The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put work-from-home contact centre agents to the test. And it’s not expected to end any time soon.
The crisis and its associated lockdowns have created a large-scale experiment with genuine consequences for contact centres. Forced to adapt to a work-from-home environment quickly, they’re facing numerous challenges, both technologically and personally, as they transition.
While managing personal stress, work-from-home contact centre agents are handling conversations of an unprecedented nature. Meanwhile, customer expectations hold steady. Customers expect the same high level of service they experienced in the past, which places customer satisfaction at risk. While facing these higher customer demands, increasing call volumes and more complex interactions, agents are on their own, with no immediate managerial support.
The challenge lies in ensuring that work-from-home agents reach required levels of productivity and performance KPIs, while also remaining motivated and engaged. Therefore, this is the time for quality teams, supervisors and coaches to work together in managing this transition to help agents adapt.
Here are some of the key actions that will assist you in maintaining quality with work-from-home agents.
1. Deploy Quality Management Software
Despite the current situation, contact centres are still expected to meet their customer service goals. That means that now more than ever, they require reliable customer interaction insights to identify where assistance, coaching or improvements are needed. Adopting automated quality management programs is the key to unlocking those insights.
Quality management software can monitor and score 100% of agent interactions. Just as it would in a physical office real-time monitoring and reporting can assist in enhancing and improving the performance of remote agents.
It’s also important to consider that agents are all adapting to the “new normal” at different rates and times. Therefore, it’s advisable to compare an agent’s calls before, during and after the transition, and benchmark their performance not against metrics like AHT, but their peers, and share any best practices.
2. Prioritise Training & Coaching
Agents adapting to working from home are under a lot of pressure, and research shows that a brain under stress learns less effectively. This makes providing the necessary materials and guidance essential for agents to be successful, and supervisors and coaches should play a key role here.
A collaboration model between these stakeholders can help contact centres to be more effective at coaching agents working from home – particularly those who lack opportunities for real-time, in-person feedback. With agents and their managers no longer working from the same location, face-to-face sessions should be replaced with video sessions. Remember to ask open-ended questions to create a dialogue. Consider how each agent learns best and personalise your coaching to the individual.
Organisations can also benefit from using analytics to assess interactions and uncover new indicators of performance. For example, determine how responses to COVID-19-related questions are being handled or whether background noise or environmental or home-office setups are distracting agents on calls. You can then track and report on coaching effectiveness, paying particular attention to trends that emerge following the transition to working from home. Managers can then collaborate on evaluations to focus on those behaviours that empower agent success.
3. Adopt Automation
Automating as many elements of the quality program as possible will enable a quicker understanding of the conversations taking place between agents and customers on new topics relating to COVID-19. In turn, this will allow you to establish procedures to help guide agents in these discussions.
The goal here is to improve the existing quality processes to deliver specific and objective feedback on agent behaviours quickly. As much as possible, you should leverage the people, process and technology you have in place to make this happen. This includes creating customised dashboards to capture the most important information and automating the quality assessment elements, such as interaction selection, calibration preparation and reporting.
The key to successful innovation is experimentation, and there has never been a better time to rapidly experiment with cloud-based contact centre solutions. Use this as an opportunity not only to solve immediate challenges but also to learn for future transformations.
4. Restore Morale, Productivity & Performance
Helping agents, getting them engaged, productive and delivering the same quality of service you had before (or better) is critical. That means organisations need to find new ways of engaging and boosting the morale of agents to create employee development, camaraderie, collaboration, and performance when you can no longer lean over their shoulders.
Many contact centres have likely already needed to substantially re-skill agents as a response to changes in inbound contact volume, customer channel preferences, and an increase in new or temporary agents. As a result, you’ll likely also need more collaborative and personalised remote training, automated quality evaluations, and targeted coaching that can help agents to handle current customer needs better.
As you onboard new agents or transition existing employees to work-from-home models, make sure that you’re also providing a safe space for feedback. While organisations can longer rely on informal water-cooler conversation or in-the-moment coaching, a formalised Voice of the Employee (VoE) program helps organisations to be more systematic about how they get feedback to the agent and help them adapt.
When providing feedback, don’t forget to continue to celebrate success, either. Agents need to know that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
Managing Work-From-Home Agent Performance Effectively
With the right assistance, contact centres can continue to increase productivity as agents adapt to change more quickly, reduce agent turnover, improve agent engagement and boost customer satisfaction.
Not only can empowering a culture of coaching deliver significant benefits, so too can working with an experienced cloud contact centre provider.
If you don’t want to compromise on-call or service quality when transitioning or supporting agents working from home, reach out to GSN. We’re ready to discuss appropriate cloud-based solutions and the urgent steps needed to achieve work-from-home success.