As contact center leaders, we are constantly being asked to do more with less; but still provide an exceptional customer experience. Contact centers have embraced the work at home model to meet these increasing demands for a few reasons.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the typical at home employee saves the company over $11,000 per year and according to a recent report from Inc Magazine at home workers are 20% more productive. As a result of the returns in productivity and cost savings 3.7 million American employees (2.5% of the workforce) now works from home (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).
But managing a remote workforce can bring its own challenges. There are countless ways to effectively manage your at home workforce and covering all of them is a daunting task, but for those just starting out and those looking to continually make improvements; this article will provide 5 tips for setting up an effective at home agent management program.
Have the Right Technology
The advent of VOIP and Cloud based technology have revolutionized call distribution platforms and allowed for explosive growth in the remote agent workforce. In order to effectively support calls from agents homes, you first must have the call platforms and technology to route the call over the internet; or in some rare cases over landlines. Most major contact center platforms have remote worker capability, but if yours does not, there are countless systems that will meet your needs at a reasonable cost per agent. If you need to research a new platform start your research with CallCenterPRO Consulting. We work with hundreds of technology providers including: NiceInContact, Bright Pattern, Five9, 8X8, talkdesk, Jive, Avaya, Cisco, DialPad, Fuze, Genesis, Mitel, RingCentral and many others. With CallCenterPRO we will create your requirements document, RFP and Decision guides that are customized to your unique needs, then bring in the best partners, eliminating the wasted time reviewing partners that are not a fit.
Increase your Communication
In my consulting business, I conduct employee engagement programs at many contact centers and consistently see lower scores on communication than the leadership expects. I remind my clients to look at every job they have had and ask if they felt they knew everything that was happening that affected them, or always felt communication could be improved. I have learned that no matter how strong you think your communication channels are, continual improvement processes for communication are essential to growth and succeed.
In your virtual contact center the effects of poor communication are exponentially higher. Remember you can’t simple tape communication up on the break room door and have people see your message, you can’t hang balloons for your top people or have certificates of excellent strewn throughout peoples work spaces. You must think virtually to communicate good news, performance excellent and changes that affect the agents; and the role they play in the customer experience, mission and vision of the company.
A virtual contact center must have a virtual communication model. I find that if you have the budget you can set up a single sign on platform that starts every agent on a communication board (company Intranet) that shares the topics of interest for each day that affects your organizational goals and vision, performance metrics leaders, kudos for exceptional service or ideas that impacted the organization are a great start for topics to post for all to see.
Next, you should establish required daily communication between agents and supervisors. With At Home agents communication daily with a supervisor is critical. Adherence to this program need to be mandatory and managed. If you let at home agent work all day with no interaction with leadership, they can feel even more distanced and less engaged.
Finally ensure your remote workforce has access to an up to date knowledge base that includes all the information and resources they need to service the customers as well as all the information they need as an employee of your company, including policies benefits and contact information for various departments within your organization.
Create a Community
But an intranet and communications is only the beginning. With virtual agents, the agents cannot simply ask the person next to them a question or raise their hand to get a supervisor, you need to establish processes and tools the agent can use to communicate with each other and the leadership to build a community that works together to exceed the customer expectations and pushed forward the mission and vision of the company. .
One on One chat tools for supervisors and agents to communicate in real time are essential for escalations, questions and collaboration on best practices. Additionally it can serve as a communication tool for people to build relationship and report with coworkers.
Chat rooms for social exchange – Agents want to feel they are part of a community and want to get to know their coworkers. Remember contact center agents are social people, and providing them a path for social interaction is critical for retention and employee satisfaction. I like to also plan events in the major areas that I recruit my at-home agents so our teams can get together socially, to build rapport and friendships.
Measure for Success
Contact centers are one of the most measured departments in most companies and remote workers can easily be measured for success, just like you do with your brick and Mortar agents. Availability/Adherence, Utilization, Average Handle Time, Customer Satisfaction and any other metric you have in place can and should be measured.
But with At-home agents the measurement tools can play a larger role in the management of your contact center. You can’t simply “walk the floor” in a virtual contact center, so the technology tools and monitoring features have to become your new “waking the floor” methodology.
Provide more Feedback and Coaching
I recommend front line supervisors spend time listening in on agent calls throughout the day. Not just for required Quality Assurance goals, but to effectively understand the unique strengths and areas of improvement of each of their agents. In these “walking the floor” exercises, I suggest the supervisors listen in on calls for a minute or two and move to the next agent, so they get a snapshot of the tone of the center and activity. This also provides them real-time information on call trends that may need to be shared with stakeholders or senior leadership. It is important to note, “Walking the Floor” is not to be combined with Quality Assurance, although it can provide a great base for the actual quality assurance score carding in the future.
Supervisors cannot do it alone, so I recommend having Quality Assurance, senior leadership and stakeholders also conduct “walking the Floor exercises throughout the week. I also have our QA team, training team and stakeholders listen in on calls throughout the day.
Finally I would ask stakeholders, other departments and leadership staff to conduct secret shopper calls to determine gaps in performance and programs to increase the customer satisfaction and improve customer experience and effort.
At home agents require a new thought pattern for management, create new programs, ask the agents what they need to better provide exceptional service and engage people from other departments to help improve the processes, a little extra effort goes a long way and helps you achieve your goals and ultimately, a satisfied customer.
Do you want to set up an amazing work from home program. Start with CallCenterPRO Consulting. We are the experts.