Published: October 28, 2014 | Comments
Remote, at-home agents are an increasingly popular option for many call centers looking for a low-cost way to expand operations beyond the center’s physical walls. But managing these remote agents – and keeping them engaged – is a real challenge.
Though remote agents provide many benefits, there are challenges for supervisors, who do not physically interact with their agents every day. Without this regular interaction, it is difficult to know if agents are completing their work and doing so effectively. Are they being productive? Are they doing what they are supposed to do? Are they getting what they need? And perhaps most importantly, are they engaged and satisfied?
Benefits of a Remote Workforce
There are many benefits to hiring remote agents, besides the obvious cost reductions of expanding operations without having to build additional office space.
Another huge benefit is productivity. While not every agent is cut out to work from home, many who are comfortable in this role in fact thrive. Without all of the typical distractions of a physical contact center, agents can be more focused.
Also, because remote agents do not have to come in to the physical contact center, the pool of potential hires expands exponentially. With location no longer a factor, you can handpick the most experienced, professional and high-performing agents from virtually anywhere.
How can call centers align their remote workforces so that agents stay happy, productive and made to feel that they are a valued part of the team? Here are five tips to keep remote agents engaged and on track:
Tip #1: Make time for “face-to-face” coaching sessions
Agents who work away from the physical contact center still need the same training and coaching investment as traditional, onsite agents.
Technologies like Skype, FaceTime and GoToMeeting enable supervisors and coaches to talk to agents “face to face” from any location, which helps agents and coaches develop their relationship. Agents are able to speak with coaches about their individual development needs in a personal way that is simply not possible over e-mail and text.
With ongoing pressures to meet service levels, some contact centers have a hard time carving out enough time for these quality coaching sessions with onsite agents and remote agents. Leveraging technologies such as intraday task management helps identify and set aside time for these sessions to happen so that agents can have meaningful direct interactions without negatively impacting service levels.
Tip #2: Ongoing training delivered to the agent desktop
An agent’s most important job – whether they are working from home or in a physical contact center with other agents – is to serve your customers. But just like traditional agents, customer service isn’t a remote agent’s only job. At home agents are also responsible for a certain amount of back office and off-phone activities. They also have to deal with the same intermittent periods of idle time occurring between calls throughout the day.
The information learned from the agent coaching sessions should be used to develop personalized training and coaching plans. Make the most of idle time by delivering this individualized development activities directly to the agent desktop. Use automated business rules that prompt agents to work on off-phone work when call volume dips, and prompt them again to resume handling customer interactions when call volume spikes.
Tip #3: Gamification tactics to keep agents motivated
Gamification applications and tactics are gaining in popularity across all areas of business to engage and retain employees (as well as customers), and contact centers are no exception. Agents, like everyone else, enjoy playing games. It breaks up the monotony of their daily routine while at the same time motivating them and providing variety in their daily tasks.
These methods and techniques provide agents with real-time performance data that directly ties to key performance indicators (KPIs) and motivates agents to improve their performance through various challenges and activities. By incorporating these games into remote agents’ training and coaching activities, agents have a chance to improve their performance, as well as their overall job satisfaction, and be recognized and rewarded for their achievements.
Tip #4: Treat remote agents as equals
When managing remote agents, it is critical to treat these agents as equal to the agents who work within the physical center. Share their successes with the rest of the group and invite them to participate in activities in the office such as charity collections and food drive competitions. If agents cannot come into the office to participate, encourage them to donate to an organization near their home.
When remote agents need to come into the main center for training, schedule it around a pizza party or other fun center-wide activity so that they are included in the fun. When remote agents are made to feel that they are an integral part of the team, they in turn feel more valued and appreciated, which ultimately decreases attrition.
Tip #5: Create a community to foster collaboration
For remote agents, flexibility is a major selling point, but one of the major drawbacks is the lack of camaraderie and office culture.
Help your remote agents feel like they are connected. Establish social media communities to foster collaboration between remote agents and agents in the physical contact center to encourage peer-to-peer support and create a stronger sense of community among all agents.
Virtual doesn’t mean disconnected. Contact centers can use the same tools that they use to communicate in real time with in-house agents as they do with remote agents. If you have information to share, make sure to share it with everyone – no matter where they’re located.
The result is a happier agent population overall, which leads to reduced attrition, improved performance, and a more consistently outstanding customer experience.
Intradiem is the leader in intraday automation solutions for multi-channel contact centres. Intradiem’s customers achieve an invincible customer experience with a real-time workforce by automating manual processes such as intraday task management, intraday staffing, reskilling, channel balancing, and real-time alerts. Intradiem empowers an immediate and consistent response to unpredictable events and changing conditions, resulting in labour savings, improved employee performance and a better overall customer experience. More than 200,000 contact centre, field service, retail, bank branch, and back office employees around the world use Intradiem’s solution every day. For more information, call 888-566-9457 or visit www.intradiem.com.