At-Home Agents Aid Hilton

Hilton Hotels thinks it has found at least a partial solution to staffing problems at its reservations centers. The company's new Hilton@Home program allows a select group of res and customer care agents to work from home. So far, more than 800 agents are part of the program.

“We've discovered an untapped labor market,” Russ Oliver, vice president of Hilton Reservations & Customer Care, says of the program. “Through the process, we've found a mature and high-caliber group of individuals who are able to provide an even better experience for our customers.”

Hilton provides the agents with thin-client PCs and software. They must have a dedicated workspace in their homes and provide monitors, headsets and DSL web connections. Agents, most of whom work part-time, can go online and develop their own work schedules. Currently, agents in the program undergo a blend of classroom and online training, but by early next year all new-hire training will be available online.

One challenge, says Oliver, is maintaining a sense of community among the Hilton@Home employees. To keep the agents connected to each other and to the company, Hilton hosts chat rooms for the agents and conducts regular online team meetings and one-on-one meetings with agents.

Another benefit: In an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, the program eliminates commuting costs for agents and reduces the carbon footprint at the res centers. Hilton says it has already reduced CO emissions by 10 percent and hopes to boost it to 20 percent within five years.

Oliver says he plans to eventually migrate the program to some of Hilton's international res facilities. Currently, Hilton has more than 3,000 reservations and customer care employees at four U.S. and five international res centers. They serve nearly 100,000 customers per day.

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