Wounded Veterans Deserve a Chance at Success Back Home

Contact Center jobs for veteransShould wounded veterans have to give up their employability because of their new special needs? Direct Interactions, 8x8 and I don’t think so.

8x8 Technology Makes It Possible to Work from Home

Direct Interactions is using cloud-based unified communications—including cloud-based phone, fax and call center technology—to create home-based employment opportunities for disabled veterans and military families. Cloud-based contact center technology delivered over the Internet now makes it possible for Direct Interactions to use 8x8’s Virtual Contact Center to employ agents.

Tom Gonzalez, a seven-year Navy SEAL veteran, is one of those veterans.

“I wanted to prove that with the right technology and opportunities, I could compete as a knowledge worker in today’s economy,” says Gonzalez.

Veterans Understand Teamwork—And 8x8 Collaboration Features Help

“With Direct Interactions, I am part of team solving problems for customers and setting an example that just because a person had a disability, it doesn’t mean we can’t excel in the modern workforce,” says Gonzalez.

The idea behind Direct Interactions’ socially responsible mission came from co-founder and President Matt Storey. He and his business partner, CEO Jonas Nicholson, had set up a number of offshore call centers in the 1990s and realized the same technology could empower Americans with disabilities and military families by enabling them to work from home.

It’s part of a growing movement to bring contact center jobs to America. Direct Interactions’ 200 agents work from home, providing customer support for technology companies, city governments and organizations interested in demonstrating their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Nicholson noted that in addition to the good work of providing meaningful work to America’s veterans, the company’s work-from-home model gives it many competitive advantages.

“Because our agents work from home, we can recruit top talent nationwide and be selective about whom we hire,” Nicholson told us. “Another advantage is that our agents stick around longer than the average call center rep. The average turnover rate is around 50 percent, but with our agents it’s less than 10 percent.”

Direct Interactions Uses 8x8 Cloud Communications to Help Expansion

Over the next three years, Nicholson plans to expand its workforce to 1,000 agents nationwide. At the same time, Nicholson hopes other companies will be inspired by Direct Interactions, which has been recognized by the State of Washington and various nonprofits for its efforts in creating jobs for people with disabilities.

“Working from home is a winning trend, and so is hiring people with disabilities,” said Nicholson. “We would like to see more companies copy us, and are happy to advise anyone interested in using 8x8 technology to build a more inclusive workforce. 8x8’s reliability and superior voice quality make them a great technology partner.”

“Profitability is not the only driver behind today’s businesses,” noted 8x8 CEO Vik Verma. “Being a good corporate citizen is increasingly important to executives, employees, customers and shareholders alike. Using 8x8’s cloud-based Virtual Contact Center, companies can remove barriers to employment and create opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people by allowing them to work almost anywhere.”

Distributed Workers Still Get Great Call Quality—Wherever They Are

To support its highly distributed model, Direct Interactions relies on 8x8 Virtual Contact Center to centrally route calls to agents’ homes, without sacrificing call quality. In addition, 8x8 provides online tools that make it easy for agents to manage customer interactions efficiently and deliver a high-quality customer experience.

“One of the biggest challenges of the home agent model is finding ways to help the supervisors monitor customer interactions,” said Nicholson. “8x8 provides tools that let them listen to calls, record calls, and run reports so they can tell when agents need more training.”

Although many of the company’s home-based agents are disabled, they don’t require any special equipment to use 8x8 Virtual Contact Center technology.

“Early on, one of our key requirements was that our contact center had to be compatible with a screen reader because many of our agents have visual impairments,” said Nicholson. “8x8 was more than accommodating in enabling our agents to use their own technology to read what’s on the screen and navigate the contact center functions. Basically, our agents just need a phone, a computer and a high-speed Internet connection. The rest of our 8x8 contact center is in the cloud.”

As contact center experts, Nicholson and his business partner have implemented dozens of “mini” 8x8 contact centers for clients over the years, including CRM integrations. This can take from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on the complexity of the deployment.

“We’ve integrated 8x8 with Salesforce.com. The advantage of Virtual Contact Center integrating with a CRM is that we reduce the average call-handling time and put account information right at the agent’s fingertips,” said Nicholson. “Customers appreciate it when the agent doesn’t have to spend time looking them up and already knows who they are.”

8x8 and I applaud the service of our Veterans, and we are proud to be a part of the effort to help them succeed once they come back home. To Tom Gonzalez and all the rest of our veterans, thanks for all you do—in the military and back at home.

Guy Hecker


Retired Major General Guy L. Hecker, Jr. has served on 8x8's board of directors since August 1997 and has been lead director since January 2010. He logged 212 combat hours in fighter aircraft in Vietnam, and is an enthusiastic supporter of programs that help veterans. He was awarded a number of military decorations, including the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit (twice) and the Distinguished Flying Cross. [...] Read More >