Over the past few months, working from home has become the rule, not the exception. From just mid-March to mid-April, the number of American workers who have worked remotely doubled to 62%. And as a recent study in the U.S. found, 80% of remote workers are happy to be working from home even during pandemic conditions, which may hinder a return to the office or for agents, supervisors, and managers — the contact center.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to develop new strategies to protect employees, virtual contact centers quickly took the place of traditional customer service operations. Even as businesses prepare to resume typical processes, it is clear that remote work is now a permanent part of contact center operations and customer service delivery.
Businesses with contact center agents now have to reevaluate their contact center management and workforce management. How do you successfully integrate at-home agents and virtual contact centers in a way that maintains customer satisfaction without disrupting business continuity?
What is a virtual contact center?
When organizations use a cloud contact center solution to connect virtual agents to your customer base, they have taken the first steps in creating a virtual contact center. Cloud contact center software solutions allow organizations to build a global team that offers excellent customer experiences, no matter the time of day or the physical location of agents.
Consequently, since customer service operations are no longer limited by geography or physical needs, organizations can improve customer care, agent productivity and retention, and customer loyalty.
Why should organizations invest in a virtual contact center?
With contact center agents working from home, what used to be a stop-gap just a few months back is now proving to be a very real scenario for many organizations, and organizations must be prepared to embrace this new reality for both their customers and their internal teams.
Just as the contact center has changed, customer expectations continue to evolve and are becoming increasingly more demanding.
Consumers demand a contact center model that facilitates quick and friendly customer service and speedy resolutions via phone — but it goes much beyond that. Today’s customers also expect to access the digital channels of their choice to connect with companies as well as the ability to chat and message with sales staff, among other expectations. A virtual contact center solution allows organizations to continue meeting these needs while also prioritizing workforce optimization, which leads to valuable benefits throughout their operations.
1. Improved customer service
There are numerous ways remote work can strengthen an organization’s customer service offering. Whether running an outbound call centers or handling inbound customer inquiries, a cloud contact center software and work-from-home agents can make a significant difference to an organization’s customer satisfaction.
Extended customer service hours
Using remote agents eliminates many of the problems associated with 24/7 customer service. Whether based in the United Kingdom or North America, organizations can employ agents around the world that can fill the shifts that workers in a single time zone (where the contact center may be based for example) may not want. Organizations can more easily keep their “doors” and lines of communication open to customers when it’s most convenient for them to reach out or deliver customer service when they need it most, after hours for example.
The comfort and flexibility offered by remote work creates a more relaxed — but not less productive — working environment for many employees. In fact, studies show that at-home workers are 35-40% more productive than those who work in the office.
Cloud contact centers provide the productivity tools managers, supervisors and agents need to do their best work, regardless of their location. For example,
- Supervisors can use a video conferencing software to hold daily team-wide stands ups at the start of a shift.
- Supervisors can monitor live calls and offer coaching help via built-in cloud contact center software tools.
- When integrated with an organization’s UCaaS platform, agents can easily reach product experts for faster customer service resolutions.
Maintaining strong workforce engagement can also lead to more positive attitudes and satisfying experiences for both agents and customers.
2. Lower contact center costs
Moving agents to a remote contact center set-up can quickly create savings for almost any organization. With remote customer support teams, organizations can eliminate the need for a physical contact center location. This creates enormous savings in costs such as utilities, real estate, office supplies, equipment, and more. For effective contact center management, however, organizations will still need to utilize a built-for-the cloud contact center solution and provide resources for remote agents.
Virtual contact center tools
Organizations should be ready and willing to provide agents with laptops, microphone-equipped headsets, and high-quality internet service. It’s also imperative to use a cloud contact center solution that offers the features remote employees need to thrive in their new environment.
Look for features such as IVR systems, call recording, omnichannel routing, call monitoring, and shared access to a resource library. Give agents easy access to customers’ information through sales CRM integrations. For inbound call centers, automatic call distribution (ACD) is a mustang for outbound campaigns, various dialing modes such as a predictive dialer can be a game-changer. Most importantly, organizations must continuously empower and invest in agents to help them do their best work.
3. Higher employee satisfaction and retention
When the COVID-19 crisis suddenly forced organizations to implement remote working, many wondered about the outcome of such a radical shift. Several months into this new normal, however, it’s clear that many employees are performing as well or better than they were before. No matter how your contact center managed agents before, you now have the opportunity to create new policies and procedures that capitalize on the benefits of working from home.
The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly changing how every organization is attracting, recruiting, and retaining employees on their virtual teams, making remote work the new normal. Recruiting remotely gives organizations the ability to find the best customer service talent, regardless of agent location, and reversely gives agents the opportunity to seek roles at well-paying, reputable organizations and consequently a better quality of life even when they’re located in more remote areas outside of large city centers.
Reduce agent churn
Happy employees are much more likely to remain with their employers. With WFM features
agents can choose the schedule, workspace, and setting that works best for them, creating positivity that transfers to customers, further allowing remote customer service teams to enjoy better interactions and less stress, offering improved experiences for agents, supervisors, managers, and customers.
Focus on employee engagement
Many at-home agents are more satisfied with the flexibility and comfort they enjoy while working remotely. Now that organizations have seen that these employees can maintain excellent results at home, they can sustain greater workforce happiness by implementing a work-from-home policy for those who want it. As they do, employee engagement is critical and organizations should have the plans and tools in place to connect over regular video chats, hold fun remote and team building events, and recognize agents’ contributions and hard work.
Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Aug 27, 2020