for some people, but not all, it does mean that the Arise opportunity can score big on this point as their agents are all required to talk to people, a nice way of overcoming the isolation issue.
• It has never been easier to gain access to lots of useful information about home working and the do/don’ts attached to this increasingly popular method of working
• IT and telecom home working solutions are getting increasingly better, including better value, particularly the growing speed of broadband services and online communication sharing
All very helpful to home workers now and going forward!
Section 2 – What Type of Person Makes A Successful Arise Agent?:
6. From the perspective of personal attributes, describe the ‘ideal agent’ for Arise.
DM: The ideal agent is somebody who has some experience in working with customers, ideally on the telephone, and if not, then certainly someone who likes talking to people. The Arise model is not going to work for someone who doesn’t like talking to people and that’s important.
I think also that people need to be persistent both in terms of the way in which they need to work through our admissions process, and the way in which our model works. You can service a minimum of 10 hours a week, but you choose those hours, and in order to choose those hours you may need to be quick to snap up the hours you want.
We can now offer hours from four in the morning until midnight, so it’s very significant hours, and if you only have to do ten hours a week and we offer seven days a week with those hours available, then there will be plenty of hours available to you.
Some interest in the client for whom you’re servicing will be important. What we are increasingly seeing are people who are customers of our clients and then choosing those clients to service. So customers, if you like, serving customers.
So from a personal perspective, I think an organised, persistent approach and somebody who enjoys talking with people are the important things.
7. Perhaps you could describe the different personal background circumstances (eg, family circumstances, challenging personal circumstances etc.) that Arise can suit so well?
DM: One of the things we are trying to do is to fill a very particular gap. So to give you a bit of background, we have plenty of success in attracting working mums and people who are looking after children - a very large percentage of our overall network are people with kids. That in itself brings a challenge because between four and six every day in the afternoon we see a huge drop off in the availability of our home workers.
So we are really keen to reach out to people who perhaps don’t have children or commitments in those hours, perhaps because your children have fled the nest now, or perhaps you’re single or don’t have children.
Now those groups of people have an ability to pick up hours with Arise as we are not filling those particular hours well enough.
What I’d say is that while we are very keen to reach out to part time workers, ‘silver surfers’, carers, those with a disability, working mums and dads, second jobbers – all of those groups - we are really keen now to focus on people who can work in that four to six afternoon slot.
8. What do they need to be good at and what do they need by way of equipment in order to do the job well?
DM: Apart from a decent broadband connection, you’d need to have a servicing telephone line. Typically people do tend to take a second telephone to service with Arise and you can get those relatively cheaply. If you are someone who has a telephone line at home that isn’t used regularly, that will also work. But you do need to understand that between certain hours, when you are servicing, that you won’t be able to take or make personal calls.
In terms of other equipment, a relatively recent computer, say one or two years old, not a dinosaur, will be important, and you will need to get hold of headsets. We have plenty of information on our website on the type of headset that is relevant.
9. Do Arise agents have the opportunity to shape and input into their roles?
DM: There do indeed and there are plenty of options here. There is a common misconception that Arise is all about being a home working agent but there is much more to Arise than that.
Within our model we have people that are performance facilitators who look after groups of agents to give them advice and support.
We have quality auditors who listen to the calls and to make sure they are of a given standard.
We have ‘Enhancers’ to help people who are perhaps falling beneath that standard and we have specialists who might pick up a certain kind of call.
All of those are different roles with enhanced service revenue attached to them.
On top of that, for our best performing agents they are invited to join our ‘Star Academy’. Our ‘Star Academy’ is our crème de la crème of agents and they feed in to Arise every month information that will help us amend, enhance or even completely change our systems and processes in support of our agents. They have a direct line into the team here at Arise
Section 3 – Detail about servicing through Arise:
10. Tell us a little about servicing through Arise. What’s involved for Arise agents on a day to day basis?
DM: Typically an Arise agent would take calls from corporate customers who have queries or an order to make that they can’t fulfil on line.
So that might be because they are looking to add a warranty onto a product, or they have an issue with a fault with their home television equipment, or it might be simply that they want to upgrade an existing package they have.
All those would be the sorts of calls that people would take. In some cases you might be asked to resolve an issue – for example if you are working with the roadside assistance company and someone has broken down on the motorway you might have to despatch someone to help them. Or it might be that you would feed that call on to somebody else.
In all cases currently, it is incoming calls rather than outgoing calls. It’s absolutely not ‘Here’s a list of people to flog them something they don’t want’.
They would give us minimum half hour service intervals in which to service. You can obviously service for more hours but it’s a minimum half hour at a time.
11. Would you describe this as a part time opportunity, a career opportunity or perhaps something else? How many hours work are involved for successful candidates?
DM: It’s many things to many people. So with a minimum ten hours per week on some of our programmes, and some a minimum fifteen hours a week, we do have people who work just those slithers of time. We also have people that work 40-50 hour weeks, and perhaps on more than one client which they are able to do, they just can’t service the same client at the same service interval.
So it is part time for some people, full time for others and I think that’s one of the beauties of the Arise model. Indeed, over a period of time you could flex it so that it was part time some weeks and full time other weeks.
I think it’s important to understand that the minimum hours we are taking about are exactly that, and most of our people don’t do the minimum hours, they do far more than those.
12. Are all your agents self- employed?
DM: People need to understand the model – people work through a limited company. It might be that that’s their own limited company or if they are not keen to set up a limited company they can choose to go through somebody else’s.
The nature of the relationship with that limited company is not something we can be prescriptive about, it’s just that everyone has to work through a limited company to partner with Arise.
We are always trying to ensure that we are compliant with the Inland Revenue directives about employers and employees. We do not employ people through the Arise agent model; people are essentially contracted to a limited company and that limited company provides services to Arise.
13. Is this job commission or hourly paid and is it 100% work from home?
DM: The way in which the service revenue works is that we would pay to the independent business an amount that is stipulated in the Statement of Work.
The average service revenue in our biggest client in the UK is £8.32 per hour. When you think that the way in which our relationship works, because people are working from home, you are able to take home far more of that £8.32 per hour than you would do if you were working in an employed model.
It’s important that people understand that on certain programmes there might be an up-tick for sales but you are choosing your clients, so you decide whether you want to service an organisation where that is available to you, or if you prefer something that isn’t so sales based.
It is all 100% based from home.
14. How do you actually receive calls to your home? How does the system work to allow that to happen?
DM: The calls come in through your telephone but it is going to be linked to your computer so you will see on a screen what call is coming in; it will flash up, you will tick the screen – our software is intelligent so it will enable you to be able to see who is coming in - you hit ‘Yes, accept this call’ and through it comes on your headset.
So it’s an intelligent system that enables you to not only answer calls but to see where the call is coming from and what programme it’s on.
15. Area-wise, where would you like your Customer Service professionals to be located? And are you only sourcing for the UK and Ireland?
DM: Currently we are looking in the UK and Northern Ireland.
We aren’t currently able to service in the Republic of Ireland, that is something on which we are working and hopefully be able to tackle in 2014, but right across the UK and Northern Ireland people are able to service with Arise. Anywhere where they have good broadband penetration is the starting point.
16. Would you describe the Arise method of working as unique, if so in what way, and what are the benefits of working for Arise UK?
It is unique in that there is no other company in the world that offers people the opportunity to work through a limited company servicing from home in the way that we do.
Other organisations may have employed workers working from home but they have to be prescriptive about the hours people work and that is the great benefit about partnering with Arise – the flexibility means that even the most fractured schedule would find a home in partnering with Arise. A minimum of 10 or 15 hours a week and with that vast array of available hours there are opportunities for everybody.
Indeed, we have people who work 15 hours a week, from nine at night till midnight 5 days a week, and still perform a full time job.
So people are using it in all sorts of different ways. And it’s that flexibility that is the key benefit of partnering with Arise.
Section 4 - The present and the immediate future for Arise UK and those who are working with Arise:
17. What are the immediate prospects and the future for Arise UK?
They are very healthy in the UK and Northern Ireland and we are attracting an awful lot of media attention.
The week before last we backed ‘Work from Home Week’ and were interviewed on 104 radio stations across the country, including huge ones like BBC Radio Scotland on their business programme at one end of the country, to BBC Radio Cornwall at the other end of the country.
That’s given us a huge amount of interest as you can imagine both in terms of new agents and potential sourcing partners.
I want to make it clear we are looking to rapidly expand the number of home working agents in the UK and I would invite people to not only get interested but to tell their friends, their parents, their colleagues too particularly if they are working in contact centres and fed up with prescriptive hours they are getting – all those groups we’d be keen to talk to.
I am incredibly busy travelling around the country running open days and events doing exactly that, enlisting agents.
We have partnered with some organisations to help us, be it the Highlands and Islands Enterprise at one end of the country to the local enterprise partnerships across the main land of England. We are always looking at groups of people who might be interested in partnering with Arise and we are happy to present to them if they are keen.
18. And Arise has been nominated for some awards recently?
We have! So in the UK the Professional Planning Forum has nominated Arise for an innovation award. We have had the judging day and the actual result will be announced in a big gala dinner in Brighton at the end of April. So fingers crossed!
We are very proud to be nominated for such a prestigious award by an organisation that really does represent everything that we are keen to demonstrate here in the UK.
19. Arise is very active on the UK political front – championing home working at the highest level. Tell us about the Arise work in this area and what it has achieved.
We’ve been fortunate in that some of the relationships we’ve had with MPs have helped really increase the confidence that people have in partnering with Arise. And part of the reason for that is that those MPs have all been promoted.
For example, Sarah Newton is the MP for Truro and Falmouth in Cornwall and is now the Vice Chairperson for the Conservative party.
Dan Rogerson, another MP from the South West, is now the junior minister for Rural Affairs.
It’s meant that we have quite senior representation, and cross party representation, within Government.
On top of all of that, people like Angus McNeil is the MP for Western Isle in Scotland, who has been a fervent advocate of ours and indeed was one of the main reasons we ran an open day on Barra, which is a remote community and has great broadband penetration and lots of people ready to partner with Arise.
20. Where would Arise like to be 12 months from now?
I think double or triple the size we are in the UK. We have some very advanced discussions now with a series of well-known organisations in the UK. I’d like to close those out as well as expand the existing programmes that we have.
I would also like to be in a position where we get to ‘sit on the sofa’ on one of the day time TV channels because I think when we reach that point, it will get us a mass market exposure and it will help people to really understand what it is that partnering with Arise can bring.
We have so many fervent advocates out there, we need to help them get their messages out that Arise is an organisation that you can trust.
Section 5 - How to join the Arise network and what to expect:
21. How should a potential agent find out more about Arise should they wish to do so?
We have a cracking website www.arise.com/uk that is chock full of case studies, including case studies from people who have come through Remote Employment and iHubbub, with videos, interviews and articles and it’s all bang up to date.
There are also lists of all the events that we are attending both from an agent and a client perspective and it’s all being constantly updated.
So that will be the first port of call, and I would encourage people to have a good play around on this site.
There is a clearly marked button, that says ‘Join the Arise Network’ and that’s what you need to hit to begin working your way through the admissions process.
You don’t need to send us a CV to create a profile, you may not have to meet us at all, it is all completed virtually.
You may also you wish to see the Arise Home Based Customer Service Agent job advert.
22. Do you offer any phone numbers for people who may want to talk to Arise?
Absolutely. Within normal office hours it is 0131 200 2100.
22. Are there any costs involved in joining or applying or running costs?
Essentially, this is you setting up a company and Arise effectively being your new business arm. So we will provide clients for you to make revenue for your company.
The only payments directly made to Arise are a payment for you to complete our proprietary online process, called CSP101, and that’s £15, your certification fee, which can be anything from £15 to £120 depending upon the client for whom have you chosen to service, and a monthly charge, once you start servicing, of £20 that is simply for licensing the software I spoke about earlier that enables you to see telephone calls coming in.
Those costs are all tax deductible and it is important that anyone keen to partner with Arise engages with an accountant who can advise them on how to maximise their revenue.
23. What help is offered and how long does the initial set up take?
The admissions process takes the best part of a week.
If you choose a client requiring certification, that is learning that you do online find out about the client’s products, if you choose one of those, you can be a further week so you can be up and running within a fortnight, earning revenue for your company within that time.
As soon as you start taking calls and you have finished your certification and your contract is signed, you then select your hours and your service revenue is paid to independent businesses on the ninth of every month and you are ready to rock and roll!
24. Dickon, how would you summarise our conversation and going forward for Arise UK!
Expansion is the aim for 2014 and hopefully through Remote Employment and iHubbub we can continue to attract the sort of calibre of candidates that we have seen come through this channel and create case studies that we have seen on our website.