In the world of IT virtualization is a major buzzword that allows companies to take advantage of economies of scale through the sharing of resources. On a trip to Denver this past weekend I was amazed to see Hertz taking advantage of this same concept except through their workforce! Hertz had taken two of my favorite concepts, virtualization and remote office, and taken it to a whole new level to take advantage of the ebbs and flows of their daily customer demand.
Like servers in IT departments, different stores require additional resources when traffic becomes heavy. Instead of investing in a larger workforce to handle this ever changing demand Hertz virtualized their workforce by providing Skype like terminals where customers can talk to real customer service agents who are located at any of their Hertz locations nationally. In this way Hertz is able to have agents in California help customers in Boston when there are no customers in their California office.
The realization that this is the new frontier in customer engagement makes me apprehensive about the future job market. When outsourcing first took hold we saw a huge wave of skilled and unskilled work move overseas where foreign workers with lower wages were able to do the same job for less. What we were able to hold onto were our service jobs where “in-person” was still a requirement. Now, technology has advanced such that our service rolls are being outsourced to other states and the ability to send these jobs overseas is a very real possibility. Imagine walking into McDonalds and ordering a Big Mac through a Skype terminal. We swipe our cards through the register ourselves today, why do we need a person standing behind the desk to take the order for us?
While I am excited about what this new workforce virtualization allows, it makes me imagine a world much more closely tied and where economic borders continue to fade away.