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How to Engage Home-Based Contact Center Agents — Part 2

How to Engage Home-Based Contact Center Agents — Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our blog series on home-based contact center agents — aimed at helping you manage your remote contact center operations during these challenging times!

Last week we wrote about how trust, clear commitments between managers and agents, and the right technology are all requirements for running an effective home-based contact center operation. In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here. This week, we’ll discuss the role of virtual coaching, ensuring the right contact center manager and agent competencies, and the role new technologies like process automation can play in taking your home-based contact center to the next level.

From Home Agents to Virtual Contact Center Operations

As the customer contact center and the workplace transition to become completely virtual, the challenge then becomes to fully “digitize” the management of contact center operations. This includes virtual agent monitoring and coaching. From a technology perspective, today’s cloud-based solutions provide the tools contact center managers need to run a remote contact center operation, enabling “virtual” tracking of agent availability and adherence down to the nearest second, and accurately measuring areas like agent handling time (AHT), time spent on campaigns, and breaks.

At the same time, home-based contact center operations also require managers to rely upon new skills and ways of working compared to what they are used to in a physical contact center. First and foremost, they must lead with confidence and must have the ability to bring together teams remotely. For example, affinity with social media communities is an important competence for the home-based contact center manager. While employees are held accountable for their own responsibility, open and easy communications are a must to keep teams and agents effectively working together. Tools like joint chat rooms for agents and community platforms, in which all employees connect with each other, are available, and can help overcome the physical connections that lack in home-based operations.

Recruitment and hiring is another area that requires contact center managers to employ new practices, and look for new types of skills. Recruitment and selection must take place location-independently. This means that all processes for on-boarding a new agent, such as application, selection, training, planning and coaching, must all be virtualized.

New Agent Competencies

Just as contact center managers take on new skill sets, home-based agents must also build new and specific competencies to make remote working a success. Home-based agents must be self-managing and possess a high sense of responsibility. Self-reliance is a key trait. The home-based agent is to a greater extent dependent on himself or herself to find the right answers to get the job done. A prerequisite for contact center managers is to ensure that home-based agents have easy access to all company knowledge in a single place, made available via an online knowledge base, as well as direct online communication with other members of the team.

Self-management not only ensures that the knowledge the agent acquires is better retained, but the outcome ultimately improves overall CX knowledge and the quality of customer interactions. Moreover, the physical absence of a supervisor appears to have a positive influence on the self-reliance of an agent: significantly fewer questions are asked to a  virtually available team coach versus those physically present in the contact center.

Finally, employees must be good team players and be able to motivate colleagues (online). They are all part of a (virtual) team, linked to a common cause or campaign.  Within this environment, integrated communications and knowledge is needed to facilitate the exchange of information between team members. This accumulated knowledge also must be recorded and used to make better decisions and improve operations moving forward.

Also, conducting open and clear communication between agents and helping each other stay motivated is very important here. Employees must be able to give each other feedback and be rewarded on the basis of their commitment to the team. Wherever possible, agents should see  KPIs on their own team on their desktop—in real-time. Agents can then work together as a team to achieve performance metrics and goals. You can also think about using gamification to activate knowledge building, sharing and group interactivity for home-based agents.

Process Automation Opens Up New Opportunities

As contact center managers around the world more closely examine their operations during the current Coronavirus crisis, now is a good time to analyze your contact center data to understand where you can achieve efficiency gains and opportunities to automate processes. By analyzing the data that becomes available within all the applications used in (home-based) contact center operations, and using new digital tools to collect more feedback from agents in a structured way, contact center managers can better optimize processes and operations during these times of transition.

Are agents spending too much time on a particular process? Are there opportunities to offload manual tasks with process automation? Which knowledge base answers are leading to the most positive customer outcomes? Most interactions trigger a process. By automating simple tasks and augmenting agents during complex, error-prone processes, today’s cloud-based intelligent process automation solutions are enabling contact center managers to uncover new ways to improve operations and reduce costs. The result can also have a very positive impact on agent satisfaction, enabling them to focus on more value-oriented interactions or complex customer issues.

At the end of the day, a successful home-based contact center operation needs to put your agents at the helm. Trust them to get the job done. Make clear commitments. Update skills and competencies as needed. And use the latest technology to not only run your contact center operations smoothly, but also look for opportunities to be more productive and efficient for your customers.

If you’d like advice on how to best enable and engage home-based contact center agents at your company, let us show you how!

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