According to the 5th Talent’s April 2021 Contact Center Industry Work at Home Study, contact center agents have fully embraced the flexibility that Work-From-H (WFH) offers. But as the world begins to open back up, a new type of work environment is emerging: the Work-From-Anywhere environment.
This is a hybrid work atmosphere where some agents will continue to work remotely while others will move back into physical offices—posing a conundrum for contact center managers. How do you support these two work environments but still achieve excellent customer service?
The first part of the solution is establishing a concrete plan for finding the right talent in this new environment. The next step is to evaluate your onboarding and training process. The below are the specific steps that need to be taken by senior leaders focusing on process, technology, and culture in order to deliver excellent customer service regardless of the agent’s physical location.
Step 1: Treat Every Agent Equally
When onboarding and training new agents, the process should be the same—no matter their location or experience. All agents will be on an even playing field in this new world. Even though an agent might have years of experience, they most likely do not have experience working in a structure where agents are scattered at home, in an office, across states, or even countries.
Ensure all agents have access to the hardware required to do their new job. As part of the onboarding process, give remote agents the same computers, headsets, and other equipment their in-house counterparts would receive. If you ask your new remote agents to purchase their own equipment instead, make sure they are reimbursed in a timely fashion.
Just as you provide the same hardware to all your agents, make sure you provide them with the same technology. It is key to remember that when it comes to agents and technology, less is more. Your agents need technology that makes their jobs more efficient, effective, and consistent—not more complicated. It is also a best practice to provide your agents a stipend to cover internet or other costs they accrue while working remotely.
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Step 2: Set Clear Processes, Timelines, and Expectations
Though you will have agents who have years of experience working in a contact center, you may also have agents who have always worked remotely. It is important that all agents are taken through the same onboarding and training process and given the same time to complete that process.
It’s also important to set clear expectations of the hours they need to be in front of their computers daily. This will help with not only keeping agents accountable but also ensuring that remote agents do not burn out attempting to work excessive overtime.
The Onboarding Process
Here’s how to set clear onboarding procedures and processes that will be followed by all agents, regardless of background:
>>Re-evaluate onboarding procedures and processes.
Do not take the old practices and adapt them to this new environment. Create new procedures and processes that set up all agents for success.
>>Create a digital agent portal.
A digital portal will allow agents to get quickly onboarded with basics like payroll and benefits while providing access to an employee handbook with clear work expectations.
The Training Process
As stated earlier, all contact center employees should be provided with the same technology to provide excellent customer service. An often overlooked facet of contact center technology is that it can aid in making the training process efficient, consistent, and effective.
>>Keep your agent tech stack simple.
Giving agents what they need to achieve excellent customer service includes:
- an easy-to-use CRM system that integrates effortlessly with their other tech tools,
- a process guiding tech tool that takes the guesswork out of how to answer even the most complicated customer question (which reduces onboarding time as well)
- a web chat tool that will keep new hires connected to their supervisors, management, and leadership, no matter where they are working from.
>>Practice makes perfect.
After setting clear expectations of how long the onboarding and training process will take, it is time to ensure that your agents can practice mock calls while using the technology, all in an open environment where they can make mistakes, learn, and become experts of (hopefully) all call scenarios. These mock calls can be evaluated using the technology of silent call monitoring systems. This technology was used before the WFA environment emerged and it is one that should continue to be utilized in this hybrid work environment.
Step 3: Create a Connected Culture
The steps described above will ensure your agents feel confident and comfortable. It should also be your goal to create an atmosphere where agents feel connected to your organization, regardless of their physical location.
A disconnect already exists between agents, managers, and supervisors. The focus of creating a connected culture should be on giving your agents tools that will put everyone on the same playing field and demonstrate to your agents that you are invested in their success, wellbeing, and overall satisfaction as they work to deliver excellent customer service.
Agents will thrive if they feel they are connected to supervisors, managers, leadership, and coworkers. Give your agents the tools needed to efficiently and effectively reach out to their team members to get answers and feel a part of the team, no matter where they are working from.
Encourage your agents to have one-on-ones with other agents, supervisors, and managers that they will be working with. This will create bonds and result in a more cohesive team environment. Managers should also set up clusters of agents to do daily check-in calls with each other, strengthening their virtual community of support.
>>Improve workforce management.
When you set expectations of how long your agents are required to be in front of their computers, you should also discuss how much of that time should be used for training and connecting with their colleagues, putting an emphasis on leaving work at work for your at-home agents. This reduces burnout and keeps your agents feeling part of a connected company that cares.
For over a year now most agents have been at home. The general consensus is that most enjoyed the remote work atmosphere, but not all—contributing to the rise of the work from anywhere business model.
The tricky part is how to achieve a connected, collaborative, and engaged work environment when you have agents that are both remote and working from a physical office. Much of these initiatives can be achieved right off the bat by providing the right tools for your agents, creating a streamlined onboarding and training process, and ensuring a cohesive, connected and, caring culture is created.
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