Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have been forced to reevaluate the culture of their workplace, prioritizing the most important aspects: health and safety. In efforts to keep the members of their teams safe, contact centers closed their physical doors and agents began to work remotely.
Although managers may have scrambled to assemble work from home (WFH) teams initially, reports showed productivity levels increased. Call center agents began to express their desire to work at home and have more freedom and flexibility.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us presumed remote work would be a temporary pivot. But 80% of companies are saying their shift to remote work was successful, and 87% of adults who were able to work from home during the pandemic say they’d like to keep the WFH option.
Forrester also predicts that “Remote work will permanently increase to 300% of pre-pandemic levels.”
There are countless upsides to remote work for employees. No commute, more flexibility, a relaxed dress code, and snacks at an arm’s reach! And companies can save on rent and office maintenance, plus broaden their talent pool with location no longer a barrier to recruitment.
Even with the benefits, there are several challenges that call centers must work through that cause some hesitation or rejection. Yet, these problems are not impossible to overcome when making managing or making the transition.
Issue No. 1: Lack of Support
Support can become complicated for agents in a work from home contact center. If basic resources are not accessible and available within seconds, agents will become frustrated from trying to locate information and customer service will plummet.
Solution: Invest in technologies that encourage ongoing communication for agents in contact center from home roles. These resources should empower agents to find (or ask for!) information quickly and efficiently. Put together a virtual support team to help supervise agents in work from home contact center jobs, and give them easy support. Web chat is another effective way to communicate between agents and supervisors.
Issue No. 2: Plummeting Productivity
Many centers fear that work from home contact center agents will view remote work as a chance to catch up on sleep or complete household chores. How do you keep an eye on employees who are working from various locations?
Solution: Keep a close eye on contact center metrics. Many metrics can help you measure agent productivity, including average handle time, occupancy rate, customer satisfaction, and more. Tracking the KPIs that matter most can ensure that your work from home contact center agents are staying at peak productivity . . . and if you see statistics sliding, you can course-correct right away.
Work-life balance (or imbalance!) can also be a key driver for plummeting productivity. Burnout was a threat before the pandemic. But when you consider all the pandemic has added to our plates — homeschooling, lack of mobility, financial stress, illness, disruption of everyday life, and more — that pandemic-related burnout may really hurt those in work from home contact center jobs.
So, when you encourage healthier habits and work-life balance for your agents, it’s an investment in call center productivity.
Issue No. 3: Difficulties in Training and Coaching
When agents are not on-site, ongoing training and coaching can seem like a huge challenge. It’s important to help work from home contact center agents to be prepared for changes in service or new products. Learning should be an ongoing process in all contact centers.
Solution: Ensure you can train any agent, anywhere, at any time. Offer real-time eLearning capabilities that include the ability to send targeted training and coaching content to agents. Your solution should offer tools to assess learning results, enable quizzes to be embedded, or links to course material.
Use a learning management system that allows remote learning to be interactive and streamlined for work from home agents. Online visual and audio learning, combined with instant feedback, help agents communicate easily with the instructor. This is important especially if they don’t do well on an assessment, and allows for virtual individual time with an instructor to assist them.
Built-in assessment tools can track the impact of specific training. They allow you to easily measure training results and the impact on group or individual performance. And, if there’s an area where an agent truly needs one-on-one coaching, you’ll know right away.
Make it easy for WFH agents to view their performance results to keep them motivated, and integrate tools that will allow your managers and trainers to measure whether training was viewed and understood.
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Issue No. 4: Disconnection
Let’s face it: Working from home can make it difficult to get to know those working around you. Many of our work relationships are built organically: passing someone in the hallway, grabbing coffee over a break, or striking up a fun conversation during lunch. Without these opportunities to build camaraderie, it’s easy for contact center from home agents to feel disconnected.
How do you make WAH agents feel like part of the team?
Solution: Make sure your tech platforms encourage teamwork and interaction between agents. Community walls and chats within the company are both great strategies for agents to communicate with each other, share ideas, and engage with other team members.
Research and continually use the most up-to-date technology, instead of just relying on traditional hardware. The right technology goes a long way in helping work from home contact center agents feel valued and stay connected. Nothing puts a damper on a day like a technology headache, after all!
Finally, don’t overlook the power of fun! Plenty of contact center games can be played remotely. Trivia challenges, scavenger hunts, and even Bingo can help agents feel more connected.
With work from home contact center jobs becoming the new normal, it’s important to embrace the positives, while getting ahead of potential challenges.
There is nothing to be afraid of when implementing WFH programs. You may find that employees are happier, healthier, and more productive when working from home. And that all adds up to a stronger customer experience.