A Supply of Older Workers Benefits Companies and Outsourcing Service Providers | Article

Baby boomers are living longer. The terrible economy, sliding home and stock prices, and low interest rates are forcing them to work longer. The silver lining is this is good news for both outsourcing service providers and enterprises that need expert help.

Companies turn to NuuKo for executive advice in healthcare

Companies needing advice typically hire consultants to help them. But few of the consultants have C-suite experience and expertise. Now they can turn to NuuKo, a consortium of retired C-level executives, for help. Currently the company is focusing on the healthcare vertical.

“In today’s rapidly changing world, it’s becoming more and more difficult for C-level executives to get their hands around the healthcare issue. It’s harder than ever to understand the dynamics. They want to add top experts into the mix,” says Doug Poretz, NuuKo Co-founder.

He says enterprises are discovering they need to “be smart in niches at 100,000 feet.” Few, if any, have that kind of talent in-house, so the chief option was to hire a $300-an-hour consultant. But companies, he says, found consulting bureaucratic and slow. “They thought they would get help from the rainmaker, but they ended up with a recent MBA who was learning from the client instead of the other way around,” Poretz says. “Nuuko’s goal is to provide true experts quickly.”

Poretz says he founded the firm two years ago because there is now a wealth of retired C-level executives both available and willing to work. “There is a monstrous pool of talent that’s untapped,” Poretz observes. “At 65, people want to quit their jobs, but they don’t want to quit their careers.”

NuuKo experts retired from Fortune 500 companies. “They don’t want to spend every day on leisure activities. They want to remain useful, they like being in the game, and they still want to make money,” he explains. Working for the fee-based provider, these executives can work on their own schedules. They don’t want to return to a full-time position.

However, they also don’t want to handle the back-office details or do any of the marketing necessary. NuuKo does all the billing, marketing, and support for them.

The boom for home-based call center companies

Jared Fletcher, Vice President, VSC Operations for Arise Virtual Solutions, an outsourcing service provider specializing in at-home workers, says the number of older workers providing customer service, sales, and tech support for Arise’s clients increased 30 percent in 2010. Arise defines an older worker as anyone 45 or older. Currently the oldest worker servicing clients is 78, he reports.

The numbers are similar at Alpine Access, another home-based call center service provider. Remi Killen-Weber, HR Project Manager, says the company has 641 employees over the age of 50; 137 of those are over 60. While the average age of Alpine Access workers is 38, the number of people over 50 increased threefold in the last 12 months. “We will continue to see this trend happen,” she posits.

Fletcher says the wide-scale reductions in force created a large pool of experienced, unemployed workers. Fletcher says these people are looking for a full-time opportunity. On the other hand, retirees have found the low interest rates on their investments are eroding their budgets; funds are running out early. “They are looking for supplemental income” and flexible part-time work, he explains.

Outsourcing service providers welcome this trend. “Generally, older workers are more seasoned. They have maturity and responsibility,” he explains. “They tend to show up more often than a 20-year-old who is a less focused on generating income, and they deliver excellent results,” the Arise executive explains.

Killen-Weber reports older workers currently are the company’s top performers. The service provider found older workers handle phone calls in a shorter time while achieving higher customer satisfaction scores.

How home-based workers work

All virtual agents at Arise sign a statement of work commitment that they will provide services between a minimum of 15 and 20 hours a week. But they can work 100 hours if they choose. “One of our clients provides roadside assistance. We answer calls 24/7. There are plenty of options if our home-based workers want the hours. Our agents choose the clients they want to support and the hours they want to work, including evenings and weekends,” Fletcher says.

Jackie Booley, 65, is a customer care professional for Alpine Access. She retired from AT&T in 2007, having worked in a bricks-and-mortar call center for 15 years.

She went back to work in 2009 when her financial adviser told her that her nest egg cracked, thanks to falling stock prices. She turned on her computer, Googled “work from home,” and discovered Alpine Access. “I checked them out to make sure it wasn’t a scam,” she says. Then she submitted her resume.

“I love working from home. I don’t have to go anywhere if we have a hurricane,” she says. (She lives in Florida.) “I don’t have to do my hair or buy work clothes. I love my bedroom-slipper job.”

She currently answers calls for Office Depot six hours a day. “They don’t care which six hours,” she says. “I’m not a morning person, so I work from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” she continues. Her office is her guest bedroom.

Booley loves the satisfaction she gets from helping people. One older gentleman in upstate New York ordered 15 cases of paper. The order clearly stated not to leave the cases in front of the garage. Of course that’s exactly what the truck driver did. It was snowing and the customer couldn’t lift the cases. Booley saved the day by having the courier move the paper to his front door.

She does not get lonely because Alpine Access set up a virtual break room. She can type “I need help” and get it. “There’s always someone to ask,” she explains.

She’s proud that Alpine Access only hires U.S. workers. “This is the best job I’ve had in my life,” Booley notes.

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