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7 Tips for Engaging Remote Call Center Agents

Managing turnover and retention is one of the biggest challenges facing contact center managers today. A QATC article points out that turnover rates for contact center agents average at 35 to 40%, with some centers having virtually no turnover, while others have even higher turnover.  What causes this difference?

Keeping contact center agents happy, engaged, and motivated is essential to maintaining high levels of productivity and customer satisfaction. Employees that enjoy their work are less likely to want to leave. However, employee engagement for your in-house employees is not the same picture as employee engagement for your remote employees. In the contact center industry, how can you keep your remote agents involved and motivated despite the distance?

Here are some strategies I have found that are especially beneficial to keeping remote contact center agents/call center representatives engaged:

1.  Create a Positive Work Culture

Creating a positive work culture is the cornerstone to happier and more productive agents.  It starts with the way you communicate with your agents.  This can be especially important with remote call center agents, who are not located in the actual call center.  Are you open and receptive to feedback?  Do you praise and share positive messages on an on-going basis to boost morale?  Do your agents have your support?  Do you encourage clear and positive communication, teamwork, and collaboration?  And most of all, do you walk the talk?

One way you can drive a positive work culture is to create and communicate your company's values with the staff. As much as possible, incorporate these values into your meetings, e-mails, events, etc. Don't forget to encourage your remote agents to embody your company culture and values!

2.  Optimize the Working Environment

Whether your agents are working inside of a call center or working remotely, it is essential to make sure that they are working in a clean, fresh, and well-lit environment. Is it bright, airy, and welcoming?  Do their chairs provide adequate back support?  Provide agents with tips for creating a healthy workstation environment and the necessary tools and equipment for best performance. Many companies with work-from-home models will often provide their remote agents with a guide on what needs to be in their work environment. If you have a similar guide, make sure you keep it updated! If not, consider starting one.

3.  Have the Right Systems, Technology, and Processes in Place

When employing systems, call center software/technology, and processes for contact center agents, always involve them in the decision making process. This will make them feel a part of the company and give them a sense of empowerment.  More importantly, given that your agents deal with customers directly, agent-input can help streamline activity in a manner that most effectively helps both customers and agents.

4.  Rewards and Recognition

What motivates your agents varies from individual to individual. However, rewards and recognition, in conjunction with all the other methods mentioned, are still among the best means to motivate your agents. Get creative and come up with incentives and rewards that are interesting, unique, and enjoyable for your remote agents, while staying within your budget. You can use a questionnaire to get an idea of what options they may enjoy the most.

Recognition doesn't just mean rewards! If you have new remote agents, it would be helpful to introduce them to your team. Sure, they likely will not come into the office for an introduction, but it would be a good idea to send an email out to the team that introduces the new agents. You can have new agents answer a few quick, light-hearted personal questions that can help break the ice.

5.  Training and Development

It can be highly demotivating and stressful, not to mention bad for business, to have agents that have not received proper training or guidance on how to do their jobs. Always ensure that your agents are fully trained before being placed on any customer contact point and that they have access to on-going training and development whenever needed. This can be especially true for remote agents since they cannot simply talk to someone in person when they need assistance.

6.  Coaching and Mentorship

Coaching and mentorship differ from training and development in that they are more personal and individualized. A successful leader understands the importance of both in keeping employee motivational levels high. Keep in touch with remote employees regularly on a one-to-one basis and look for areas where coaching may be needed. You can use tools such as Skype or Zoom to have video meetings that will allow you to see the agent's face and body language as they speak.

7.  Promote Agent Wellness

Work-life balance is rated highly amongst millennials as one of their top criteria when choosing a long-term job. Offer more time off as an incentive for good performance. Rotate shifts on a regular basis. Offer stress and wellness programs wherever possible. Think about adding corporate yoga programs such as the one I have at Replenish Yoga and Wellness. A healthy body promotes a healthy mind.