Phil Barron explains the good habits that can help agents provide great customer service – regardless of their location.
The very prospect of working from home oozes nothing but initially positive connotations with regard to assumed lenient working schedules and carefree surroundings. Although home agents perform many, if not all, of the exact same tasks as their office-based counterparts, the fundamentals of working from home are commonly misinterpreted.
Even with commuting costs and frustrating traffic tailbacks no longer a headache, and the traits of the physical centre a distant memory, home agents are expected to maintain the exact same degree of professional commitment and self-motivation as office-based agents. Let’s face it, providing a first-class service and going the extra mile for customers, irrespective of physical location, is the ultimate goal for any centre.
With the greatest of intentions at heart, many agents ponder and question how they can maintain a consistent working attitude without becoming distracted by everyday household duties and comforts.
Let’s look at the top ten tips that facilitate productive homeworking efforts.
1. Be crystal clear about your working hours
Your working hours are as important at home as they are in the centre. For home agents, it’s important that friends and family members appreciate your hours and the fact that you don’t have the luxury of aimlessly walking away from your desk.
Reinforce the hours you work by advising family members and friends of your working hours on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to clearly post your hours at home for everyone to quickly refer to.
2. Create a comfortable working environment
Cramped in the corner of your kitchen, physically restricted by the short cable on your headset or telephone, and becoming increasingly enraged with an untidy working area doesn’t immediately emit the positive vibes required to work efficiently from home.
In order to maintain a calm, collected mindset, it’s important to establish a dedicated workspace with no distractions. While it may sound trivial to create something of a physical well-organised office space, it really does spur concentration and productivity.
What’s more, to eliminate disruption, everything you need to provide dedicated customer service from home should be accessible within reaching distance.
3. Define and adhere to your physical boundaries
Avoiding interruptions can be a huge challenge for home agents. There’s a general misconception that just because agents work from home, they’re not technically working.
During the working hours stipulated in your contract of employment, you should ensure all family members and friends understand and appreciate that your working commitments are as important at home as they would be if you were physically in the centre.
Remember, the boundaries you define from the offset to eliminate interruptions throughout your working day are only as effective as they’re enforced.
4. Get dressed every morning
Let’s squash the misconception that home agents respond to customers in their fluffy sleepwear or favourite sweatpants here and now!
While I’m not your parent or legal guardian, it’s important to hit the message home that getting dressed as you would before commuting to the centre each morning helps agents maintain a logical working mindset every day.
5. Your kitchen is a no-go area
As our stomachs gurgle and burp with hunger throughout the day, there’s nothing more satisfying than an impromptu snack from the biscuit barrel or rustling up a swift, magical meal in the kitchen.
With your daily tasks and targets at the forefront of your mind at all times, the disciplined process of taking regular, scheduled breaks really is key. Never worry, your rapid lunchtime dishes are welcome during the time allocated for breaks. What’s more, it’s also important to apply the same thinking to cigarette breaks.
6. You aren’t at home when you’re working from home
When you’re actively interacting with customers on the call floor, do you take personal calls or reply to text messages on your phone? I thought not. Well, working from home is no exception.
May your letterbox clatter, doorbell sound, or telephone ring during the hours you work at home, it’s important to place working commitments at the top of your list of priorities, keeping in mind customer expectations. As a result, you won’t be inclined to set your daily priorities aside to respond to personal matters.
7. Don’t make personal appointments during working hours
While niggling toothaches and sporadic colds and flu are an all too common burden for us all, slipping away from your home office during working hours to attend an appointment has never, and will never be, well received by your supervisors or customers.
Just as you would in a physical centre, ensure any personal appointments accommodate your current schedule, further minimising disruption to your working day.
8. Management of your daily priorities matters
When the laundry basket’s overflowing, breakfast dishes are mounting, or there’s an addictive TV season that everyone’s talking about on the Tweetosphere, it can be extremely difficult to focus time and effort on daily working commitments.
By managing your daily priorities and efficiently focusing your efforts around a definitive schedule, daily objectives and targets are clear-cut, making it easier to meet specific service levels and ultimately deliver an exceptional customer experience.
9. Motivate yourself daily
It comes as absolutely no surprise that home agents work independently, with no supervisory presence to keep them on their toes and reinforce the importance of active customer engagement.
When you’re surrounded by mounting daily chores and tempting home comforts, the ability to continually self-motivate yourself in an isolated, home-based environment is much more difficult than many give credit for.
Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that customer requirements come first and expectations matter – use these facts to form a basis for your motivation.
10. Keep in touch with your fellow colleagues
While learning by collective involvement is a huge topic for many centres, keeping in touch with fellow peers in your centre helps shape consistent customer service efforts, facilitates the ability of sharing knowledge and experiences, and aids the process of asking for assistance when you need it most.
Although the ability to peek over a physical cubicle and talk face-to-face with other agents isn’t a feasible option when you’re working at home, utilising any internal communication tools supported by your centre helps keep team members synchronised.
You’re a welcomed member of the team and a crucial cog in the contact centre process. Location is irrelevant!
While we could spend endless hours discussing the fundamentals of working from home in all its glory, two takeaway messages continually spring to mind.
First and foremost, for working from home to have a positive, parallel impact on customer service expectations and retention, agents must possess a well-versed, self-motivated mindset to work without any physical interaction surrounding them daily.
Second, and equally important, regardless of the countless benefits your website banner demonstrates about your product or service, customers frankly don’t care about agent location. Be it a warm, inviting office surrounding, a comfortable home office, or customer service via homing pigeon, customers expect and appreciate acknowledgement from the very beginning of any interaction, and expect nothing less than a timely resolution to their query or issue.
I hope my insights assist your quest for exceptional customer service!
With thanks from Phil Barron at The Call Center School