In disaster recovery and business continuity planning, one of the most important functions to keep operational is your organisation’s contact centre. For most organisations, maintaining lines of communication with your customers, constituents or the general public is critical.
In a typical disaster recovery (DR) situation, you would move your critical customer-facing agents to a dedicated business continuity facility, or divert inbound customer communications to an alternate contact centre if you are also operating in another location. We’ve already seen this play out in Australia with the bushfires throughout our eastern States.
However, in the case of the current pandemic, these DR measures have been increasingly difficult. As various states and countries around the world restrict the movement of people, the option of sending staff to an alternate facility is off the table. And, you don’t even have the option to bring an offshore contact centre online.
For those organisations who already operate distributed contact centres with agents working from home or remotely, this isn’t such an issue. However, if your organisation has dedicated contact centre facilities and agents, and you are currently grappling with ‘making do’ with what you have right now – here are two key considerations for improving the home experience for agents:
1. Remote access to contact centre functionality and other systems
Can your agents log in from home, access your universal queues for voice, email and chat, and receive and make contact with customers from their computer, tablet or smartphone? Can your agents also securely access internal systems and databases that will enable them to look up customer records, and take whatever steps are required to action customer requests?
If your contact centre solution is integrated with your cloud unified communications platform, this should be possible – if not, this is something to absolutely consider moving forward. Cloud communications systems can not only be set up quickly, they also provide the flexibility and accessibility required when working away from an office environment.
2. Management visibility
With a remote and distributed workforce, are you able to maintain visibility on call volumes and queues, agent availability and any other data that you use to manage your contact centre operations? A good cloud contact centre solution can provide you this view no matter where you or your agents are located.
Are you keeping your agents motivated, engaged and connected with their colleagues in what is now a virtual workplace? While you may answer yes to this – how disjointed is the current solution you have in place? Is everyone using the same technology? Is it secure, it is integrated, and can your agents share files and chat during these video calls? Again, these are all features available today.
The silver lining
The impact of this pandemic has been devastating in many parts of the world, on communities and families, on our healthcare system and health workers, and for our economy and the livelihood of a lot of people and businesses.
However, one benefit that we hope to see from this is the realisation that adopting flexible working policies and incorporating work from home agents as part of your contact centre infrastructure will make your organisation more resilient and adaptable in the future.
Adopting a remote workforce means you can hire staff based on their capabilities and fitness for the role, rather than their location. In fact, 85% of Australian businesses already use flexible working policies to attract and retain top talent (The IWG Global Workspace Survey, March 2019) – which should include your contact centre agents.
For your staff, they are often more productive working from home; they save time on commuting, and it gives them more time to spend with their family for a better work-life balance.
There are a vast array of technologies available out there to help you work from home, but it’s important to avoid the trap of throwing in a lot of different solutions as a band aid fix to the problem. As time goes on this will only add to the complexity of the transition, potentially increasing the stress on agents and managers, and also have a negative impact on the customer experience. What about when ‘life returns to normal’ – will your agents accept the old normal as the new normal?
In recent advice to customer service leaders, Gartner analyst Olive Huang recommended a browser-based or cloud contact centre (CCaaS) solution “to allow better elasticity in capacity and allow contact centre agents and supervisors to work at home”. Huang also advises that while most CCaaS vendors are currently offering short-term free licences, “what’s more important is the speed of the transition. How long does it take to get it up and running, and are there guidance on implementations?”
In Australia, RingCentral has already transitioned many organisations during this crisis in record time. If you have moved your agents to home but are still struggling, please get in touch – we can transition your in-office agents to productive home agents in as little as 48 hours, giving your team the tools they need for the ‘new normal’ now, and into the future.
Originally published 20 Apr, 2020, updated 22 Apr, 2020