5 Recommendations to make Work from Home Contact Centers more Effective

Over the last weeks, the most urgent task has been to enable contact center agents to work at home. While not everyone is set up properly yet, most organizations are operational in this new model. They had to jump through hoops, of technical and commercial nature. For example, in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) world it is very common to set security practices which are impossible to meet in a work at home environment.

Now that agents are taking calls in the new environment, contact centers managers and supervisors need to adapt and consider what to do next.

First and foremost, communicate. Work in contact centers is very demanding, and the agent-supervisor relationship is critical. Whether it is a beginning of shift briefing or in-shift interaction, supervisors find themselves unable to see and feel what is happening other than by looking at their laptop; agents themselves are deprived of familiar cues such as wallboards or the humming background noise that some feel energizing.

Recommendation #1:

Deploy messaging and videoconferencing tools so that the agent- supervisor relationship stays strong.

Supervisors need to engage with agents even more: practice silent monitoring more often, let agents know they have support, and continue to barge in to help with customer challenges, and generally follow best practices for managing teams working from home.

Also, because the home environment is less controlled, quality monitoring becomes more important too. Pay attention to background noise or disturbances, watch agent performance or behavior changes and understand who needs most help and coaching.

Recommendation #2:

Focus on supervisor engagement and quality monitoring.

Once this is done, more subtle aspects need consideration, such as workforce management: in theory, agents should have more time and flexibility, if only because they do not have to commute anymore, so more scheduling options become available. This creates opportunities for absorbing more call volumes and smoothing out service levels.

An issue that agents face is daycare. Even in dual income families, the inability to access daycare is forcing parents to take shifts off work. More than ever agents need shift flexibility and robust workforce management is vital.

Recommendation #3:

Consider making changes to the IVR and website to encourage customers to call when more agents are available and extend operating hours.

Once the operation is running and adjustments made, longer-term questions need to be addressed, such as:

  • Should more aggressive call deflection strategies be developed and implemented?
  • Should digital channels be reinforced?
  • Should work at home become the norm?
  • Should risk management and continuity plans be reconsidered?

Technology can help solve many of these challenges that are embedded in these questions. How to leverage virtual assistants, cloud, analytics and experience management solutions to improve the operation must be considered.

Recommendation #4:

Ask “what if we were starting from scratch, what would we do?”, understand the art of the possible.

At this juncture, a lot of transformation has already taken place. Not only work at home is in effect and optimized, but a strategy has also emerged, and now is the time to implement and monitor. This means new metrics and KPIs, and a new engagement between contact centers and line of business stakeholders. Ultimately, a crucial predictor of success is how contact center operations and technology enable new business initiatives for growth. The earlier the business involvement, the better.

Asking the business to think about the future is a challenge as of this writing end of March 2020, as every executive is considering the impact of the downturn and all the attention is on short term matters, primarily revenue, cost, and cash flow.

But if call volumes are high, just assigning more agents might not be the solution, and tactical changes might be considered, with a broader picture in mind.

Recommendation #5:

Pragmatically start taking further steps in crafting your future customer experience.

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