- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- February 28, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic helped to usher in several changes in the ways organizations interact with customers. From the use of QR menus in restaurants to the advent of buy-online, pickup-in-store services, organizations needed to shift the way they conduct business, and many of these changes have remained in place, even as COVID-19 has faded away.
Behind the scenes, another shift has taken place. Companies that once relied on sales, support, and customer service workers located in centralized contact centers have shifted to employing remote or hybrid workforces, which provide both workers and companies with greater flexibility, the ability to quickly scale during times of high inquiry volume, and reduced expenses, largely around infrastructure (such as office space rent, utilities, and hardware costs.)
According to a January 2022 PwC executive survey, 43% of respondents said they would keep offering hybrid work options for employees, and 30% said they would make remote work a permanent option. As such, maximizing the effectiveness and value of using remote workers to handle contact center tasks requires a mix of contact center technology, workforce management software, and effective policies and procedures to ensure operations run smoothly, while retaining workers.
Some of the key tactics to get the most out of remote contact center workers include:
Provide multiple training modalities to ensure each agent can succeed: A key tactic to ensure agent success is to offer multiple training modalities and methods that allow workers to select the learning style that works best for them. Some workers are more visually oriented, and find self-paced videos effective in learning new tasks or procedures. Others may prefer simulation and role-playing as a key learning device, whereas other workers might learn best through a traditional, instructor-led, lecture-based training program. Remote workers may find it helpful to train under the supervision of another agent, to better learn the ropes of handling interactions without the pressure of a supervisor looking over their shoulder all the time.
Consider gamification to engage and motivate agents: Gamification, or providing scores and prizes for completing everyday tasks, can not only make work feel more like a game, but also drive and support competition among peers to help lift the performance of the entire team. Examples of rewards include gift cards, paid time off, dinner vouchers, and gadgets. Rewards should be focused on achieving or exceeding key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the factors that customers value the most, such as improving customer satisfaction, reducing customer effort, and displaying empathy with the customer’s situation.
Leverage team collaboration tools to create a team environment: While workers may be physically separated, it still makes sense to foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration. This can be especially helpful with integrating new workers, who can benefit from immediate assistance from seasoned colleagues through instant messaging/chat, without interrupting their workflow by needing to call or email them.
Chat features, scheduling tools, and work allocation tools are often incorporated into larger contact center platforms and applications, and allow greater visibility across the workforce. This helps remote workers feel more like they are part of a group, as opposed to a single worker in a vacuum.
Companies that provide these types of tools within a larger suite of contact center platforms include NiceCXone, Talkdesk, Genesys Cloud CX, ServiceNow Customer Service Management, CloudTalk, Five9, 8×8, RingCentral, and others.
Deploy quality management (QM) software to monitor and improve agent performance: Even in traditional contact centers, it is imperative to monitor agents’ work to identify their potential strengths and weaknesses, and proactively address issues that may impact the customer experience. In a remote or hybrid setting, the use of QM software is even more important to ensure agents are working up to their potential, and are not violating corporate policies, legal statutes, or contact center best practices. QM software allows managers to remotely review customer interactions across all channels to identify interactions or instances in which improvement is needed, or situations where praise is warranted. Examples of QM software include MaestroQA, Klaus, EvaluAgent, Medallia Agent Connect, Scorebuddy, and others.
Create a company culture to improve agent engagement and loyalty: A major challenge with managing remote workers is ensuring that these employees feel that they are a part of the larger organization, who are connected to the business, their work, and the organization’s goals. Because these workers rarely see or interact with their peers or their superiors in person, it can be more challenging to engender a positive culture among remote contact center agents.
Regularly reinforce to agents that their work matters to the larger enterprise via a targeted reward programs based around supporting the KPIs that matter to the customer, and, by extension, the corporation. Regular video conference team building meetings also helps to reinforce agents’ role as important corporate ambassadors, as can feedback sessions, where agents are encouraged to discuss the aspects of their job that need improvement or are causing significant frustration. Regular interaction with peers and managers can improve agents’ engagement with the company, job satisfaction, and the overall management of remote contact centers.
By finding better ways to manage remote contact center agents, organizations can provide more flexibility and independence for workers, while reducing costs and improving CX.
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