Working From Home: How Separation Affects the Contact Centre


A picture of an agent working in home office

Adam Aftergut of NICE looks into the root causes of work-from-home challenges faced by contact centre agents and their employers.

While many employees view working from home as a perk, remote work nonetheless brings with it some operational challenges that weren’t present in the brick-and-mortar workplace.

Remote agents often have less visibility into scheduling and performance as well as fewer opportunities for in-person recognition and professional development.

These issues, in turn, translate directly into business challenges for their employer, with a direct effect on service levels, customer experience and efficiency.

Overcoming work-from-home challenges for agents also resolves them for the contact centre, and vice versa, enabling seamless operation regardless of the distance between them.

The following three critical work-from-home challenges are inextricably linked to the physical separation between the employee and their workplace.

Employees Need Schedule Visibility; Employers Need Agents to Be Reachable

Many remote workers lack mobile access to their schedules, which leads to tardiness and more missed shifts, lowering adherence and increasing staffing variances. Moreover, the lack of remote agent views of schedule change opportunities (e.g. extra hours or voluntary time off) impedes the resolution of intraday staffing variances.

In addition, in the fast-moving contact centre, the surroundings and tempo keep employees on task, aware of the general arc of the day and in close touch with supervisors who can intervene or provide a gentle nudge as necessary.

These cues help agents know where they need to be, whether they’re late, what events are upcoming and whether they should move to a new activity, among other things.

How Technology Can Help You Solve This Challenge

A scheduling portal for automated self-service in a native mobile app or web-based application allows agents to access and update their schedules while remote.

The portal’s intelligent automation technology also enables preapproved schedule change opportunities, giving agents unmatched transparency of their scheduling options and enabling instant changes by agents, all while ensuring that staffing needs are met.

Automated push offers of schedule change opportunities also help supervisors ensure staffing optimization for contact centre operations.

Employees Need Personalized Recognition; Employers Need Teams That Are Motivated

The nature of work-from-home arrangements eliminates informal opportunities to connect with and motivate teams. When workers are remote, it is also harder to quickly recognize top performers and reward effective practices in real time.

In fact, a Gallup poll found that three-quarters of employees did not receive recognition or praise for doing good work in the last week, leading to lower quality and higher absenteeism.

The motivational challenge for contact centres in remote-work environments is two-fold: identifying and rewarding high performers. Personalized and instant recognition of their progress, and rewards for their successes, help agents feel they are on a path toward definite goals.

When employees are working on site, supervisors can easily share praise or set up a brief ad hoc meeting during in-office hours. Agents, for their part, can shadow or receive on-the-fly input from co-workers.

Other types of recognition for performance, such as preferential scheduling options, are dependent on being able to inform the agent in a timely manner.

How Technology Can Help You Solve This Challenge

Automated KPI-based notifications alert supervisors or agents when the team or individual agents have hit key performance goals, such as a daily adherence target. These notifications provide instant recognition for agents and contact centre teams when their performance is noteworthy, providing motivation, recognition and reinforcement.

In addition, they can move agents through a multi-step progression of goals. By helping supervisors see who is performing well in the moment, they also shed a light into best practices.

Employers Need to Provide Development Opportunities; Employees Need Self-Improvement Options

In the remote workplace, employees can be harder to coach or train due to the lack of in-person guidance and timely feedback, including indications of the impact of coaching sessions.

Supervisors who wish to promote self-directed corrective measures in response to negative KPI trends are faced with the challenge of notifying agents working from home promptly. As a result, performance improvements take longer and occur in less significant increments.

In addition, agents working remotely who wish to manage their own professional self-improvement are often limited in their options to receive the best information on their performance. This may be due to poor remote access or visibility, a dependence on supervisors or a lack of real-time data.

How Technology Can Help You Solve This Challenge

Agents receive timely, targeted and personalized alerts of KPI trends via native mobile and web-based applications as well as via automated emailing and text messaging, identifying areas for improvement before CSAT takes a hit.

These KPI alerts can also account for correlated KPI trends, such as a spike in average handle time preceding a drop in service levels. Supervisors are also automatically informed of an agent’s metrics – if intervention is needed, the focus of improvement efforts is clear and transparent to both the agent and the supervisor.

Different Perspectives, Common Solutions

Each of the work-from-home challenges caused by physical separation can be viewed from two perspectives – that of the employer and that of the employee. However, if you solve the challenge for one stakeholder, then you’ve often also solved it for the other.

NICE Employee Engagement Manager (EEM), a key component of the NICE Intelligent WFM Suite, enables contact centres to bridge the gap between remote employee and workplace.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of NICE – View the original post

To find out more about NICE, visit www.nice.com

Published On: 28th Oct 2020
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