Telecommuting used to be a novel concept in the workplace, with the option to work somewhere other than the office being a rare privilege. No longer the case today, working from remote locations has become increasingly common in a variety of industries and the contact center is no exception. In the March 2014 Contact Center Pipeline issue, Scott Murphy discussed the topic in his article, “Overcoming the Challenges of Managing an At-Home Workforce.” He writes that ten years ago, when the trend just began to take hold, “it was common to hear…talk about how much more efficient, productive, happy, and dependable [work-at-home employees] were.” However, now that the novelty has worn off, so have some of the performance benefits. Murphy offers some strategies for managing the common challenges of remote call center agents; including preparing for unknown factors and understanding that resolving technical issues may take more time.
A third common challenge that Murphy highlights is at home agents feeling a lack of connectedness to the organization. Without the daily in-person interaction in the office, remote call center agents engage less often with on-site peers and supervisors. This can lead to a variety of additional challenges including a heavy reliance on other remote workers, decision making without supervisor involvement, and reduced productivity and performance. To re-engage these workers, Murphy suggests implementing video conferencing for weekly meetings with supervisors and team meetings or encouraging on-site workdays on a regular basis.
In addition to those suggestions, also consider how you can use the tools already available in your contact center to engage your remote workers.
- Chat or instant messaging – It may be natural for remote employees to band together over instant messaging, which likely provides needed support. You can also encourage broader use of these tools among at-home and on-site agents: consider matching an at-home agent with a new employee, starting industry-related book club discussions, or other creating networks to facilitate interaction.
- Desktop applications - Many contact centers have wallboards that are visible for on-site employees; these are incredibly useful tools to share performance metrics; critical announcements; as well as morale-boosters like work anniversaries, birthdays, or workplace achievements. Rather than leave remote agents out of this type of communication, find a way to deploy an application that shares the same information on the remote desktop.
- Insight about performance – Agents who are away from the water cooler talk in the office may have a different perspective on your contact center performance metrics. Take the opportunity to engage remote workers to hear different perspectives about the data as well as potential ways to change behaviors to improve performance.
Remote workplace situations have proven advantages and are likely going to remain a part of the modern day contact center. As Murphy says, “paying attention to the small details will ensure that your remote call center agent program will continue to thrive.”