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Monitoring, Managing and Supporting Remote Contact Center Agents

Agent monitoring has long been standard procedure in contact centers for quality assurance, training and security purposes. However, the shift to work-from-home operations creates inherent challenges due to the lack of regular face-to-face interaction between agents and supervisors.

Organizations have long preferred to keep their contact center operations on-premises where managers could actively supervise, coach, train, encourage and motivate agents. Research from ContactBabel found that at the end of 2019, only about 14 percent of U.S. agents were working from home.

Naturally, that changed when the health crisis forced organizations to shift to remote operations in early 2020. More than three-quarters of contact center agents now work from home — a number that is expected to hold steady for the foreseeable future. This culture change has forced a rethinking of conventional agent monitoring and performance management practices.

Surprisingly, many are discovering that new software-driven monitoring practices may actually be an improvement over conventional face-to-face methods.

Effective but Discreet

Voice call recording combined with advanced analytics and agent assist software allow supervisors to remotely monitor customer interactions to determine whether agents are effectively addressing customer problems and concerns. From an agent’s perspective, these techniques are far less invasive and uncomfortable than in-person assessments.

For example, supervisors have commonly used techniques such as side-by-side monitoring where they would literally sit at an agent’s workstation to monitor a customer call, providing input before, during and after calls. As you might imagine, agents say this makes them uncomfortable and nervous and more likely to perform poorly.

With call recording, agents are relieved of real-time pressure and are more likely to be relaxed, comfortable and effective when dealing with customers. Supervisors can review recordings later and follow up with suggestions, comments or kudos. In addition, analytics solutions can be applied to stored recordings to identify patterns, pinpoint problems and optimize overall operations.

Enhancing the Customer Experience

A bonus is that recordings serve as a valuable source of customer experience data. Organizations can utilize these recordings in “voice of the customer” programs, using technologies such as sentiment analysis and voice mining to analyze customer feedback and develop a comprehensive view of customers, their needs and their perceptions of your brand.

Agent assist software also provides hands-off monitoring of customer conversations, with the ability to provide real-time assistance during live customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots monitor conversations and provide agents with real-time suggested responses to questions or inquiries so the agent doesn’t have to spend time searching for answers. That leads to faster resolution of customer requests without requiring the intervention of a manager or another agent.

Remote monitoring and assessment tools benefit both supervisors and agents, as well as customers. Managers gain important insights into operations, with the ability to implement training, coaching and improvement programs when improvements are necessary. Agents get the feedback they need to improve performance, which can lead to career advancement opportunities. Customers benefit from a more efficient engagement that improves problem resolution rates.

Contact center agents are the face of the company in dealings with consumers, so it is important to have agents who are happy, motivated and productive. But it’s difficult to maintain effective agent management when your customer service team is scattered across multiple locations. Call recording, analytics, agent assist and other technologies help maintain strong connections between remote agents and their supervisors.

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