During a recent webinar, a panel of contact center executives met to discuss the challenges of enabling remote agents without disrupting operations or the quality of customer care. They also shared their own experiences with implementing work from home strategies and the lessons they’ve learned over the past few months.
Providing the right technology
When it comes to remote work, few things are more important than using the right technology. As John Finch, AVP Product Marketing for Customer Engagement at RingCentral shared, companies need cloud-based solutions that allow customer service agents to reach other employees throughout the organization. By bridging the gap between contact centers and other parts of the company, the full team can come together to solve customer issues more effectively.
“And so bringing it together actually enables those agents, especially today, that are now working from home, to be able to collaborate, not only with one another on best practices and how to solve solutions, but tap back into the rest of the organization…to help with whatever’s necessary to solve that particular interaction or question that comes in,” he said. “So by bringing those two things together, you allow for that collaboration and it really starts to make the whole organization a customer-centric organization.”
Creating a remote work plan
For one of the executives, director of contact center solutions at a higher education organization, a work-from-home contingency plan was already in place to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane affecting their South Florida location.
“So basically we took that same emergency preparedness contingency plan and went from 33% of our 700 customer-facing staff to a hundred percent around five days,” he said. “That was basically getting with our technology officers and making sure our operations team had everything they needed to be transparent and also autonomous with their teams.”
For others, however, a company-wide remote strategy was quickly developed to address the sudden impact of COVID-19.
“We absolutely were not prepared,” the managing director of delivery engineering at a higher learning institution said. “So we hurried up and did a lot of training for people and made sure we had a lot of software downloaded on our customer-facing agent laptops. [We] sent everybody home and they’re working from all over the world now and it’s actually been really amazing how well it’s gone.”
Measuring the effects on productivity
For all of the executives, remote work brought significant changes to typical work schedules. As team members gained more workplace flexibility, they began seeing improvements for manager and agent productivity, as well as customer service.
For the director of contact center solutions at a higher education organization, working from home allowed their team to consistently hit better contact action rates than they were ever able to achieve in office.
“We looked at our QA because [productivity is] one thing, but how’s the customer experience? Are we trying to get better by being less attentive?” he said. “And then we reached out to experience teams [to discover] what the students were saying, what are our Survey Monkey results? Do they like this new level of service? [What we found was] it wasn’t just a blip. It’s steady.”
Maintaining a positive workplace culture
Though team members weren’t seeing each other on a regular basis anymore, the executives found that interpersonal connections increased with remote work. Contact center managers checked in with agents more frequently to check on their well-being and also to build a sense of community, even across the distance.
“We’ve been encouraging people to send us their success stories. And as we get those, we broadcast them in our weekly, all-hands meeting, but then we send them cookies or something like that to their home,” the managing director of delivery engineering said. “We just say, you know, thank you for doing all of your hard work. Thank you for stepping up when we really needed you. And it is amazing, the joy that a chocolate chip cookie will bring.”
Contact centers can further optimize company culture by utilizing contact center platform tools such as chat and agent coaching tools as well as solutions such as video conferencing and all-hands webinars to keep everyone on the same page and pulling from the latest company policies and procedures as well as give both managers and agents the support they need to succeed from home.
“You’re more readily available, but you’re also able to manage [remote employees] from a technology perspective and give people the training and support they need and ensure that quality interactions are happening without too much effort,” Finch said.
Originally published Jun 18, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022