As the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions slowly start to ease, businesses are now turning their attention to reopening and looking forward. Organisations, particularly contact centres are now operating in a world that already looks different to the one we left a few months ago.
It’s an everchanging landscape, where contact centres now need to be thinking strategically rather than tactfully, so we thought it timely to team up with our partners NICE inContact, to deliver an insightful webinar on how you can navigate and adapt your contact centre throughout the next phase of events the lockdown restrictions may bring.
We’ve summarised the key points from our webinar in this article:
- How to make ‘working from home’, work for agents, customers and you
- What are some of the best practices to consider when remote working?
- Establishing your contact centre foundation
- Adapting your contact centre scheduling
- Managing your contact centre agent performance
- Maintaining business continuity within the contact centre
- Why [email protected] might be better than your current ACD for a productive work from home set up
- How to navigate towards the future contact centre
How to Make ‘Working From Home’, Work For Agents, Customers & You
The pandemic has forced contact centres to trial new ways of working including working from home (WFH), which will most likely continue in this current climate, where according to one of the polls we ran during the webinar, 35% of you are considering allowing your agents to continue working from home post COVID.
WFH has been a new experience for most contact centres.
According to research carried out a month ago, only 10% of employers had already had some experience implementing a work from home strategy, compared to a staggering 50% who had no experience.[i]
The benefits of working from home has been spoken about many times pre-pandemic. From an agent perspective, some of the benefits include:
- No commute
- Healthier work/life balance
- Increased productivity/focus
- Ability to widen recruitment pool by looking for agents in other geographic locations
In fact, according to statistics, working from home means an 80% better retention rate for contact centre agents[i].
A WFH home model allows agents more flexibility with their work/life balance. Stats also show that this way of working means 57% of agents are more likely to endorse their employer[ii] and therefore stay with the company for longer. In turn, a reduction in retention rates will help contact centres save time, money and resource spent hiring and training new staff.
Looking after the well-being of your agents in turns means looking after your customers. Ensuring employees are treated in a way that stimulates loyalty, encourages them to serve customers well.
And let’s not forget, that from a business perspective, one of the major benefits of working from home means organisations can reduce their real estate footprint saving a large sum each year.
Although WFH may have positive benefits, stats also show that 71% of contact centre managers have said it has impacted their customer experience[iii]. This may be to do with the beginning of lockdown when contact centres were struggling to get everything set up in order to work remotely.
Most of these issues, such as agent devices not working or configurations not being set up correctly, have been addressed or acknowledged.
What we are seeing now is contact centres struggling to maintain and monitor the agent experience whilst working remotely, where according to another poll we ran, 22% of you are lacking full visibility into your service quality and productivity.
Best practices for contact centres to consider when remote working
As more organisations consider working from home post pandemic due to the benefits it can bring to a workforce, consider the following steps to help get yourself set up more permanently:
Establish the foundation
Pilot your connectivity if possible. If not, take a “first 48 hours and adapt” approach
Understand capacity and physical limits with direct (e.g. ACD) and shared (e.g. VPN) resources
Consider total cost of agent PCs, software, and IT help desk time to configure/install/fix their setup ongoing
Ensure you can quickly modify scripts for IVR, contact flows and priority, hours of operation, etc.
Adapting your contact centre scheduling
- Shorter shifts
Think about adapting your scheduling not just from a business perspective, but also an agents one. Offering agents shorter shifts for example, can provide flexibility for agents in terms of work/life balance and might also work well for you in meeting spikes in traffic at different times of the day.
- Automatic Approvals
Validate the process used for adds, moves and changes. Set as many auto approvals as you can.
Establish regular touch points with supervisors and peers. Optimise the best times for the business based on customer demand and agent schedules.
Manage contact centre Agent performance
Support agents in transition with frequent communication regarding temporarily relaxed contact centre metrics/goals. For example, stats show that during lockdown, Average Handle Time (AHT) has risen. This may be due to queries becoming more complex or even customers looking for more empathy and support during their phone call. Make sure you are explaining the reasoning behind metrics/goals and why some may have been relaxed compared to what you had in the office environment.
Track and share agent activity, goals, and metrics, validating with screen and audio recording
Consider doubling coaching time as a rule of thumb and applying analytics for targeted feedback. Why not also highlight the areas where certain agents are doing an exceptional job and share this with the rest of the team so those qualities can be replicated? Gamification can also work well within the contact centre environment, building a culture of engagement and healthy competition.
Maintaining Business Continuity Within The Contact Centre
At the start of lockdown, businesses were working hard to maintain business continuity and move their agents to a work from home model.
One of the solutions we offered at the beginning of March was [email protected] – a cloud contact centre solution. [email protected] is a special offer specifically generated during COVID to ensure business continuity and elasticity and is being offered via 60 days no commitment no contract offering.
Since lockdown has started to ease, we are now seeing customers taking this offer up not from a rapid deployment perspective, but more of a strategic one.
Contact centres are now evaluating the tactical solutions they made a few months ago in the rush to get their workforce remote and are now seeing the limitations their current set up has.
[email protected], as mentioned above is a cloud contact centre platform. The benefits of using a cloud platform have been spoken about greatly. Some of the benefits include:
- Less hardware, less hassle
Cloud based contact centre solutions are faster to deploy and cheaper to maintain. They do not require the complexity of maintaining the hardware as an on-premise system would and their set up and services is much simpler.
- Easily support multiple, global contact centres and at-home agents (particularly during emergencies)
Cloud contact centre solutions can be set up on a subscription basis meaning that adding and removing users is easy. Flexibility is a key benefit of a cloud platform. With a good internet connection, agents can also easily work remotely. With an on-premise system, getting set up to work remotely can be harder, which can have an impact on the level of customer service you are delivering during this time.
- Consolidated contact centre infrastructure
Cloud contact centre solutions allow you to consolidate your infrastructure, PBX and telecom suppliers with one vendor. In addition, with cloud solutions, it is extremely simple to add on additional functionality (such as Workforce Management, Robotic Process Automation or Speech Analytics for example). This functionality can be added with no new hardware required.
Why might [email protected] be better than your current ACD for a productive work from home set up?
Does your existing ACD support remote agents?
[email protected] ability:
- All agents can be moved to a work from home model within 48 hours
- No VPN required
- No hardware required – immediate elasticity
- No costly and time-consuming upgrades required
Are your current agent device requirements sustainable?
[email protected] ability:
- Simple to support: browser and internet connection
- Can use low cost Chromebook
- No installs or PC config for IT to troubleshoot per agent
- Intuitive, consolidated agent desktop
Do your agents and supervisors have full app access whilst working from home?
[email protected] ability:
- Remote agent support for voice and all digital channels
- Out of the box embedded agent UI with leading CRMs
- Complete suite of WFO and analytics for agent productivity
Navigating Toward the Future Contact Centre
The challenge that most organisations may now come across is finding the balance between protecting the factors, processes and change which supports the core of their organisation, whilst also being open minded to new methods and making sure this is met with the same speed we have seen throughout this pandemic.
Although it may be tempting to return to the familiar, it’s also important to remember the innovation which was seen over the past few months and making sure we are keeping this going by evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t for success going forward.
We may have been forced into this path of remote working and it may have happened a lot quicker than most of us were comfortable with, but now that the pandemic has shone the light on a new way of working which some may say was always inevitable, it’s the organisations who ride the wave and accept that change is constant, that will be in the strongest position to succeed.
If you didn’t get a chance to catch the webinar, then catch it on replay! >
If you would like more information on any of the topics or technologies mentioned in this article, then please get in touch with our team >
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[i] ICMI Agent Engagement Study 2019 and US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2005-2018
[ii] NICE inContact – Satmetrix COVID-19 Work-from-Home Employee Engagement Research, May 2020
[iii] NICE inContact – Satmetrix COVID-19 Work-from-Home Employee Engagement Research, May 2020
[i] NICE inContact – Satmetrix COVID-19 Work-from-Home Employee Engagement Research, May 2020