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What is Needed to Make a Hybrid Contact Center Model Work?

deskFor the past two years, many in the contact center industry were forced to improvise to maintain day-to-day functions with a remote workforce. Now, as the remote or hybrid models of work becomes a staple in this industry, contact center thought leaders are attempting to define best practices to make such models work.

We asked our ICMI 2022 Thought Leaders what practices they thought were needed to make a hybrid contact center model work. Here is a selection of their responses:

Give Employees a Reason to Come into the Office

-Mike Aoki, President, Reflective Keynotes, Inc.

Unlike other employees, contact center agents spend most of their day communicating with external people. So, why come into the office - even for a couple of days a week - just to talk to customers by phone, chat, and email? You need to give agents a reason to come into the office! For instance, it could be a team building event, the ability to have hands-on practice with a physical product, or job shadowing another team member for career growth.

While some of these activities may be reserved for special occasions, it’s important to do something to enrich an agent's onsite time each day. Since a benefit of having people onsite is unofficial networking, encourage employees to talk with each other in the lunchroom or during breaks. Reserve time in a huddle or team meeting for agents to chat with each other in pairs and small groups. Build engagement by having them meet with their Team Leader or Manager for face-to-face coaching.

Ensure the Baseline and the Basics

-Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Experience and Support, NumberBarn

Regardless of where your agents work in this hybrid model, here are 3 major areas to focus:

  • Ensure that agents are set up with a computer, internet connectivity, and proper security protocols so they don’t skip a beat when they work from home.
  • Adopt a collaboration tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams to ensure that agents are able to collaborate with their colleagues and supervisors as needed. “Out of sight, out of mind” should never, ever happen in your contact center!
  • Set a clear standard for the work performance expected from each of your agents. You should have a consistent quality management process and the appropriate metrics in place to ensure that everyone is meeting or exceeding expectations.

Communicate Equally With Your On-Site and Remote Workforces

-Thomas Laird, CEO, Expivia Interactive Marketing Group, Inc.

We went from 100% brick and mortar to 100% WFH as many centers did during the start of the pandemic. We are now about 75% WFH and 25% in the office. We had to relearn how we operated. A couple of the main points we saw that really worked in maintaining our hybrid workforce were the following:

  • Make sure you are treating and engaging the WFH reps and the reps in the office the same. If you are doing a motivation initiative for the in-office reps, do it as well for your WFH reps. We saw that if we didn't, some cliques could happen between the two sets.
  • Plan more off-site gatherings. Culture is really important to us, and we needed to make sure that everyone still "hung out". We are planning many more functions (sporting events, happy hours, etc.) in 2022 to make up for some of the times we don't see each other during a work week in person.
  • Communicate with each group of your workforce the same way. Make sure if you are using Teams or Slack that your WFH and in-office reps are all on the same platform so everyone is getting the same info at the same time.
  • We still believe in onboarding and training on-site. This is a big culture builder and helps us retain more associates by having them know who the trainers are, being able to meet their supervisors, and being able to talk to HR face to face as they are just starting. We did not get the same feel with remote education onboarding.

There are so many good and valid reasons to adopt a hybrid model for your contact center. But don’t just go assuming that you can tell your agents to stop coming into the office and business will carry on as usual. That could very well set you up for disaster.