Richard Kenny of Poly discusses the future of the hybrid contact centre and what that means for customer service.
When looking at the customer service sector, if anything can be near certain during these unpredictable times – it’s that hybrid working is the future for the call centre.
As a matter of fact, Frost & Sullivan predicts that 20% of the call centre workforce will working from home in the near future.
That’s a bold statement for an industry where only 2% of employees were working outside the office prior to COVID-19.
However, the regulations introduced by governments globally are having a long-lasting impact and organizations that viewed home working as a temporary issue now need to move to a more permanent hybrid working approach to ensure the safety of their employees.
Two Approaches to Consider
Many call centre employees want to work from home at least some of the time, with a majority of 53% reporting that they want a blend of home and office or “hybrid working”.
Meanwhile, the majority of businesses will need to ensure they reduce the number of people in the office to maintain social distancing – this can be resolved by having a hybrid workforce.
Which begs the question, what is the best approach to take to achieve having a healthy and happy workforce while also abiding by local regulations. There are two approaches to consider – a hybrid workforce and hybrid employees.
1. A Hybrid Workforce
- How it works – split employees into teams, with one team dedicated to home working, the other dedicated working in the office.
- Advantages – teams know their location and can make long-term plans and you can provide dedicated solutions for each team’s needs.
- Disadvantage – limited flexibility if an employee’s situation or local regulations change.
2. Hybrid Employees
- How it works – customer service reps can choose where they work best –in general or on certain days of the week. They then split their time working in the office and at home.
- Advantages – this is employees’ favorite solution – blending time learning in the office with time at home.
- Disadvantage – requires a booking or planning system to ensure the number of employees in the workplace at once is not too high.
What Model Is Right for Your Customer Service Teams?
After visiting many call centres, it becomes obvious that customer service teams are generally a young workforce, with many of them in their first role on the career ladder. Therefore, we can’t assume they have a dedicated room or space to work from home.
Our partners at Leesman surveyed home workers globally and found that approximately 30% of them are not working from a suitable space. As this survey covers entire organizations, it is likely that the proportion of call centre employees without a suitable space to work is higher.
With their roles being customer facing, it’s especially important that these agents present and maintain a professional image for the company.
Some More Considerations
- Personality types – sending home employees who are outgoing is going to be challenging for them. They need to be in the office for social interactions with people.
- Ergonomics – employees must have a space or room to work. This ensures an optimum ergonomic setup and gives them the ability to hide it all away at the end of the day. Working on the kitchen table isn’t a long-term solution!
- Technology – High-quality broadband internet is essential. At a push, employees can use mobile devices, but a fully featured softphone will give a better experience. Employees also need to be comfortable with getting technology working themselves as IT support won’t extend to home callouts.
- Management – Ensure your supervisors are comfortable with remote analysis, coaching, and management.
What Do You Need?
So, what changes to your audio and video devices do you need to make to ensure hybrid working is a success? And how do you do this against a backdrop of cost control? As the work environment and technology platform is likely to be uncertain for some time, you need a headset that will work across all the different ‘phones’ that your employees use.
Your existing Poly headset with a Quick Disconnect (QD) is the right solution here – the QD gives you unlimited compatibility to work with any technology platform.
If your employees are in the office, there’s no urgent need to make changes for hybrid working. If you are still using legacy desk phones, now may be the time to start investigating in cloud options. An audio processor such as the MDA524 gives you the option to connect to both desk phones and PCs – future proofing your current headsets for any technology path.
If your employees are at home, they are probably using a cloud connected softphone, or even a mobile device if broadband quality isn’t high. Again, your existing Poly headsets with a QD will work here.
Using the DA80 to connect to the PC for softphone work, or a short cable when using a mobile phone.
Regardless of where your teams are, they need to sound professional. To ensure they are using only approved devices, and that these devices are kept up to date, use Plantronics ManagerPro to fully understand the devices on your network.
In addition, if your supervisors can’t see their staff, Plantronics ManagerPro gives them insight into employees that will enable them to make targeted interventions if employees performance drops and impacts customer experience.
Keep Everyone Connected
Finally, you’ll always need video to keep your team together. The social element of working is important to many call center employees, so if they can’t be together in person, seeing each other on video is the next best thing – ready for bring your dog to work day?
Regardless of which approach to hybrid working you take, the way in which we look at call centre home working needs to change. Home working isn’t just for managers, nor for the most productive employees, and it shouldn’t be given as a reward.
Look at each employee’s situation individually to decide the best location for them to work and set them up for success accordingly.