Has the pandemic permanently changed the way people work? Specifically, are all the employees currently working from home really going back to the office? It's hard to see how. In fact, some employers have already announced permanent changes. Twitter revealed that a good portion of their employees will have the option to continue working from home and Facebook recently followed suit, reporting that it will start allowing employees to apply for permanent work-from-home arrangements. They expect that roughly half of their 45,000 employees will be working from home within the next 5-10 years.
Many contact center agents also had to move quickly to an at-home model when the pandemic hit. If you've ever been in a typical contact center, you'll know that agents frequently have to work shoulder-to-shoulder - not at all conducive to social distancing. While contact centers might not qualify as “essential,” customers and citizens still need assistance, now more than ever. Work-from-home capabilities have enabled contact center agents to continue to provide much-needed services while staying safe.
Given the trends in other industries, it's highly likely that the percentage of agents working from home will be significantly higher post-pandemic than it was before COVID-19. A work-from-home model has benefits for both businesses and employees. The main boon for businesses is a reduction in facilities costs, which can be substantial when high numbers of employees are involved. For their part, employees enjoy the elimination of a commute and the addition of more work-life balance (raise your hand if you've never done a load of laundry while working from home!).
At-home agent feedback
We wondered how agents and supervisors were feeling about their new at-home work arrangement, so we partnered with NICE Satmetrix to find out. This involved surveying nearly 640 contact center workers, the results of which are included in the NICE Satmetrix Agent Experience Benchmark. The study found that employees are responding well - 57% of agents and managers are now more likely to recommend their employer since working from home.
If more at-home agents is going to be the new normal, it's important that the agents and their supervisors are properly supported. Along with the perks of working from home, there are also some negatives, like loneliness and feeling like you can never completely unplug from work. At-home agents and managers are now facing issues specific to the current crisis, including:
- Higher than average contact volume
- Longer handle times
- More demanding and complex customer needs
And many managing these issues while also adjusting to their new at-home work model.
Keys to success
Our study found three key areas influence employee loyalty (as measured by an employee Net Promoter Score). Contact center leaders should focus on these factors to ensure their work-from-home employees are satisfied and feel good about their situation. Not only is this the right thing to do for employees, but it's the right thing to do for customers since happy, loyal agents often lead to happy, loyal customers.
1. Providing support while demonstrating empathy.
This first key driver of employee loyalty is no surprise. Employees want their bosses to support with empathy. 76% of survey respondents feel they're getting this. What to do about the other 24%? Reach out to them often, show you care about their health and welfare, and provide them with the tools they need to be successful.
2. Communicating effectively.
Agents who don't like working from home often feel disconnected from their teams and their employers. People who thrive on in-person interactions can especially feel this pain. Increasing communication can help keep at-home agents engaged as well as dispel any misinformation floating around the rumor mill. Confident and connected agents will deliver better customer experiences.
3. Taking quick action for employees.
Customers don't like to wait for issue resolution and neither do employees. Whether it's a question about policy or a technical issue, at-home agents and supervisors need a timely response. Don't let them feel like they're fending for themselves, alone in the wilderness. They need answers and resolutions quickly so they can continue serving customers.
Contact centers with at-home agents should move now to ensure their employees feel supported, receive effective communication, and are given timely responses to their concerns. The payback will be loyal, satisfied agents who deliver terrific customer service.
Interested in finding out more about work-from-home contact center agent attitudes and experiences? Download our complimentary eBook, NICE Satmetrix Agent Experience Benchmark brought to you by NICE Satmetrix, the co-creators of Net Promoter Score, and NICE inContact, the leading provider of cloud contact center software.