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A Best Practice Framework for A Successful Contact Center Agent at Home Strategy

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As the world continues to adapt to the impacts of the recent crisis, organizations and employees alike must adjust to a reality that is both more fluid as well as more demanding than in the past. Customer service employees working from home are facing higher customer demands, including both financial and health pressures. Organizations must respond to the changing needs of both customers and employees, while navigating through volatile economic and geopolitical conditions.

The core needs for customer service organizations to succeed in these times of change center around five key pillars.

1. Foundation – Ensure high performance and business continuity at the infrastructure and application layers in a Work-From-Home environment.

2. Planning – Schedule the right staffing levels to handle customer service level agreements while being flexible to adjust to intraday changes.

3. Visibility – Understand what at-home employees are doing to gain insight into interaction context.

4. Performance – Ensure at-home employees are providing the service customers expect on every interaction and coaching them remotely to necessary behaviors and KPI’s.

5. Engagement – Keep at-home employees engaged and motivated through gamification and continuous learning while understanding and responding to their feedback.

These realities are not likely to subside, even as the world adapts to the fallout from the crisis. The economic and social impacts will have a lasting impact on organizations and their contact centers. As a result, organizations should plan to manage their business around these 5 key pillars to be able to continue to provide exceptional experiences to both their customers and employees, and drive business results.

Each of these pillars has a set of best practices, and I would like to cover some of them with you.

Let’s start with one from the Foundation pillar - leveraging cloud-native environments.

Moving your contact center to a true cloud-native environment is the only way to have the speed and agility necessary to successfully work in an at-home environment. It allows you to extend your traditional call center capabilities to the home because cloud-native applications can be accessed from anywhere that employees have an internet connection, computer and web browser. Given the ubiquitous availability of these three things, it makes it so that an agent working from home has no geographic boundaries. These solutions are also more cost effective and elastic as they can easily scale up and down based on business demands; this is in contrast to investing in a fixed infrastructure that may be more than you need some months and less than you need in others.

When you think of cloud-native, you should imagine you have the ultimate in flexibility. Unlike traditional solutions, applications are not managed at the individual desktop, they are managed in the cloud itself. As a result they don’t require an IT professional to load and test software on each desktop. This enables IT professionals to also be working from home and still ensure your employees have the technical support they need to perform at the highest levels.

The second-best practice I’ll cover comes from the Visibility pillar - using advanced analytics to automate your understanding of customer interactions.

One of the main challenges in a distributed contact center where employees work from home is how you can understand what is happening on customer interactions, and ensure that agents are providing the best level of service. This type of solution leverages speech and text analytics to understand the root cause as to why customers are calling and then automatically categorizes them across all channels and customer journeys. Organizations can leverage interaction analytics technology to automate and act on their top contact drivers, including ways to promote self-service and reduce volumes in the contact center. Interaction analytics also enable you to gauge things like customer sentiment and agent empathy. From that you can make the necessary changes through coaching to improve customer satisfaction, ensuring extraordinary customer experiences.

Imagine being able to interpret every interaction and transform subjective behaviors into data that is consistent, accurate, and without bias. Let me give you a quick example of what I mean: imagine for a second the ability to listen to your customers and measure your agents on things like soft skills (e.g. Is the agent actively listening? Are they building rapport? Are they asking the right probing questions?) and being able to take that data and use it to predict future churn statistics. This technology is amazing, it’s real and it’s in the market today!

The third-best practice I’ll cover today is from the Performance pillar. It is the importance of Automation for Work from Home Success.

Remote workers need access to the same subject-matter experts and support they had in the office. Automation can provide that in the absence of the physical presence of supervisors and more experienced agents. In these times of change, policies and information related to answers provided by customer service are modified daily, and organizations need to be able to drive those changes to their at-home employees. A lot of companies tend to overlook how to do this in a scalable way, thinking that they can use email or simple online knowledge banks. The harsh reality is that this approach only results in agents operating in chaos, with longer handle times and non-compliance to policies.

Imagine having a virtual attendant there to guide your agents. Let me give you an example - let’s say that you just brought on a new hire class of 20 people, and they’re now in production. We know that new people are still trying to get the fundamentals of their job down, but what if you could have an automated virtual attendant pop up on the screen as you’re taking someone’s payment, and that attendant says, “Don’t forget to update their contact information or offer to add X to their order at 50% off.” The ROI on this is significant.

Challenge yourself to look at automation during this time of change. There are tremendous benefits as well as economies of scale that can be gained here.

These are just three of a series of best practices that are necessary to succeed in an agent at-home environment. They are all critical to empower customer service in times of change and enable a successful contact center work-from-home environment. It also supports future work configurations, including hybrid office at-home scenarios, maintaining the benefits of both working from home as well as in the office. The results will be:

  • A seamless, flexible and robust foundation
  • Forecasting and schedule accurately
  • Visibility and understanding of WFH employee and customer activities
  • The ability to measure, manage and improve employee behavior
  • An environment that promotes listening, learning, and motivation for employees

From all of us at NICE, stay safe and stay healthy!