With the fall of so many technological barriers, many businesses have warmed up to the idea of remote employees. For contact centers, adding agents that work remotely offers many benefits including helping reduce overhead, greater immunity from natural disasters, more flexibility with scheduling, and increased job satisfaction. Plus, contact centers are already pretty familiar with remote phone communication, since that's still the channel where the majority of customer communication takes place (though that could be changing soon).
While there are plenty of advantages to having remote agents, there are certainly some downsides as well, including limiting face-to-face conversations and making it harder to track performance. Have you recently implemented remote agents, or plan to in the near future? Here are five tips to help you manage them better.
Staff training is preferably done in-house, but that’s not always an option with remote agents. Instead, think about designing a training program, preferably with an online component, that’s strictly geared towards remote agents. Their experiences with your call center will be different than those of in-house staffers, and the training should reflect that. It’ll also be important to make sure the agent or agents have all they need to get their remote call center started, including a supervisor or mentor who is available for the first couple weeks to answer any questions.
Leverage Workforce Optimization
One of the biggest fears of anyone assigned to manage remote agents involves tracking employee performance. That’s why familiarizing remote agents with workforce optimization software can really help take some of the pressure off while ensuring you’re maintaining the highest levels of customer service. The tools usually included with this type of software include call quality monitoring, call recording, performance management, coaching, and more, all of which assist managers in feeling a little more confident with their remote agents’ work.
Given their distance, it’s not uncommon for remote agents to feel left out of the loop on various company communications. That’s why it’s important to remain in frequent contact with remote agents. Having them phone-in to company-wide meetings when necessary can be a good strategy, as well as weekly or even daily check-ins. Getting all employees on an instant messaging system to answer quick queries can also make the team feel more connected. Whatever you decide, make sure the remote agents feel they have the support needed to perform at optimum levels.
Cloud Contact Center Software
Unlike traditional premise-based contact center software, moving your contact center infrastructure to the cloud can ensure your entire staff— whether in-house or at a remote call center— are all working off the same systems and with the same tools no matter where they are located. This provides consistency, a level-playing field, and also helps should any technical issues arise. With no hardware or software necessary, the cloud can also end up saving your company a lot of extra money on in-house IT resources.
Performance Management Analytics
We mentioned earlier how workforce optimization software can help with performance management. No matter what type of software you decide to use, you’ll also want to keep a close eye on analytics. Getting good data on your agents’ activity while they’re logged into the system —especially in areas like call volume, efficiency, call length, and quality score— is imperative. Not only will accurate metrics let you gauge your agents’ daily workload, but they’ll also assist when the time comes for annual performance reviews and coaching sessions.
Managing remote employees decades ago was a little bit of a gamble. Thankfully, technology has given us a lot more insight into the process and support to get the job done right.