While we can easily see people working in the frontlines helping to fight and care for thousands of people during this COVIID-19 Pandemic, we also have the unspoken heroes. The contact center agents especially those in the medical sector. They are working on the virtual contact center frontline to ensure that people’s needs are met. What is needed to ensure contact center work from home success?
In support of customer needs, organizations have quickly initiated work from home programs that were not previously in place or have dramatically increased their work from home (WFH) capabilities. They must because contact center agents are needed to provide critical services.
Are contact centers well equipped or prepared enough to initiate these programs successfully? The need to answer this question extends beyond healthcare contact centers as many contact centers no face the issues. How successful can the customer experience in our rapidly-deployed WFH be? And if WFH is your new normal what should you do to ensure contact center work from home success?
Implications of COVID-19 Pandemic on Customer Contact in the Work from Home Age
COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting many things. In a way, it is ushering the world into a new way of doing things. Even though working from home has existed for a while, this pandemic is helping more business owners realize that there is an upside to employees working from home.
One contact center executive commented, “For the first time ever, we experienced 100% schedule adherence.”
Beyond it being safe health-wise, there may be other benefits to realize. According to research by Porch, employees that work from home are much happier than employees that work from an office. The study also points out that 80% of people that work from the office think that people that work from home employees are much happier.
This goes on to show that the WFH age comes with many benefits. These benefits include convenience, economic benefits, a boost in employee morale and most importantly a boost in productivity. While the WFH model has so many advantages, it also has a downside.
Supervisors face challenges in a traditional office set up when it comes to developing and leading employees. This can be even more difficult in a WFH setup because supervisors do not get the opportunity to interact with employees face to face.
Because of these challenges, training and team building in a WFH setup is a high priority in order to achieve goals and maintain positive employee engagement. To curb these challenges, there are a few initiatives that you can implement to ensure that your WFH contact center is successful and competent.
1. Alter Performance Management
In order to successfully function as a contact center, you need to set key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets. These KPIs may include quality, net promoter score, customer satisfaction, attendance, attrition, average handle time, sales conversion rate, calls per hour, service levels, bill-to-pay ratios, and other factors that contribute to achieving your targets as a contact center.
These performance indicators differ from each contact center to each contact center depending on the type of business, department program, and many other factors. These factors might be compliance-driven, mission-driven, cost-driven, sales-driven, service-driven, or culture-driven.
Performance applies to all the attributes that impact your contact center work from home success such as behavior, operations, emotion etc. Your supervisors and frontline leaders should be aware of the following:
- The factors that affect success in the program or department and how they contribute to the success of the contact center as a whole.
- Full awareness of their team members and individual agent’s performance and how the performance measures to the set goals or targets.
- Practical insights and guidance derived from performance data on how to best assist agents to become more productive.
Most organizations fail to put together their performance data in such a manner that they can effectively implement change. It becomes hard for supervisors to understand or analyze and improve the factors that need to be adjusted. If this makes leadership difficult in a traditional setup, it is most likely going to be an even bigger problem when implementing a work from home program.
To fix this problem, your organization has to adopt digital transformation for performance analytics and management systems that can help you analyze performance data effectively to implement change where it is most needed.
2. Systemize coaching and agent support
When physical proximity is eliminated, it becomes difficult to cultivate productive relationships with contact center agents. This is already a challenge in the traditional setup and in a WFH setup, it can be even more challenging.
The success of the team depends on the supervisor’s leadership skills (ALERT: Leadership Training for Supervisors Is Being Disrupted) and their ability to create and maintain influence, trust, and integrity through mutual respect with agents.
However, supervisors are barely prepared or equipped with the right tools to help achieve this. They do not have enough means and proper guidance to properly analyze their team. These are important in order to execute the changes that are needed to make the team more effective.
The solution to this can be provided by software vendors. They are constantly developing tools that help facilitate effective coaching for supervisors and managers. If your organization is well established it can also be a good idea to build a coaching and support system.
A coach and support system that is tailor-made to suit your needs. Whatever the case maybe it is important to have a coaching and support system that will empower your supervisors with structure and anatomy. This will help them to develop good relationships with agents and lead effectively.
3. Execute continuous training
It is also very important for your contact center to continuously invest in the training of its agents. As humans. we crave to be valued and we often full fill this need through gaining new skills or developing the skills that we already have.
Because of the recent COVID-19 crisis, people have developed a deep desire to provide value. Many have grown a strong will to survive and achieve more. This can work to your advantage as a contact center leader.
People are already motivated to do more with their lives. It does not mean in any way that as a leader you should exploit this new-found motivation. Through training programs, your contact center can design training that is mutually beneficial to the organization and the contact center agents.
Training should be beneficial to the agent (and leaders) in their own personal lives. A study by Research Gate shows that holistic training programs increase employee morale. Holistic training can positively impact relationships within the workplace as well as motivation and productivity.
The Touchpoint One survey also alluded that 31% of supervisors expressed that training is one of the main things they would want their employer to provide more of. This was second to wages and financial incentives. It shows that there is a gap that needs to be filled. That gap is affecting how contact centers function in a traditional setup. In addition, it also highlights one of the major problems that a WFH program would most likely face.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in call volumes in critical services contact centers. This has shown a great need for training in areas such as people skills, critical thinking skills, management skills, and leadership skills.
Accelerating Customer Contact in the Work From Home Age
Even though the work from home programs have been in existence for a long time now, they have not been widely adopted. They are only going to become more common during this pandemic and after the pandemic. It will be a new normal that will remain.
This means that as an organization, you need to invest in (at minimum) this 3-step strategy. It will help to accelerate the establishment of your work from home program. The pandemic has been a wake-up call for most businesses. They are realizing that their systems and approaches are outdated in a very painful way.
To make your WFH program successful, it is crucial to provide agents and supervisors with the right tools and resources. They help supervisors to do their job best. Outdated systems and approaches when applied to the WFH scenario, can be detrimental to employee morale. It also impacts productivity, motivation, and the overall success of your organization.
This article has been edited and revised from the original, with the author’s permission.
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Jim Rembach is the Editor in Chief of the Customer Service Weekly and it’s Podcast host. He is President of CX Global Media and the creator of the Call Center Coach Virtual Leaders Academy. As the host of the Fast Leader Show Podcast, he has interviewed hundreds of experts, authors, academics, researchers, and practitioners on various angles, viewpoints, and perspectives for improving the customer experience. He has held positions in retail operations, contact centers, customer support, customer success, sales, and measured the customer experience. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner, Employee Retention Specialist, and recipient of numerous industry awards.