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Managing remotely: transitioning from a physical to virtual contact center


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As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, customer service contact centers reacted by sending agents to work from home. Many managers hoped this would only be a temporary solution. But transitioning from a physical to virtual contact center may well be a near-permanent transformation to which both agents and supervisors will have to adapt.

This change, however, need not be difficult. Teams can use cloud-based communication technologies to not only help customers but even improve day-to-day operations and workflows.

Customers deal with complex problems

The coronavirus crisis has put service reps under a lot of pressure. According to the AI company Tethr, difficult interactions account for 20% of all calls received by support teams across many industries, up from 10% in the pre-COVID-19 period. Agents and managers scrambled to rise to this challenge. Coordinating work over a mishmash of Slack, Skype, and email could only go so far. As wait times ballooned, it became apparent that old ways of doing things won’t work anymore.

Customer service teams demanded new tools, upskilled agents, and better management techniques. And the ability of supervisors to harness the power of technology to manage, motivate, and train people remotely became ever more important. But many managers were far from ready for this switch. According to a 2019 Deloitte survey, only 34% of contact centers had agents working from home, which means that most companies struggled to adapt.

Supervisors adapting to a new reality

Supervisors had to find a way of staying connected with the team. Previously, they used to start the day by speaking to their agents. These engagements were an opportunity to provide work-related guidelines and create a sense of unity. Now, those meetings were happening over video chat.

Also, during the day, supervisors often walked the floor to keep tabs on agents. They would sometimes stop to listen to a phone call and provide feedback, helping the group maximize its performance. The need to do coach employees hasn’t gone away – only this time it has to happen digitally.

Spotlight on the Supervisor
How to better manage teams of remote contact center agents

New technologies coming to the rescue

Fortunately, cloud-based management platforms, like the one built by RingCentral, offer a solution. They allow supervisors to drop in and monitor agents without customers even knowing. The whisper feature even allows managers to talk to the agent while on a call in real-time. And while they might lose out on physical interactions with agents, supervisors can connect with more employees each day.

Supervisors can also use short check-ins by video to touch base with agents and address any concerns. It’s best to talk with employees immediately after a problematic call. By asking open-ended questions, managers allow agents to convey their concerns and ideas. And by ending a session with actionable steps employees can take, supervisors ensure that they have parameters based on which to track progress.

Building rapport and closer relations with agents can be done through video calls. Occasional messages in a group chat can keep morale up, while agents can chat with each other to share best practices and tips. For instance, if there is a delay in the shipping department that affects most customers, letting agents aware of this information helps them deal with incoming customer inquiries in a consistent manner.

Spotlight on the Supervisor

Monitoring key performance indicators

Cloud-based tools provide supervisors with huge volumes of data. But even the most efficient managers can only track a fraction of that data. That’s why monitoring KPIs, call volume, and net promoter scores is vital for understanding the overall team performance.

The contact center tools put all of these data sets in the same platform. Managers can then look for patterns and come up with creative solutions. And instead of dropping in on calls randomly, supervisors receive data on which agents need extra training. Also, data reveals which employees are performing well and deserve recognition.

RingCentral’s cloud-based platform enables supervisors to perform these and many other tasks. It makes it easy to manage, monitor, and coach employees and transition from a physical contact center to a virtual one.

If you want to learn more about this transition and how supervisors can adapt to it, read our ebook. Or if you prefer to watch, check out the full Spotlight on the Supervisor Masterclass series here.

Originally published Nov 17, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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