The shift to remote agents is likely to be ongoing, despite efforts by some contact centres to move agents in-centre full-time or use a hybrid approach.
When you consider the benefits remote work at home (WaH) offers, especially when coupled with BYOD, there are many reasons to make it a workforce staple.
But having agents work remotely presents human resources managers with several challenges, particularly when hiring.
Do hiring practices need to change? What attributes should managers look for when hiring a remote agent? How do you conduct a successful hiring interview remotely to ensure you find agents well suited to a WaH environment?
We address those questions in this post and offer practical advice and best practices.
Remote Agent Hiring Best Practices
If your contact centre is a typical on-premises operation, you most likely use hiring practices that work well for face-to-face interactions. These include job fairs, on-site interviews, and classroom training and onboarding.
The fact that prospective agents won’t access your facility necessitates building out your digital presence.
That means having a comprehensive website with a high-quality career section that includes agent testimonials, detailed job descriptions, company culture information, and a list of benefits you offer. Keep your social media accounts updated, too, especially your Facebook page.
Agent Attributes to Look for When Hiring Remotely
The primary characteristics of what makes an excellent contact center agent do not differ from one setting to another. All agents should be effective communicators, have exceptional customer service skills, complete after-call work quickly, and be detail-oriented and well-organized.
That said, HR managers should look for characteristics unique to a remote setting. Six stand out:
The ability to be self-motivated and work independently is a must-have. Work at home agents should not need a lot of oversight to do the job. Instead, they must hold themselves accountable to make decisions on their own.
Remote workers may benefit from fewer distractions than agents in the contact centre, but they can still find diversions. That’s why discipline is a necessary characteristic.
Often, they plan their schedule, which means setting deadlines, getting enough sleep, and managing family and household responsibilities during the workday. Their home is their office, and they must draw a distinct line between the two.
Remote agents may be working alone, but that does not mean they are working by themselves. Look for people who understand how to work as part of a distributed team and build on their colleagues’ efforts.
Remote agents must be flexible to be successful. They already have to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and the fact they are working at a distance instead of face-to-face means they must be willing and able to adapt when circumstances dictate.
A productive remote agent prioritizes results over busy work, and a candidate whose work speaks for itself should weigh heavily into your hiring decision.
Ideally, you should look for agents who have experience working remotely. They know what the job requires and have a proven performance track record.
How to Structure a Remote Interview
It stands to reason that if agents aren’t working in the contact centre, you won’t bring them into a physical setting to conduct interviews. That presents challenges, but none you can’t overcome by adapting to a new structure and mindset.
To conduct video interviews, you will need to get the right tools in place, such as Zoom, Skype, of GoToMeeting. Also, just because you hold an interview virtually doesn’t mean you should handle it less professionally.
Both parties should dress for work, keep desks free from clutter, and use good lighting focused on the face. It’s probably a good idea to make the candidate aware of your expectations before the interview, just to be fair.
Also, you may want to rethink the interview questions. FlexJobs has a list of 12 questions designed just for remote use. These include:
- Have you ever worked remotely? What were some of the challenges you faced?
- Have you worked with a distributed team?
- How do you stay focused on your tasks?
Developing a structured interview process will go a long way to ensuring you find the best candidates for the job.
With remote work here to stay, BPOs and contact centres that want to incorporate its use long-term must address hiring challenges head-on. That includes reassessing hiring practices, knowing what to look for in remote agent candidates, and adjusting interview processes to fit this new paradigm.
Following the advice and best practices presented here will put you well on your way to reaching that goal.