When Bosses Go Knocking, Remote Agents Go Walking

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knockerAs more companies transition from a brick-and-mortar workforce to an at-home model, they are quickly realizing the transition does not come without challenges. Key components of this business transition that are often overlooked are the need to re-establish processes for coaching and development. This business transition requires structured change to support the needs of the new remote agent base — it requires a new approach in measuring the work that was once measured within the brick-and-mortar center. An effective remote transition can’t happen without proper planning.

Companies that have deployed this model have found themselves asking: Now that the agents are in their homes working, how do we coach them?  Some companies have tried to address the need for coaching by sending supervisors to the agents’ homes.  Would you be surprised to learn that these home visits were less than welcomed by agents?  Let’s face it, unless the employer is footing the rent or mortgages for their remote employees, they should not feel entitled to show up at their homes, scheduled or not. This concept is just outlandish!  Who wants their supervisor or manager wandering around their homes?  And what supervisor would feel comfortable about invading their employees’ personal space by conducting such an intrusion?

An effective remote agent transition plan should include explicit detail on how coaching and development will occur in the new remote model.  A good option for this is web conferencing, where you have the agent and supervisor on a conference bridge sharing the same desktop visual for demonstration purposes, and to add the personal touch, think about incorporating a web cam to pick up on body language and facial expressions that would otherwise be missed. Companies should plan ahead on how they will address questions that remote agents might have during calls, chat sessions, and e-mails, thus creating the need for immediate assistance.  In the brick and mortar model, agents in this scenario usually raise their hand, alerting a floor walker or supervisor of a question. Consider a company Q&A internet chat room to address this need. Instant messaging applications serve as a lifeline for remote agents, offering a sense of empowerment and support, so definitely make sure a messaging service is in place. Training needs can be addressed by implementing a learning management system (LMS) that delivers scheduled content to agents, ensuring continued growth and knowledge retention.

Now, let’s take a closer look at these home visits.  If employee productivity is the root cause behind the desire to investigate agent home environments, save yourself the trip and address unacceptable behaviors by implementing screen recording. Screen recording can be used to assess productivity, while offering a way to measure contact handling efficiency — which translates to a company’s bottom line.  Screen recording offers the ability to validate whether all of the pertinent processes were followed, and if all required resources were used. This functionality replaces what was once referred to as a side-by-side one-on-one session within the brick-and-mortar model.

Don’t forget about the need for sound checks. If sound quality background noise is an issue in the home environment, this can easily be detected by monitoring voice contacts and addressing concerns with the respective agent.  It’s critical for agents to understand the importance of maintaining a professional representation of their employer when handling contacts.  That professional company image goes down the drain when dogs are barking in the background during calls! This goes back to the planning part of this transition. Set ground rules of remote engagement for your agents by emphasizing the need for a quiet work area void of audible disturbances. These are guidelines that should be established upfront, which can then be addressed when background noise is detected during call monitoring sessions.

Part of making the remote transition work is being flexible and creative, and understanding upfront that the transition is not for everyone! Consider your social butterflies, the employees that have a constant need for coworker interaction, recognition, and advancement.  These employees are often turned off by the idea of working from their homes because their social needs and career objectives are not satisfied without direct access to the corporate infrastructure.  To keep the social butterfly type happy who are willing to make the transition, consider scheduling a quarterly onsite team meeting.  Don’t forget about future planning for your career inspired agents. Many companies fail to develop a remote career path, which offers agents more confidence to work remotely without the fear that making the transition will hinder advancement opportunity within the company. And lastly, use all the money saved by the remote transition to establish an after-contact survey. The timing could not be any better to begin the invaluable survey process. Your customers will be the first to tell you what’s working and what’s not, so incorporate a survey and find out what customer perceptions are your reality.