Your contact center exists to create the ultimate customer experience for anyone who interacts with your business. As a manager, you are responsible to use your resources to develop a team of agents that provides excellent customer service, a task that grows more difficult with a remote contact center set-up.
When your agents are spread across a distance, you don’t have the ability to physically monitor a majority of the interactions that occur. While you might notice when an employee feels frustrated or upset by a call taken on-site, you don’t have the same visibility for agents who work at home. Instead, you have to rely on the policies you have in place and your contact center tools to monitor employee satisfaction.
High customer satisfaction is strongly correlated with agent happiness, which makes your remote employee’s engagement even more important to your success. To optimize your employee experiences and improve customer service, you need to prioritize agent engagement from the start of their journey at your contact center. Only then can you create the customer experience your consumers deserve.
How to engage employees to support customers better
Engaging your agents looks a bit different than it would in an on-site location. You can’t walk the floor, hold full team gatherings, or greet employees as they enter and leave. You can, however, use collaboration and management tools to motivate your team through video conferencing, team messaging, and email communication.
To keep your employees happy and help them feel engaged and empowered, use these employee engagement strategies throughout your contact center.
1. Create a positive work culture
When your agents are separated by distance, your company culture becomes even more important. Start by developing and sharing your company values. Help agents understand more about the company and why you do what you do. This then empowers them to provide a great brand experience for your customers.
You should also use your contact center’s communication tools to encourage team collaboration. Connect for meetings, but also involve employees in fun activities that help your team bond. Get employee feedback on product updates. Hold brainstorming sessions. Encourage your agents to be engaged employees by actively engaging them in their homes. Create a work environment that makes your agents excited to come to work every day.
2. Optimize your customer service efforts
Even the best employees will struggle without the right tools. Help your agents thrive by providing resources that will support and improve their efforts.
Contact center software
As agents working from home, your team relies on the quality of your contact center platform to stay connected. Choose a solution that provides instant, easy access to customer information when an agent is handling an interaction. Support effective collaboration with team messaging and video conferencing features. Offer numerous integrations and features, such as social media, to help your agents delight customers with amazing experiences.
Customer support hardware
Though your cloud-based solution won’t need its own hardware, your employees will still require some tools as they work remotely. Provide your agents with computers and/or mobile devices that are compatible with your software requirements. If they will be taking phone calls, supply softphones and headsets with microphones. Powerful internet service is essential for remote work, so ensure your employees can stay online with a reliable connection.
3. Avoid problems with clear work-from-home policies
Working from home is a dream come true for many workers. The transition offers the chance to work when, where, and how you want, right?
Maybe not so much.
Why does it matter?
Though remote work does improve workplace satisfaction, it’s critical to empower employees to produce their best work at all times. While it doesn’t matter if agents work in their pajamas while making calls, you don’t want people wearing sweatpants to team meetings. And, though it may be more enjoyable to work from Starbucks, too much background noise can quickly damage experiences for customers calling for support.
What should my policies include?
First, help your agents understand your expectations for their workspace. Phone support agents should have a quiet space to work, preferably with a door they can close. If your agents are parents, they need additional childcare to help them focus on their work. As much as you want to create incredible employee experiences, it’s also important to maintain a professional environment.
Agents should also know what you expect during work hours. Set productivity goals to help them stay on-task. Remote work isn’t for everyone, but these policies will give everyone the best chance to succeed.
4. Utilize gamification and employee recognition
Your agents work hard to drive customer experiences that encourage loyalty and improve your customer satisfaction. Reward your employees for the work they do by gamifying your customer service interactions and adding a bit of fun to your company’s culture. Though it doesn’t take much effort on your end, it can do wonders for workplace engagement.
Everyone is a little competitive, so adding incentives to your operations can bring out the best work in all of your employees. You can offer prizes to the agents who complete the most interactions, have the highest customer ratings, achieve the largest number of first-contact resolutions, and more. This employee recognition pushes agents to work harder and keeps employees happy with the results they’re able to achieve.
Prizes can be as valuable as additional paid time or as simple as company merch. Whether you offer gift cards, cash, or electronics, however, just make sure your agents are motivated by the rewards you offer.
5. Optimize agent training and development
Successful agent engagement starts during training. As new employees join your team, focus on providing the tools, information, and experience they need to thrive in your virtual contact center. Prioritize confidence and competence with every aspect of their work to encourage satisfaction and retainment.
Provide guided support
During the training process and as agents begin handling interactions on their own, offer your continued support every step of the way. Though you can’t sit with them physically, supervisors can use chat coaching and whisper feature tools to guide agents through customer conversations. This will help remote workers feel more confident about working on their own and navigating through your contact center system. No matter what happens, they’ll know that support is available whenever they need it.
Encourage active listening
When contacting a business about a problem or complaint, customers like to feel valued and heard. Training agents to act as active listeners when hearing customer stories can then lead to higher customer satisfaction ratings.
Teach employees to hear without interrupting, allowing customers to finish their sentences before replying. Agents can also repeat the information they hear, showing customers that they’re listening and giving them the opportunity to clarify what they say. This additional investment in the customer’s problem can quickly lead to more positive outcomes and experiences.
Promote in-depth company knowledge
Customers who interact with your company are looking for a quick answer or solution. They may have already consulted the internet for a resolution, so they’re expecting your employees to be experts on both your company and products.
Encourage comprehensive company knowledge by giving your agents access to a shared knowledge base with relevant info. This resource library should be easy to access, empowering agents to find any answers they need in just moments.
Provide conflict management training
Though you can’t eliminate or prevent negative interactions, you can prepare your agents to best handle and resolve them. Your training procedures should include tips and procedures for effective conflict management. This can include language or specific phrases that can deescalate a situation. If they need help, agents should know what resources are available, including whisper coaching and call barging assistance from supervisors.
Most importantly, your remote employees should be encouraged to practice empathy and patience in all of their customer interactions. This starts with the training you offer, but it continues in the example you set for your employees. In every situation, model and promote the ways you want agents to handle conflict. Help them offer genuine empathy to create a positive experience, even if they can’t reach the outcome the customer desires.
6. Provide coaching and mentorship
The best contact center management doesn’t stop coaching agents once they graduated from the training period. Instead, develop a mentorship program that pairs experienced agents with new hires. As friendships grow between employees, your mentorship program will also strengthen your agent engagement. The combined efforts of mentors and supervisor coaching will ensure every agent is equipped to succeed.
Offer data-driven coaching
To most effectively encourage agent improvement and growth, use data-driven insights from your contact center solution to provide targeted feedback. Real-time analysis of agent interactions allows you to pinpoint specific weaknesses. You can use this information, supported by data from historical reporting, to improve employee efforts for a better experience for employees and customers alike.
Gather employee and customer feedback
When you place importance on an employee’s feedback, you show that they are a valuable part of your team. This is especially useful for remote employees because it allows you to understand the experiences agents have when you can’t be directly involved. Improve your contact center management by supporting active conversation throughout your team. When people are more comfortable in the place they work, they can offer more valuable suggestions.
Customer insights are another great way to measure the success of your customer service. You can ask customers to provide feedback in numerous ways, including the use of survey software. Customers can complete surveys after a call, on your website, or by email, providing a new perspective on your operations. This is also a powerful method for agent performance management. Gathering feedback on interactions allows you to identify weak areas you wouldn’t have seen otherwise, further improving the customer experience you can offer.
7. Promote agent wellness
Agent burnout can quickly isolate any employee, especially if they work from home. Encourage your agents to practice self-care by setting work schedules that mimic on-site shifts. They should take lunch breaks away from their desks, giving themselves a mental reprieve from work. Spending some time outside or away from the computer can limit mental fatigue, especially after a difficult interaction.
Most importantly, strongly discourage working after hours. Letting work interrupt personal life can lead to increased stress and resentment toward your job. Instead, remind employees to keep work and home life separate, even in they occur in the same place. This will keep your employees more satisfied and engaged during the time they devote to your work.
Are you ready to build a contact center that provides excellent customer service through effective remote employee engagement?
Want to connect with customers right away? Take advantage of RingCentral’s customer engagement solution free of charge or explore our omnichannel cloud contact center solution.
Originally published Jun 04, 2020, updated Oct 06, 2020