Navigating and Adapting Your Contact Centre for the Future

A picture of someone climbing stairs to the future

Business Systems take us through some great ideas that came from their webinar on the topic of navigating and adapting your contact centre for the future.

As the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions slowly start to ease, businesses are now turning their attention to reopening and looking forward.

Organisations, particularly contact centres, are now operating in a world that already looks different to the one we left a few months ago.

It’s an everchanging landscape, where contact centres now need to be thinking strategically rather than tactically and this thinking is carried through into the recent webinar.

The key points discussed in the webinar are laid out below:

  • How to make “working from home”, work for agents, customers and you
  • What are some of the best practices to consider when remote working?
    • Establishing your contact centre foundation
    • Adapting your contact centre scheduling
    • Managing your contact centre agent performance
  • Maintaining business continuity within the contact centre
  • What technology is best for remote working?
  • How to navigate towards the future contact centre

How to Make “Working From Home” Work for Agents, Customers & You

The pandemic has forced contact centres to trial new ways of working including working from home (WFH), which will most likely continue in this current climate, where according to one of the polls we ran during the webinar, 35% of you are considering allowing your agents to continue working from home post COVID-19.

WFH has been a new experience for most contact centres.

According to research from the ICMI, carried out a month ago, only 10% of employers had already had some experience implementing a work from home strategy, compared to a staggering 50% who had no experience.

The benefits of working from home have been spoken about many times pre-pandemic. From an agent perspective, some of the benefits include:

  • No commute
  • Healthier work/life balance
  • Increased productivity/focus
  • Ability to widen recruitment pool by looking for agents in other geographic locations

In fact, according to the same ICMI report, working from home means an 80% better retention rate for contact centre agents.

A WFH home model allows agents more flexibility with their work/life balance. Stats from NICE incontact also show that this way of working means 57% of agents are more likely to endorse their employer and therefore stay with the company for longer.

In turn, a reduction in attrition rates will help contact centres save time, money and resource spent hiring and training new staff.

Looking after the well-being of your agents in turns means looking after your customers. Ensuring employees are treated in a way that stimulates loyalty encourages them to serve customers well.

And let’s not forget that from a business perspective, one of the major benefits of working from home means organisations can reduce their real estate footprint, saving a large sum each year.

Although WFH may have positive benefits, stats also show that 71% of contact centre managers have said it has impacted their customer experience – according to NICE inContact research. This may be to do with the beginning of lockdown when contact centres were struggling to get everything set up in order to work remotely.

Most of these issues, such as agent devices not working or configurations not being set up correctly, have been addressed or acknowledged.

What we are seeing now is contact centres struggling to maintain and monitor the agent experience whilst working remotely, where, according to another poll we ran, 22% of you are lacking full visibility into your service quality and productivity.

Best Practices for Contact Centres to Consider When Remote Working

As more organisations consider working from home post-pandemic due to the benefits it can bring to a workforce, consider the following steps to help get yourself set up more permanently:

Establish the Foundation

  • Connectivity – Pilot your connectivity if possible. If not, take a “first 48 hours and adapt” approach
  • Infrastructure – Understand capacity and physical limits with direct (e.g. ACD) and shared (e.g. VPN) resources
  • Devices – Consider total cost of agent PCs, software, and IT help desk time to configure/install/fix their setup ongoing
  • Flexibility – Ensure you can quickly modify scripts for IVR, contact flows and priority, hours of operation, etc.

Adapt Your Contact Centre Scheduling

  • Shorter shifts – Think about adapting your scheduling not just from a business perspective, but also an agent’s one. Offering agents shorter shifts, for example, can provide flexibility for agents in terms of work/life balance and might also work well for you in meeting spikes in traffic at different times of the day.
  • Automatic approvals – Validate the process used for adds, moves and changes. Set as many auto approvals as you can.
  • Meetings – Establish regular touch points with supervisors and peers. Optimise the best times for the business based on customer demand and agent schedules.

Manage Contact Centre Agent Performance

  • Transition – Support agents in transition with frequent communication regarding temporarily relaxed contact centre metrics/goals. For example, stats show that during lockdown, Average Handle Time (AHT) has risen. Make sure you are explaining the reasoning behind metrics/goals and why some may have been relaxed compared to what you had in the office environment.
  • Transparency – Track and share agent activity, goals, and metrics, validating with screen and audio recording
  • Coaching – Consider doubling coaching time as a rule of thumb and applying analytics for targeted feedback. Why not also highlight the areas where certain agents are doing an exceptional job and share this with the rest of the team so those qualities can be replicated?

Navigating Toward the Future Contact Centre

The challenge that most organisations may now come across is finding the balance between protecting the factors, processes and change which support the core of their organisation, whilst also being open minded to new methods and making sure this is met with the same speed we have seen throughout this pandemic.

Although it may be tempting to return to the familiar, it’s also important to remember the innovation which was seen over the past few months and make sure we are keeping this going by evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t for success going forward.

We may have been forced into this path of remote working and it may have happened a lot quicker than most of us were comfortable with, but now that the pandemic has shone the light on a new way of working, which some may say was always inevitable, it’s the organisations who ride the wave and accept that change is constant that will be in the strongest position to succeed.

Author: Guest Author

Published On: 16th Jun 2020 - Last modified: 23rd Jun 2020
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