Contact centres are now no strangers to remote work. According to a study by Nemertes Research, 59% of contact centres around the world enabled at least some of their staff to work from a home office pre-COVID-19. That figure now rose to 74.1% as pandemic measures forced companies to close offices and transition into virtual contact centres. Once authorities lift these restrictions, 70.7% of businesses are likely to continue allowing agents to work from home (WFH) in some capacity.
As it transpires, empowering agents with the flexibility to influence their working hours and environment translates into lower agent turnover and greater employee loyalty. Frost & Sullivan says that the retention rate for at-home agents is 80% versus 25% for in-house.
A study presented in the Harvard Business Review, for example, showed that remote workers accomplished almost a full additional day’s amount of work per week when compared to on-site employees. Another study found that 45% of remote employees can get more done in less time and 44% are less distracted and more productive than they would be at the office.
Companies with a cloud-based solution are now able to move contact centre agents from the office to home working with ease if they so need or desire. However, some have considered never going back to the office, contact centre agents included.
Optimised flexibility and productivity
Contact centres that implement flexible working policies create greater scope for agents to work the hours that suit them. This helps them achieve a better work-life balance, which contributes to higher job satisfaction and feeds directly into employee retention. Every good manager knows happier employees provide better customer service.
Of course, as with any new way of working there are challenges. In the case of remote contact centre agents, the key areas to consider include:
- How can agents keep up with changes in company policies and learning?
- How can they stay engaged?
- How do companies ensure remote agents are in the loop with what’s going on across the company?
- How can teams keep motivation high and avoid feelings of isolation and disconnection?
Agents working from home can’t walk the floor physically to their colleagues or supervisor to ask for help. Now that customers are more demanding, uncertainty is high and emotions are taut, working from home agents need support more than ever. With call volumes increasing, along with queries over multiple other channels from customers, companies start to shift interactions from voice to digital while keeping the costs low. Customer engagement now takes place in the digital space. How can contact centres and customer service agents keep up with new technology?
Best practices for work-from-home agents
- Organisations should enable remote agents through flexible scheduling and agents should proactively let their supervisor know if any issues arise that require changing the schedule.
- Contact centre managers can work together with agents on a pattern that is best for them and the company, a win-win situation to suit the business and individuals to achieve optimum cover that extends helpline support.
- Clear communication of company policies and procedures is a must. Keep communication open and follow guidelines.
- Use an easy-to-use collaboration app like the RingCentral app to keep teams together. Use this single interface to collaborate across the business via messaging, video and phone, along with file sharing and calendar integrations to make work go that much smoother.
- Expand your knowledge and be ready to train in skills so you’re prepared to step in and fill the gap if needed.
- Conduct regular updates through meetings such as 1-2-1s with your manager, and be available to attend team meetings and share best practices.
- Be a part of a supportive remote working culture and remote working community.
What does a successful work-from-home agent model look like?
- Contact centre as a service (CCaaS): solutions and agent consoles are now so advanced that a device and internet connection are all that are needed to effectively carry out most call centre customer operations. Basic equipment needed: computer & headset.
- Team meetings: video, daily check-in, pre-shift meetings.
- Access to experts and documentation to help via a team collaboration application, via message, video and phone, along with file sharing and key integrations. Agents can conference in or transfer calls to experts to help with specific customer situations.
- Technology that enables an omni-channel customer experience.
- Regular training sessions and sharing of best practices.
- A reliable knowledge base – learn how new digital interaction channels improve customer experience and increase agent productivity.
- Power of the cloud – dashboards for managers and agents.
How much of this setup does your remote contact centre already have in place?
Thank you for getting this far. In my next post I’ll talk more about how to manage a remote team, which challenges to expect and what tools are out there to keep remote teams organised. I’ll also look at what contact centre managers can do to keep their agents engaged and productive.
Originally published Aug 04, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023