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Providing agents with more autonomy doesn’t have to be scary

Ring Central Blog

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4 min read

In the pre-pandemic period, managing and monitoring agents were straightforward tasks. Supervisors would collect information from in-person interactions as well as from analytics dashboards. Metrics such as resolved and abandoned calls or the average speed of answer could provide insights into which agents are performing well and which need support. But, things have changed, and given the new remote work transformation, supervisors had to rethink the way they monitor and manage their teams.

Let the era of autonomous working begin

High employee density is the hallmark of contact centers. It allows supervisors to listen to multiple calls and take notes. They could keep their finger on the pulse without being intrusive and notice if an agent is struggling and needs a coaching session.  

But the pandemic disrupted everything. Supervisors now can’t simply stand near agents and listen to calls as employees are scattered across thousands of home offices. Agents struggle as well. Once easy to reach, supervisors now seem distant and their support is no longer readily available. And all this can make anyone feel alone and a bit scared. 

Fortunately, switching to home-based work is now easier than ever. Cloud-based platforms allow agents to serve customers remotely and connect to their team members. All that is needed is an Internet connection.

And in this new world, agents must learn to work more autonomously, while leaders have to adapt their management practices. Let’s look at how both groups can achieve their goals. 

Spotlight on the Supervisor

Supervisors set the direction that agents will follow

Agents working in brick-and-mortar contact center agents looked at their colleagues for guidance. If team members work hard, you’re likely to perform well too. In an era of distributed work, leaders are the ones to set the direction. 

Kicking off each day with a pre-shift video meeting is a good place to start. Productivity reports can be shared on a screen with every agent viewing and interacting with them. They no longer have to gather around a monitor or pass a piece of paper. 

Video meetings are also a useful tool for one-on-one engagements. And they don’t necessarily have to happen in the morning or at the end of the day. Instead, supervisors can do a quick call in the middle of the day with agents that struggle.

It’s also important to praise strong performers. The performance of agents who achieved a major success, such as the highest customer satisfaction scores, should be highlighted in team video meetings. Team chat messages will do for praising smaller wins. 

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

Agents thrive when given autonomy

Remote work also means that agents have more autonomy. Supervisors may be reviewing their calls and performance data, but it’s up to agents to make important decisions and be accountable for them. 

For some managers, it might be scary to let agents work with less supervision. But that will pay off in the long run. The Academy of Management ran a meta-analysis that included 319 studies and 151,000 participants to unveil the benefits of employee autonomy. They found that granting people more autonomy resulted in better job performance by “enhancing work motivation and reducing mental strain.”

Of course, you need to instruct agents on how to manage themselves. They should know the performance of every agent. And if agents notice their performance is below average, they can then figure out how to improve. But self-evaluation only works if agents are given data and an explanation on how to conduct it. 

Supervisors are thus no longer solely responsible for finding low performers and pulling them up. Every person has tools and data to evaluate their work. And in that way, self-analysis leads to the continuous improvement of your contact center team. 

Helping agents when needed

Every agent will at some point need help. For example, they’ll come across an issue they can’t resolve on their own. Before, supervisors would recognize struggling agents just by glancing over their faces. But now, supervisors don’t have the ‘real’ office to look over. Instead, they look at the performance data to search for red flags and worrisome metrics that would help them identify a problem. Or, they might develop formal channels through which agents can ask for support. Left on their own, they might be too reluctant to raise their hand and would continue to struggle. 

Give your team tools it needs to thrive

The COVID-19 crisis has caught many companies off guard. After overcoming initial shock and getting service levels to where they were before the pandemic, companies shouldn’t stop there. They would do well to overhaul analytics, empower employees, and allow supervisors to focus on big picture. 

RingCentral offers technologies that allow you to reach these goals. Our collaborative contact center ensures agents can evaluate their work, while supervisors can stop micromanaging every task. With each side fulfilling its potential, your team will amaze you with its work. 

If you want to learn more about this transition and how to elevate your contact center game, read our ebook here. And if you prefer to watch, check out the full Spotlight on the Supervisor Masterclass series here.

Originally published Dec 02, 2020, updated Jan 20, 2021

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