In this blog post, I give my three-step process for setting up a contact centre for home-based working in only a few days and how an organisation can then build on that to deliver a rich contact centre experience.
Agents need the right equipment if they’re going to work from home efficiently. It’s virtually impossible to manage the increasing amount of calls and enquiries contact centres are currently getting without a professional headset. Imagine holding a phone and typing one-handed all day and you can see why this is essential! They also need a PC/laptop and internet connection that’s fit for the job. The business might need to pay for an upgrade if an agent’s home broadband is affecting their ability to get things done. And all this needs the backup of an easily accessible helpdesk to help agents get over any difficulties and settle into homeworking.
Organisations also need to provide secure access to company and customer account information to run a remote contact centre smoothly. There’s no point in agents being able to take calls if they then can’t get to the information they need to help the customer. No one wants a data breach of any sort, so up-to-date security is a must for any devices an organisation’s agents are using and for the VPN gateway that gives them access to the network.
A lot of businesses are seeing contact centre calls go up in response to the pandemic, especially those who provide essential services and need to handle a lot of inbound queries. Luckily, a cloud-based contact centre platform is quick to set up and has the flexibility to scale up and down as service demands change. Providing they already have existing numbers to use, an organisation can be up and running with a remote contact centre within two to five days!
A cloud-based solution also makes the financial side of things easy. There’s no need to invest in hardware and all costs are opex, which really helps with financial flexibility. And, if demand falls in the future then a cloud-based platform makes it easy to scale down without financial penalties. A lot of organisations will be pleased to know that inbound and outbound calls are also placed by the platform, not the agent, so the agent doesn’t run up their home phone bill making work calls that they then have to claim back.
Once a remote contact centre is up and running, there’s lots a business can do to enhance the service they give to their customers. This is really important right now because consumers are looking to businesses to help them navigate life in a pandemic. Any time, money and effort businesses invest in customer experience now will be rewarded by an increase in customer advocacy and loyalty. And, focusing on excellent customer service gives agents a strong sense of purpose and the feeling that they’re doing the right thing for their communities, which boosts motivation and job satisfaction.
Agents might need support to settle into a good homeworking routine. Businesses can help with training on how agents can structure their day to keep their motivation high. It might be simple tips, like separating their workspace from the rest of their home or by offering online, drop-in meditation sessions to sharpen focus.
Distance learning, webinars and online drop-in sessions can all work just as well as face-to-face training, and things like video calls can give agents the support and human contact they need. Supervisors can use remote monitoring features like conferencing in, silent monitoring and whispering to make sure agents don’t feel alone on difficult calls. Now is the time to consider structured workforce management and workforce optimisation programmes. The performance and training monitoring and the coaching they offer are even more crucial when agents are working remotely.
Gamification is really taking off in contact centres as an effective way to keep agents motivated and focused, and it works really well with home workers. Businesses are having a lot of success with low cost, simple games like competitions to be the first to reach targets, with prizes or certificates for winners.
Proactively sharing information across channels customers use about issues likely to be top of mind for them can prevent a call in the first place. It avoids the cost of an incoming query and builds a positive perception with customers that strengthens loyalty. IVR systems are also an effective way to deflect calls by letting callers know there’ll be a wait and suggesting they call back later. Businesses making the most of IVR often give the option of requesting a call back or suggest other ways of contact to try like chatbots, SMSbots or other digital channels. Call back requests can be automatically passed on to agents who are free.
Instead of callers having to wait while agents find out answers, AI-powered systems can give the agent all the information they need. AI can link agents to a knowledge management system that analyses what the customer is saying and either gives the agent the information they’re likely to need or suggests the next best action to take. AI can also deflect and handle queries without an agent’s input. It can enhance the user experience and avoid calls by proactively sending out notifications, and chat and SMS bots can handle simple transactions on their own.
It looks like this current shift to working from home might be a turning point for flexible working. I think it will show that giving people the option to work from home a few days a week is good for the business, the employee and the environment.