Our panel of experts share their favourite advice for revitalizing your contact centre homeworking strategy.
1. Provide Advisors With New Roles and Responsibilities
With every day seeming a bit repetitive right now for advisors – wake up, make tea, walk downstairs, start working, stop working, repeat – it would be no surprise if they were feeling a bit bored. And with boredom usually comes apathy, disengagement, and a slip in performance.
That’s why now might be a great time to give your advisors some new roles and responsibilities – and even a new project or challenge – as a way to refresh your homeworking strategy.
This may seem a bit counterintuitive, and you may be thinking: “What? Their KPIs are slipping! The last thing I need is to make their work harder!”
But if their stagnant performance is due to boredom, a new role or challenge can get their blood pumping and reinvigorate them to bring their best all around.
A few examples include:
- Reassigning advisors across teams, like a billing advisor to the service queue
- Tasking an advisor with a process improvement project
- Assigning an advisor to organize and run the team’s virtual staff meeting.
Thanks to Lauren Comer at NICE InContact
2. Keep Lines of Communication Open
Homeworking can take its toll on our concentration as we juggle home life with work commitments, and without colleagues and managers around for support.
With this in mind, it’s vital that advisors have frequent contact with their managers and peers, in order to keep the sense of community alive and morale high.
Communication also helps managers to understand how employees are coping with homeworking:
- Is employee burnout starting to creep in?
- Do they have the right homeworking set-up?
- Do they know how to use their equipment properly ?
Using workforce management (WFM) technology and collaboration tools, managers can make up for the lack of visibility and ensure that employees are keeping up with adherence, while staying happy and productive when working from home.
It’s also important to ensure that employees get enough time away from their screens. Think about setting guidelines like taking a break every 45 minutes or avoiding back-to-back video meetings where possible.
Thanks to Craig Farley at IP Integration
3. Diversify Advisor Workload
This strategy is a proven way to combat the feeling of monotony that sometimes arises from the repetitive nature of certain tasks or the processes that advisors must follow.
By varying the work advisors engage in and giving them different issues to deal with and channels to manage, contact centres can break up the humdrum of a workday.
By varying the work advisors engage in and giving them different issues to deal with and channels to manage, contact centres can break up the humdrum of a workday.
If your contact centre is reluctant to embrace multiskilling, there are other things that you can ask advisors to do that will break up their day and support the development of the contact centre. These include:
- Appointing subject-matter experts
- Asking advisors to take charge of projects (e.g. how-to video guides)
- Inviting advisors to manage third-party review sites (e.g. Trustpilot)
4. Refocus on Advisor Development
Making staff feel that they matter is even more crucial in contact centres than in other industries, as data indicates that a younger demographic increasingly regards this type of employment as temporary.
In an age when advisors are often the sole human contact between customers and brands, easy access to worthwhile training increases the likelihood of keeping advisors interested in their jobs.
Another way to do this is through gamification. This cost-effective, proven technique introduces competitive dimensions to agents’ work.
Combined with increased incentives as a result of competition, the playful nature of games encourages participation and rewards achievement.
Even better, along with winning rewards, prizes and points, advisors can also enjoy increased team bonding.
Thanks to Neil Titcomb at Odigo
5. Create New Ways to Listen to Your Team
Listen to what your homeworkers are telling you. These aren’t normal times when you can plan ahead, safe in the knowledge that your homeworkers have chosen to work from home. This is partly the age of forced homeworking.
Many of your people will be keen to get back to the office – so your priority must be to make it work as well as possible for everyone….. those who see their future in long term homeworking, and those that don’t.
As a Team Leader, don’t leave it a week or more before making contact with team members. If possible make it every day…. but at least twice a week.
Refreshing your communications is a great starting point. As a Team Leader, don’t leave it a week or more before making contact with team members. If possible make it every day…. but at least twice a week. It’s not just vital for team cohesion and morale but also to ensure that you’re able to spot issues, especially around mental health, currently the number one concern amongst homeworkers according to a recent survey from New Street Consulting Group
6. Build Around a Long Term Vision
It’s also vital at this stage to start building your post lockdown homeworking strategy, and the first question you must ask is; what model are we going to adopt long term? Will it be 100% work-from-home (WFH), a part time WFH/ part time office model, a mix of 100% homeworkers and 100% office workers……
There are many models and the key is to pick the one that works best for your organisation and its people.
Also, identify who would make an ideal homeworker: is there a particular type of person, set of behaviours, level of experience required? And finally there’s a host of operational issues to consider from how you’re going to recruit and onboard people, to matters of training, scheduling, communications and homeworker management.
Work-from-home is set to be part of the new normal for over 50 per cent of UK centres according to a Sensée 2020 survey of 156 UK contact centre professionals.
When asked about their biggest homeworking challenge:
- 23% said Pastoral Care (i.e. isolation/mental health)
- 22% Motivation/Productivity
- 17% Telephony/Technology Services
- 14% Communication with Remote Workers
- 12%Staff Management. Training, IT Security, and Recruitment were also identified.
- Only 2% of respondents thought that they “had homeworking nailed”.
Thanks to Mark Walton at Sensée
7. Overcome “Frazzled Advisor Syndrome”
While remote working suits many advisors, others are emotionally drained as the boundary between home and work life dissolves.
Without physical proximity, supervisors cannot easily spot someone struggling, so now is the time to innovate and take a look at the various technologies that make this easier.
One such technology is real-time speech analytics, which uses natural language processing (NLP) to identify when an advisor is experiencing stress, becoming emotional, or in need of whispered or direct intervention on a call.
But while we need to innovate, we must use a light-touch approach to avoid agents feeling as if Big Brother is watching them every nano-second.
Video collaboration tools help by ensuring everyone feels more connected and engaged. It is important that advisors feel they are not facing the challenges alone.
Thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive
8. Update Your Communication Processes
It’s time for contact centres to ready their homeworking strategies for the long term.
One of the simplest yet most impactful ways companies can look to do this is to improve their communication systems – the most important bridge between us and our colleagues and customers.
Call centres can, for example, maximize contact agents’ phone interactions with the addition of intelligent telephony software that offers a 360-degree view of customers.
Also, they may wish to incorporate features like wallboards to keep contact centre teams more connected by providing information on who is on calls, which of their colleagues is on a break, and how long customers have been waiting in the queue.
This will help to fill the gap that’s missing from the physical office.
Thanks to Neil Hammerton at Natterbox
9. Bolster Your Homeworking Kits
The biggest source of homeworking voice and application problems isn’t the internet service, but the homeworker’s kit.
Home internet routers are not designed for traffic prioritization and the built-in Wi-Fi will be limited. Fine if the only thing running is the homeworker’s PC. Not so good if you have other people in the household or other devices using the Wi-Fi.
Unless you supply your homeworker with a PC you also have no control over what is running on it, or whether it is up to spec, and what dodgy add-ons the browser might have.
These two factors make the homeworking environment uncontrollable and unreliable.
So, bolster the homeworking kits that you provide to your team, to ensure that they include:
- An 8-port gigabit switch that supports QoS (Quality of Service)
- A wireless access point
- A Raspberry Pi, preconfigured to limit application and browser access and to make sure voice and other traffic is marked for QoS.
- A USB headset that works with the Raspberry Pi.
- Keyboard, mouse, budget monitor
- Ethernet cables
Expect to spend up to a max of £200 per installation.
Have your IT people preconfigure everything and provide step-by-step instructions on how to wire up, and how to reconfigure home routers from the major internet service providers (ISPs). Test and retest, before rolling out to your homeworkers.
Thanks to Garry Pearson at Sytel
10. Increase the Flexibility
When Calabrio surveyed over 300 contact centre professionals, the top three remote-work pain points were:
- How to facilitate team connection and collaboration
- How to manage employee productivity when you can’t see them
- How to regain overall operational and managerial insight.
Today’s homeworking advisors – away from their usual support network in the office – need all the help they can get.
As is clear from these common issues, today’s homeworking advisors – away from their usual support network in the office – need all the help they can get.
One way to do this is to keep remote advisors up to date with their schedules using a workforce management (WFM) mobile app.
The team can use self-serve to request shift-swaps, holidays and overtime or quickly move their break times and lunches to pick up the kids from school, for example, with “drag & drop” ease.
Flexibility is critical to respecting the difficult homeworking environment that advisors share.
11. Rethink Resource Optimization
When life is predictable, forecasts that were built weeks ago and the associated shifts to fulfil them are fine. Yet this is no longer the case. Even the best planned schedules were thrown into disarray in 2020.
Today, team leaders need accurate, daily operational insights into the actual vs. forecast demand, so they can deploy their teams efficiently to ensure service level targets are consistently met.
Team leaders need accurate, daily operational insights into the actual vs. forecast demand, so they can deploy their teams efficiently…
WFM tools provide the flexibility to build “uber-style” micro-shifts that identify the best short windows of opportunity to offer overtime, highlight the best time for a team huddle or to push a 1-2-1 back an hour.
These are the levers leaders need to optimize their intraday resources and deliver the best customer experience in the most cost-efficient way.
12. Increase Your Quality Assurance (QA) Coverage
It’s something of an unwritten contact centre law that while 100% of calls may be recorded, fewer than 2% will be properly evaluated.
As customer channels and contact centres shift to accommodate the realities of the pandemic and homeworking, quality programmes have come into sharper focus.
After all, a good quality assurance (QA) programme has the potential to positively change advisor behaviour, motivate the team and assess the quality of customer service that individuals are providing. It is an invaluable tool, especially in this current homeworking environment.
Of course, increasing manual QA monitoring takes up a lot of time and resource. But there are tools out there which can help, including analytics-fuelled Quality Management (QM) software. This can automate much of your QA and be used to analyse and evaluate 100% of omnichannel interactions.
Thanks to Richard Pinnington at Calabrio
13. Clear Up Schedule Adherence
A key challenge of working remotely is ensuring your staff are productive and working efficiently.
However, without clear real-time visibility of staff and scheduled activity, contact centres can find themselves in a position where scheduled employees are not available when they should be.
To combat this, contact centres may wish to implement real-time adherence functionality.
By adding this functionality to an existing WFM system, contact centres will then be able to:
- Compare agent schedules with those of the current dialler state
- Flag lack of schedule adherence with alarms
- Provide real-time adherence visibility to ensure staff are available for the next customer interaction, ensuring handle times are kept to a satisfactory level
Thanks to Alex Stenton-Hibbert at Business Systems
14. Revaluate Data Protection
End-device protection through business-grade antiviral and other threat supervision allied to secure connectivity will ensure that working remotely is akin to working within the corporate network.
It’s not all about technology, though! Be sure to remind people of your collective GDPR obligations and make sure they understand and acknowledge them.
Unlike controlled office environments, working from home could see staff exposing their screens, even inadvertently, to others with less scrupulous intentions.
Publishing (or re-publishing) working-from-home guidelines to protect your employees from these dangers can be a good idea. These guidelines can also be used to support advisors in other ways, like encouraging good health – both physical and mental.
Thanks to Tom Gutteridge at Maintel
15. Improve Performance Feedback
It’s time organizations truly optimized support for remote contact centre employees by improving performance feedback, remote training and engagement.
Tools make optimizing these initiatives possible. Speech analytics, for example, can identify areas of improvement more effectively and take action.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
16. Freshen Up Your Workforce Management Plans
New methods of optimizing scheduling and advisor productivity can be invaluable. WFM tools allow contact centres to build accurate forecasts and flexible schedules.
Using WFM software and automating tasks can significantly reduce the amount of time contact centres spend on completing them.
Examples of tasks that you can automate with WFM technology include:
- Demand predictions
- Scenario planning
- Trend analysis
- Adherence management
- Multichannel/multisite scheduling
Once a forecast is complete, team leaders can manage daily tasks and goals. They could even incorporate gamification options, designed to give agents insight into their performance and introduce an element of ‘fun competition’.
All of this helps organizations find the right balance between meeting customer demand and giving employees a good work/life balance, which ultimately makes for better customer experience.
Thanks to Shameem Smillie at Mitel
17. Re-evaluate Your Homeworking Security Processes
With government guidance constantly changing and fatigue setting in for many amongst the remote workforce, protecting every employee, as well as every customer, from fraud is still a major concern.
In such an uncertain time, it’s never been more important for organizations to bolster their cybersecurity strategies and arm themselves with the solutions to keep fraudsters at bay whilst maintaining usual levels of service.
By automatically identifying when fraudulent calls are being made, biometric technologies will prove an invaluable tool for helping to protect customers looking to make digital transactions during this unusual time.
Also, they will help to shield work-at-home advisors – often the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain – by improving internal security checks and verifying their identities. This prevents fraudsters from pretending to be them in order to gain wider access to a business’s sensitive information.
Thanks to Brett Beranek at Nuance
For more from our panel of experts, check out the following articles: