Remote work is increasingly becoming the norm in many industries around the world, including contact centers and customer service departments. The benefits are clear and proven for both remote call center agents and the companies they work for. Forbes reports that working remotely can improve efficiency and productivity, bring down costs and improve employee satisfaction and retention figures. Work-from-home employees have been a part of the call center business for long enough that few would argue the positive effects, but there are still challenges associated with any remote work situation. One way to help ensure a successful arrangement for your agents is to take steps to ensure they remain engaged with your call center. Here are our 4 key steps to help you get started:
1. Choose the right employees. That is, when hiring or approving employees for remote work environments, be sure they demonstrate the characteristics likely to support them in that environment. Some of your best agents in the call center may struggle as at home agents if they rely on assistance or oversight from their manager and the tools or resources only available in the office. Successful remote agents will be able to self-advocate if they feel like they’ve misunderstood or been left out of important information. They are self-driven and effective time managers, so most of your feedback can be constructive about more technical aspects rather than work habits.
2. Check in regularly. Just because your remote agents are out of sight, you need to be sure they’re not out of mind. A weekly email is not enough to stay fully briefed about the successes and pain points experienced by your at-home employees. You still want them to feel a part of your office culture, so checking in regularly and briefly (similar to passing each other at the water cooler) offers the opportunity to check in and discuss the day. Ensure that you have seamless tools for communication available to all employees, whether they are at home or in the office. An instant messenger or chat platform that only functions in the call centre itself alienates at-home employees and opens the possibility for communication miscues.
3. Share successes. Employees at home may miss out on small gestures, whether it’s a pat on the back, a thumbs up, a smile, or a verbal “well done.” Without that face-to-face interaction, they may begin to feel that their achievements go unnoticed. Make an effort to provide positive feedback directly to your remote agents, and also to find public ways to provide accolades. Can you recognize them in a regularly distributed team email? Post a specific success on a wallboard? Share a positive case study in agent training? Sharing customer or co-worker compliments on agent desktop tools will help the at-home agents feel more like they are an integral part of the team.
4. Integrate technologies. It’s important that your remote agents have access to the same technologies and tools as your employees in the office. If there are firewalls to protect data, it’s critical that you provide a VPN or other method for remote agents to access the same information that they’d be able to find in the office. Also consider how you share metrics with agents. Do you have wallboards in the office to share real-time data? If so, then your agents should have a way to view that information. For example, Inova offers tools to provide a browser view of contact center wallboard data – perfect for remote workers. There are additional tools to provide at-home agents desktop apps sharing the latest insight on agent activity and giving them a sense of what’s happening on a larger scale in the call center.
If your agents, both at home and in the office, feel part of the same team then you will see returns in productivity and employee satisfaction. Remote agents who feel engaged are more likely to deliver a great customer experience. You can support that effort by choosing the right employees for work-at-home arrangements, checking in regularly, finding ways to share successes and integrating your technologies for remote employees.