The customer experience is key to business success. As a contact center manager, this means that your business depends on you and your agents to deliver high-quality, valuable results through your customer service.
Agent productivity is an important part of achieving these excellent results. To help your contact center agents do more with their time, you first have to empower them with the technology, tools, and support they need to accomplish great things.
Though agent empowerment is critical to every call center’s success, it’s especially important when working with remote agents. Happy employees are more productive and engaged, which helps you save money by reducing overheads and minimizing lost business. If you want to achieve improved results in your own contact center, you first need to successfully manage and motivate your remote employees.
How to guarantee contact center agent productivity when working from home
When transitioning to a remote cloud contact center, productivity is one of the primary concerns most managers have about the switch. If you can’t keep track of agents visually, how can you maintain or improve agent performance?
You may fear that your remote workers will slack off without constant supervision, but the growing popularity of working from home has shown that the opposite is true. Research has found the following:
- 85% of businesses that offer a remote work option say that greater working flexibility led to increased productivity
- 77% of remote workers report being more productive than they were in the office
- 23% of remote employees work longer hours from home than they did on-site
- 53% of remote employees say they take less time off than they would if working in the office
Allowing contact center agents to work from home can produce greater results, but remote work doesn’t automatically improve productivity. Instead, contact center managers must be intentional about the support and resources they provide for agents. Only then can their remote contact centers truly benefit from a remote workforce.
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1. Provide autonomy
The growth of automated technology has vastly changed the contact center landscape and customer experiences. Interactive voice response (IVR) systems now guide customers through your phone system before they even speak with a call center agent. Chatbots and artificial intelligence features provide answers to commonly asked questions, freeing agents from these often tedious and repetitive interactions.
As technology has filled this role, agents are now free to manage a wider range of difficult challenges and questions. Whether they are handling a complex call or answering FAQs, it’s important to offer guidance and support for all of your agents’ interactions while still giving them the autonomy to find their own solutions.
Successful at-home agents are typically self-motivating and invested in their work. Giving workers more control over their interactions allows agents to determine the best answer to each problem, rather than making a standard answer work for a unique conversation. Rather than hanging over your employees’ shoulders, let agents engage as they see fit. This can improve customer satisfaction through increased first-contact resolution while also making your employee experience more enjoyable.
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Offer ready support
You should give your agents the freedom to make decisions on their own, but it’s also critical to maintain open lines of communication with all of your home call center agents. Make sure your employees know that you are always available for questions and support. Whether they are dealing with a complex question or an FAQ, agents need to have confidence in their ability to get the help they need.
For effective communication, your contact center software should provide multiple ways to offer support. A call recording tool, for instance, allows you to monitor your agents’ performance and customer engagement. If you notice a problem, you can use this tool to focus on specific improvements to optimize overall productivity and results. Whisper and call-barging tools offer more ways to offer support, eliminating the stress and emotional distress caused by escalating customer interactions.
2. Ensure easy collaboration
Call center managers are responsible for both on-site agents and remote call center agents. Cloud solutions are a vital tool for your work, allowing you to connect employees to customers and team members across thousands of miles. Your contact center platform should offer unified communications, bringing all of your communication tools into a single solution. When agents can immediately get in touch with each other or supervisors through a chat tool, like RingCentral’s Glip, you’ll see incredible results.
Stay in touch
Internal communication forms the foundation for good relationships and results within your remote contact center. Holding regular team meetings, especially via video conferencing, can increase employee satisfaction and create a sense of community for your agents. Better team communication often leads to more collaboration, allowing agents to share ideas and develop better solutions. Keeping your employees connected can also reduce feelings of isolation created by social distancing, further increasing employee engagement.
Support positive communication
Your contact center workers may not always need supervisor help. When an agent needs to get information from an expert within your company or is seeking info on a digital marketing offer, for example, they should be able to quickly reach out and receive an answer right from their agent desktop. Promote this easy communication by providing effective tools and asking for team collaboration. Encouraging active connections with both management and coworkers will create a more efficient and successful team.
3. Integrate omnichannel engagement
Productivity in the contact center is only possible when call center managers enable agents to meet expectations. Today, customer expectations are higher and more challenging than ever before. To improve customer experiences within your business’ customer service department, your call center software must be an omnichannel, cloud-based solution.
Creating a multi-channel contact center
If your current contact center platform doesn’t allow you to easily connect with customers on multiple channels, even the best agents will struggle to keep consumers moving through the customer journey. To help them keep up, your solution should offer email, social media, text, and live chat, in addition to inbound and outbound call capabilities.
Developing an omnichannel customer experience strategy, combined with unified communications, enables your contact center to stay on top of current customer demands. It also gives you the tools and resources you need to continue thriving in the future.
Offer a seamless customer experience
Customer success stories start with the first experience they have with your brand. An omnichannel solution allows you to make this first contact count, moving seamlessly through multiple channels and questions without having to transfer or put the customer on hold. You can keep each interaction between one agent and customer, providing a solution without the need to gather customer information numerous times or exceed the average handling time.
Your remote agents will have the right tools to fully satisfy customers, cutting response times and increasing first-contact resolution rates.
4. Discover analytics and reporting
Proper quality management uses real-time data on engagement levels and workforce productivity. Your contact center platform needs to provide access to both big-picture and granular information for the greatest benefits. While analytics are important for any customer service operation, they are crucial for the success of a remote contact center.
Evaluate agent performance
You can gain endless insights from your contact center data, but information about agent productivity is critical to achieve the best results. To understand how each agent is performing, for example, you can view statistics on handling times and customer satisfaction ratings. You can also listen in on live calls or evaluate call logs to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Using this data, you can then focus on specific improvements and training.
When working with remote employees, managing performance is especially important. Distance limits your ability to monitor each agent. With your management tools, you can give agents the best opportunity to succeed and improve.
Access regular reports
No matter how useful your contact center data is, you likely don’t have the time to sift through the raw numbers to gain useful insights. Reports allow you to take advantage of your analytics without eating up your time. You can easily understand each agent’s performance and how it affects the rest of your contact center.
Access immediate reporting through your dashboards to monitor and understand your data and performance. This drives productivity that creates results, while also giving you the tools you need to make informed decisions.
5. Supercharge agent efforts
Unlimited potential is one of the many benefits of remote agents in a contact center workforce. Offering greater flexibility can drastically decrease overhead costs, increase access to top talent, and streamline agent efforts. Ensure excellent productivity and results by using your resources to optimize every area of your contact center’s operations.
Improve your processes
When you connect customers to the right agent for their problem from the first interaction, everyone wins. Integrate an IVR system to help agents understand the customer’s reason for calling before even connecting to the call. Use tools like predictive dialers to make every outbound call count. Choose a software solution with excellent uptime to maintain customer happiness before they speak with your agents. By implementing the tools you have, you can give workers the best shot at success.
Utilize workforce management tools
Remote employees often need help with time management, but not in the way you might think. Since your agents aren’t arriving at and leaving an office space at set times, many may struggle to have a healthy work-life balance. Workforce management tools can help you optimize your schedules and simplify shift changes. Using these tools can also help you detect unnecessary overtime, helping remote agents keep work time and home time separate.
6. Prioritize remote agent value
In a time when the customer experience is king, it can be easy to overlook your agents in the pursuit for excellent customer satisfaction. This is especially true for those who work from home, when the “out of sight, out of mind” effect can leave your remote workers feeling undervalued and unappreciated. To keep your customers satisfied with the service they receive, you first need to keep employees happy and engaged.
Avoid agent burnout
Numerous factors can contribute to agent burnout. If your agents feel like you are taking advantage of a flexible work-from-home schedule to meet high call volumes, they may resent their work and dread their shifts. When agents don’t have access to the tools they need or, even worse, if the tools they have limit or degrade the quality of their work, they can become frustrated with the impossibility of your demands.
Providing the resources your employees need can go a long way toward reducing burnout. For even better results, constantly gather feedback on job satisfaction and agent suggestions. Listening to the people on the front lines of your customer service can help you create the ideal environment for top agent satisfaction and productivity.
Show your appreciation
Everyone likes to know when they are doing a good job. Encourage your agents by recognizing those who get the best numbers or receive the highest customer ratings. Offer incentives for increased performance, such as catered lunches, extra time off, or gift cards to popular restaurants. Show agents that you both recognize and appreciate the work they do.
When agents are more willing and excited to create the ultimate experience for your customers, they can deliver an improved bottom line and set your brand apart from your competitors.
How can I make my contact center more efficient?
Contact centers deal with a wide range of challenges, so it’s no surprise that introducing remote work can lead to even greater obstacles. As a call center manager, it’s your job to help your agents do their best work. Though you aren’t with all of your employees physically, you can still provide the resources and support they need to overcome the difficulties they face.
Below, we’ve included some common questions and challenges your remote agents may be facing. See how you can address and solve these issues to create a more efficient and productive contact center overall.
How can I stay productive while working from home?
We are surrounded by distractions, even when working on-site. In a remote agent’s home, however, distractions can seem endless. If agents are struggling or concerned about working with kids, pets, or other home responsibilities around, offer solutions such as:
- Recommend working in a separate room with a door they can close. This reduces the amount of background noise and gives your agents the ability to limit the interruptions.
- Offer flexible scheduling that can work around distractions. For example, let agents work while kids are at school or another caretaker is available to watch them.
- Provide a local co-working space in areas with numerous remote employees. This allows agents to enjoy a quiet, work-dedicated space without creating additional costs.
- Give guidance on work-from-home strategies. Offer training sessions or share resources that help your employees find the perfect mix of home and work.
Most importantly, be forgiving and understanding as home workers find a healthy balance. Your customer stories are important for success, but employee happiness is crucial for incredible results.
How can I stay connected when working remotely?
Your company culture is essential, even when your agents never meet face-to-face. Increasing call center productivity depends on your ability to maintain agent satisfaction and happiness. Keep your team connected by holding regular video meetings. You can also theme these meetings to add extra fun and camaraderie, such as having a team happy hour or a Bring Your Pet to Work Day. As your agents have more fun together, they can build relationships that improve workplace satisfaction.
What if I don’t have the right technology to work from home?
When agents work from home, it’s vital to have the right equipment. Work with all of your employees to test the speed and reliability of their internet connections. If the quality of their network isn’t enough to keep up with work demands, develop a plan to replace or upgrade their service.
You will also need to provide the devices and equipment needed to connect with customers from home. Keep your business functioning efficiently by equipping remote workers with laptops or mobile devices, softphones, and microphone-enabled headsets. Make sure every agent has access to all of the tools on your cloud contact center software, one of the key steps in keeping remote customer service running smoothly. As the voice of customer support, agents should have quick access to tech help at all times to maximize their results and uptime.
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Originally published Jun 05, 2020, updated Jan 28, 2022