Remote work is an increasingly popular option for call centers around the world. As technology and cloud connectivity open the door to virtual call centers, more businesses are employing remote employees to staff their customer service departments.
There are endless benefits to implementing remote call centers, but the transition does present some challenges. One of the common concerns businesses have when moving to a remote operation is how they can maintain effective agent management when their customer service team is spread across multiple locations.
If you are a call center manager who shares this concern, we wanted to offer this guide to managing remote agents. By using these call center management tips, you can maintain your high call center and agent performance across time zones.
How to best manage a remote call center
Before we dive into the specifics of managing a remote call center agent, it’s important to understand what we mean by a remote customer service support team. Whether you already use a remote staff or are just looking into the possibility, this information can help you optimize your remote work program.
What is remote customer service?
When discussing call centers, we’re typically referring to a physical customer service operation that is responsible for making and taking customer calls. A remote call center offers the same customer service functions, but uses a team of agents who work from home or co-working spaces rather than an office setting.
A remote team uses cloud-based contact center solutions to interact with customers and team members, collaborating online rather than in-person. Features such as SIP Trunking allow agents to reach customers over the phone for both inbound and outbound marketing. Managers can also use this software for call center scheduling or agent performance monitoring. A reduced dependence on an on-premise solution allows companies to add more services and capabilities to their call centers, creating a better experience for all of their customers.
No matter where the business is based, using remote teams allows contact centers to hire the best talent from anywhere in the nation and world. The lack of overhead related to running an office location also offers cost savings and flexibility that companies can’t achieve with a physical call center. With any product and market, businesses can use these advantages to focus on better customer support, sales, and growth.
How do I effectively manage a remote call center?
Since your agents aren’t in the same location, managing remote agents can be a bit trickier than typical call center management. You can’t walk the floor or physically interact with your team, but you are still responsible to keep them engaged and productive. With the tips in this guide to managing remote agents, you can continue improving customer experiences and achieving great results for your business.
1. Hold video conferencing meetings
When it comes to managing remote call center agents, communication is key. Though you won’t have physical contact with your remote workers, tools like video conferencing allow you to keep agents connected and informed.
Using video calls for remote team meetings allows your agents to meet each other, an important element to building relationships with coworkers. This technology gives each virtual agent a face, strengthening the connections they make with their team members. Holding video meetings also ensures your employees hear the information you’re sharing and encourages employee engagement. While it might not be as personal as a meeting with premise-based staff, video conferencing will help keep your team of remote workers connected.
2. Foster a strong company culture
Successful managers put time and energy into creating a positive company culture for their agents. Remote agents are physically removed from both coworkers and the call center, which can create a disconnect with the company as a whole.
Build it around your mission
When building your company culture, emphasize your core values. Outline your expectations for your call center operations, even for remote customer service agents. Show agents how you expect them to treat customers and what to do when a call escalates. Give your team a solid understanding of how they should reflect the company, both at and outside of work.
Show agents they matter
Your company culture should also emphasize the value each agent brings to your call center. You want remote workers to feel like important members of the team, so develop and maintain an environment that encourages loyalty and engagement.
3. Use remote agent management tools
For call center supervisors, workforce management is one of the biggest parts of the job. Though it may be more difficult to manage a remote team, your contact center software offers numerous project management tools to support your efforts.
Use your call center analytics
Like typical performance management, remote management is based on the data and metrics you gain from your call center software. If you see a dip in customer satisfaction, for example, you can use relevant information to identify your call center’s strengths and weaknesses.
Focus on agent metrics
When evaluating your call center and team, the ability to view agent activity and call data is an invaluable asset. You can use call logs to determine the number of calls they take and the length of each interaction. Using this information, you can then see how their performance measures against your standards. If you see a particular area that needs improvement, you can then focus on training efforts for improved agent optimization.
4. Offer collaboration tools
Few resources are more important than collaboration tools for remote staff. Your agents may be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, so they rely on the tools you provide for team collaboration.
Start with your call center platform
When choosing your call center software, look for an option with agent-centric communication tools. If agents are collaborating on a project, for example, they need the ability to message each other and share files internally. Your resources should always support, not hinder, your agents’ work.
Use agent coaching resources
Collaboration tools are also a valuable asset for agents who need assistance during a customer interaction. If you notice an escalating conversation while call monitoring, you can use these tools to join the call without the customer’s knowledge. By offering coaching help in real-time, you can help your agents remain confident in their work.
5. Gamify your customer service
Everyone loves to play and win games, which is why workplace gamification is so effective at promoting productivity and improved results. This technique uses rewards and recognition as “prizes” for employees who achieve the highest results in your call center, appealing to each agent’s competitive side as they work. Rewards can include gift cards, company swag, special privileges, paid time off, or items that appeal to your employees. Whatever you offer, just make sure it has enough value to your team to encourage greater effort.
Offer positive motivation
When gamifying your customer service, you can motivate your agents to increase the number and quality of their customer interactions. Agents are pushed to do better in their work, which then increases the quality and results of your customer support as a whole.
Investing time and money into a gamification program also inspires loyalty in your contact center agents. Fun activities show that you care about your employees and their workplace satisfaction, placing value on each agent and their work. This can further encourage agent happiness, reducing call center turnover.
6. Develop a detailed training program
Building the best team of remote call center agents start with the hiring and training process. When looking for new candidates to fill open agent positions, have a defined list of the skills and qualities you’re looking for. Use pre-hire assessments, face-to-face interviews either in-person or over video calls, and targeted interview questions to find the best agents available.
When hiring remote, it is critical to have an effective training program. These agents may never have the benefit of working alongside a more experienced agent, so you need to offer resources that provide the same level of knowledge and proficiency.
Design a trial period
Start by offering a three-month trial period to every new hire. This time gives your agents the freedom to settle into their new position and routine with worrying about losing their job. Instead, use this time to walk your new agents through every process and policy you have for your call center.
Before connecting new agents with real customers, allow them to take training calls with an experienced guide. Walk them through different scenarios and outcomes, helping them prepare for the interactions they might encounter.
The trial period can also help your contact center agents grow confident and comfortable with your customer service apps. Help them understand how to use this technology to improve calls and outcomes. Your contact center software can do so much more than just make phone calls, so give your agents the knowledge and experience they need to use their tools to the fullest extent.
Include remote-work training
You need your new hires to be both amazing agents and effective remote workers. As you train them in customer service, be sure to prepare them for the requirements of working from home. Cover the policies and expectations you have for their workspaces, conduct during shifts, and participation in team efforts. Optimize every part of your call center training to improve your agent retention and customer service results.
7. Monitor customer service quality
While you might be happy with the number of calls your agents are able to make and take, these numbers are useless if your customers aren’t happy with your service. Quality monitoring allows you to ensure your call center is succeeding on all fronts, providing value to your company.
Use your quality assurance tools
To guarantee the quality of your customer support, use your call center solution to monitor every interaction. Use speech analytics to determine customer satisfaction during support calls. Audit your calls to ensure agents are following call center best practices. View data on first-contact resolutions to determine if your agents are providing adequate support. Use your tools to stay proactive and avoid a decrease in customer happiness.
Manage call center compliance
If you have the best call times and excellent customer satisfaction, but your agents fail to comply with regulations and standards, your call center is failing. When monitoring your contact center quality, evaluate the processes your agents use to manage sensitive data. Check your call logs to see if you’ve followed DNC list rules. Protect your call center and company from potential future fines and litigation by avoiding mistakes today.
Utilize a hands-on approach to management
As a call center manager, you are ultimately responsible for your customer service results. To make sure your interactions meet your company’s standards, you should actively manage and monitor all of your agents. If you notice an agent struggling with their work, take action to resolve the issue before it worsens.
Micromanaging can damage workplace satisfaction, so use call recordings and past interactions to gather the information you need rather than hanging over the agent’s shoulder. If you need to take a more proactive approach, however, don’t be afraid to use whisper coaching and silent listening to guide agents through calls. Your call center tools and the ways you use them can make all the difference between guidance and overbearance.
8. Gather call center and customer service feedback
The best way to learn is always to listen. As you implement and manage your remote call center operations, gather feedback to discover the areas that need the most work. Gathering feedback is only effective when you keep an open mind, so be willing to hear hard truths and different opinions. You don’t need to implement every suggestion you receive, but this feedback can help you improve call center processes for a more successful and thriving operation.
Listen to your customers
Though your agents interact with customers every day, most managers primarily see negative feedback and complaints. Rather than waiting for these responses, actively invite comments from your customers.
An easy way to gather customer feedback is through satisfaction surveys. After resolving the call, your agents can invite callers to stay on the line for a brief survey. This allows customers to rate their experiences and give recommendations for improvements without demanding a significant investment of time and energy. Customers feel valued and heard, which can give an added boost to their total satisfaction with your business.
Communicate with your agents
Your contact center agents are on the front line of your customer service, so their feedback is invaluable. Ask your agents about your policies and procedures to learn what is and isn’t working. Seeking feedback from remote agents is especially important because employees may feel like they have less opportunity and freedom to make suggestions.
Measuring agent satisfaction will help you optimize your internal processes and customer support. Constantly look for ways to improve your training program, meetings, and even management. By encouraging a beneficial conversation between agents and supervisors, you can also promote positive team collaboration. The more your team communicates, the better your call center will run.
With RingCentral, you can use a cloud-based contact center solution that empowers effective remote team management. Contact our sales team today to learn more about our platform and its benefits through a customized demo.
Originally published Apr 10, 2020, updated Aug 27, 2020