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3 Keys to Hiring Managing and Retaining At-Home Agents

In our recent webinar, Hiring, Managing & Retaining At-Home Agents, we heard real-life examples of businesses that either wouldn’t exist or that would be severely limited in capability and growth potential if not for incorporating at-home agents into their workforce. With cloud solutions, it’s now easy and cost-effective to seamlessly integrate at-home agents into every facet of an operation, to quickly adapt and adjust tools for those working remotely; and to provide immediate and ongoing communication between supervisors and agents.

Not only does the use of at-home agents enable contact centers to do “business as usual” with almost no additional effort, it’s also added capabilities that weren’t there before. The skills and motivation and productivity of at-home agents are often unmatched. And on the company side, having these flexible, skilled remote agents enhances the customer experience and  reduces operating costs (estimated at as much as $25,000 per at-home agent, as compared to their premise-based counterparts), both of which drive dollars to the bottom line.

Those contemplating the addition of at-home agents often focus their questions in three main areas:

  • Hiring
  • Workforce Management (WFM)
  • Quality Management (QM)

Hiring

Finding the right people is a key component to hiring effective at-home agents—that is, people who are comfortable working remotely and independently and being alone. It’s not for everyone. But there’s a growing number of individuals who prefer this arrangement and want or need the flexibility it gives them.  And increasingly, those hired as at-home agents bring valuable skills and experience with them. Tardiness is a non-issue; there are fewer sick days, and less conflict.

At-home agents are encouraged to set up a separate workspace, away from noise and distractions. As a result, these agents tend to be focused and highly productive…not to mention reporting higher-than-average job satisfaction, which translates into better customer experiences and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The at-home model gives companies a much wider candidate pool from which to hire, since location is no longer an issue. Turnover is reduced, too: When agents move or their circumstances change, they can be automatically retained on staff.

Workforce Management (WFM)

Some wonder if managing agents remotely will be complicated and time-consuming or how it’s even possible to manage at-home agents effectively. But the reality is all positive. The use of at-home agents requires no installation of hardware. Instead, a variety of cloud solutions, tools and techniques make tasks like scheduling, monitoring and communicating seamless and virtually identical to those in a brick-and-mortar setting. Even training is easily accomplished for at-home agents, with tools such webinars effective alternatives to in-house classes.

Intranet capability gives in-house and at-home agents access to identical tools and resources for doing their jobs. Contact center leaders can monitor demand, scaling agent capacity up or down and even instantly activating agents with special skills as needed. Which also serves to enhance the customer experience: Customers spend less (or no) time in a queue, and those with specific needs can often be matched to agents with specialized skills.

In times of lower demand, at-home agents, especially, can be assigned “unavailable” work, such as responding to emails. Real-time analytics enable supervisors to continually optimize agent utilization and productivity—a contributing factor to cost savings as well as agent job satisfaction.  Supervisor accessibility and real-time communication with agents are key contributors to a successful at-home model. Supervisors stay are continually in touch and readily available; at-home agents stay current and fully informed.

Having agents in remote locations is a huge benefit when disaster strikes and call center operations are compromised. At-home agents then become the foundation for business continuity, and in some cases, all calls are pushed to at-home agents, which keeps business moving seamlessly and without interruption.

Quality Management (QM)

Proximity is no longer a requirement for quality monitoring. Through a variety of cloud QM solutions, supervisors monitor at-home agents and provide real-time performance feedback—reinforcement and coaching—just as effectively as for agents sitting in contact center cubes. Monitoring agents’ calls is streamlined, too. Managers can request automatic delivery of specified calls to their inboxes; monitor calls by reviewing audio and visual screens simultaneously; and analyze large amounts of customer voice data through sophisticated speech technology.  Decisions can be made on the fly, adding an even more robust response to customer service opportunities and challenges.

At-home agents are proving to be game-changers for contact center capability and responsiveness and the customer experience. Sophisticated cloud solutions make hiring, integrating, managing and monitoring at-home agents a breeze.

Missed the webinar, view the recording now.

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