Conventional on-premises contact centers have been thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders forced organizations worldwide to quickly spin up home-based operations in order to handle unanticipated spikes in call volumes. Some companies report inbound customer calls have increased by nearly 1,000 percent over the past two months.
Fortunately, modern contact center technologies make it possible to maintain strong connections with customers during the crisis. These platforms provide seamless omnichannel interactions, intuitive self-service and comprehensive reporting. In addition, most offer tools for workforce optimization, predictive routing and 360-degree customer journey analytics.
Maintaining high levels of customer service isn’t just a technology issue, however. Organizations must rethink their processes for supporting contact center agents dealing with the transition to a remote work environment during an uncertain time.
Remote work presents unique challenges for contact center agents. Agents represent the face of the company during every customer encounter, but morale and motivation can become issues in work-from-home settings where the absence of coworker camaraderie can leave them feeling isolated and unsupported.
In addition, agents are often dealing with customers who are anxious, frustrated and angry. Lacking easy access to management guidance and peer support, agents can struggle to resolve issues.
Managers must accept responsibility for supporting remote agents and helping them remain engaged, productive and helpful. Here are some suggestions for ensuring your remote operations function at a high level.
Provide the right resources. Ensure agents have the tools and support they need to do their jobs. In addition to a PC or laptop and a reliable Internet connection, remote workers need strong collaboration tools, trusted access to applications and data, and solid help desk support. Cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform provide an efficient way to provide many essential tools and features. With no hardware to install, a CCaaS can be fully operational quickly, and additional features or upgrades can be delivered on demand.
Stay in touch. Managers should engage remote employees regularly using multiple channels. Frequent phone calls, emails, text messages and video conferences help keep agents in the loop. Collaboration tools such are extremely helpful for conducting team meetings and encouraging teamwork.
Provide training. CCaaS platforms typically feature live monitoring and call recording modules that enable consistent evaluation and real-time training. Integrated desktop sharing software and instant messaging apps allow agents to collaborate on calls or seek guidance from a supervisor if necessary. Supervisors can silently monitor calls and prompt the agent to deliver appropriate responses.
Build morale. Gamification is a great technique for team-building and motivating agents. Games in which agents compete for prizes and rewards by meeting or surpassing key metrics help promote a fun, competitive atmosphere. Microsoft reports that its contact center productivity increased by 10 percent and absenteeism dropped by 12 percent almost immediately after implementing a gamification program.
Disrupted business operations may be the new normal, but companies must maintain a strong focus on the customer experience. That requires effective communication and collaboration with remote agents to help them remain enthusiastic and productive.