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Close the Distance Between Agent and Leader With Your WFH Team

looking at phoneWith most of the call center workforce operating from home, there seems to be an ever-widening rift between call center agents and leadership. And as we continue to work remotely, this gap may increase.

Have you ever questioned why Abigail is not ready for 12 minutes while watching the agent queues while we have calls waiting? Or why Tamara said, "I can’t handle WFH this week.” And after this voice in your head has given you a narrative, did you jump to conclusions about motive(s) and devised remedial plans before even requesting feedback from the agent?

Though we are closely connected by technology in today's world, we feel so alone and afraid. We appear to be fearful of being taken advantage of, what tomorrow may bring, and so on. And this pandemic has amplified all of these sentiments.

A month ago, I followed up with an agent who logged in at 11:58 am when her shift started at 8:30 am. For this incident, I first tried to reach out to her via an instant message (IM), but received no reply. I then sent an email to the agent asking the same question. I received a response that she thought she was logged in and was under the impression that the calls were slow.

Since I didn't respond to the agent for over an hour or so, I received two additional emails as I was engaged in a training session. The agent worried we would not pay her, and she was frustrated that she wasn’t notified earlier that she wasn't logged in for her shift. The work from home madness is too much to deal with, she said.

I replied to the agent, informing her that I received her email and that I was in the middle of training class, but would reach out to her to discuss further in about an hour. After I got done with class, I asked the agent to switch her phone code to “supervisor meeting” to speak to her and then jumped on a Skype call. We can't do video calls since most of the agents are using desktops, and leadership discourages webcams.

I said that I would like to discuss the emails she had sent me, commencing with her feelings about working from home. I mentioned that I wanted to start with this because I was concerned about her well being and wondered if everything was okay at home. She said that she had internet trouble for a few days about five months ago, and said that was what she was referencing.

The phone showed logged in on her end, but we couldn't see her logged in. I asked if she received a call during the timeframe of 8:30 am to 11:58 am, and she said no, but that she hadn’t thought that was strange since she had had slow days before. I said that on slow days, the most duration between a call is between 15 to 20 minutes. I asked that if that happens again, she should start reaching out to someone on the leadership team to verify that she’s logged in properly. She agreed. When it came to pay, I said that since it was the first time, she could submit her time. As we wrapped up the call, the agent's tone had shifted remarkably, and was much more open.

I presumed this was a singular instance, but another supervisor on the leadership team had a similar experience. He couldn’t figure out why an agent was leaving an hour or so before the end of her scheduled shift. After he spoke to the agent, he found out that her family was down to one car since their second car was at the repair shop. She was now responsible for driving her boyfriend to work and her daughter to school. It seems she left early because her daughter had to be picked up from school.

After determining the cause, we were able to devise a plan where the agent left at 3 pm and returned to take calls from 4:30 pm till 6 pm. She didn't have another attendance point for the entire year.

We are all human, and we all make mistakes but how we as leaders react to these mistakes makes all the difference. Each situation is relatively unique, but we need to do our best to allow team members to learn from their slip ups. I noticed that acts of understanding help build trust between you and your team.