Developing a Contact Center Work-At-Home Program
While many contact centers, particularly the large ones, had disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plans in place before the pandemic hit, even if they were rarely tested and updated, surprisingly few included the option of having employees work from home for an extended period of time. And even BC plans that had work-at-home (WAH) guidelines for agents were unlikely to have documented best practices for supervisors or managers who unexpectedly needed to work remotely.
A good DR/BC plan should address everything that a contact center worker needs to do as part of their job (whether they are in a different office or their home), the systems to support these activities, security requirements to protect customers, employees and the company, and a lot more. However, the first step in the process is to enable contact center workers to work from their homes. For this reason, all contact centers, even those with just a few employees, need an effective WAH program supported by the necessary technology and solutions. Below is a high-level list companies should take into consideration when building (or enhancing) their contact center WAH initiative. Most of these apply to all contact centers, but some, like the use of voice biometrics, may not be cost effective for smaller environments.
WAH Considerations for Contact Centers
- Have a WAH employee contract that lays out all requirements, including job responsibilities, working hours, system requirements (who buys and pays for personal computers (PCs), headsets, bandwidth, etc.), working space, security, and more.
- Set up a daily communication session between supervisors and each at-home agent. Part of each supervisor’s job should be to keep at-home agents informed of all work-related meetings and to make sure their agents are well. Use internal chat for handling most agent inquiries. (Real-time messaging and broadcasting capabilities are also essential for communicating issues that require immediate attention.)
- Train supervisors and managers to oversee a virtual workforce; out of sight cannot mean out of mind. Ensure supervisors and managers are comfortable using the technologies that are necessary when agents are remote.
- Acquire and utilize cloud-based contact center systems and applications that enable companies to easily route customer interactions to agents and provide insight into their performance, whether they are on-site or off-site, including:
- Omni-channel CCaaS solution
- 100% real-time and historical recording of calls and screens
- Desktop analytics to monitor application usage
- Real-time speech analytics to trigger supervisor alerts when emotionally charged verbal interactions are in progress
- Historical speech analytics to identify performance trends and business opportunities
- Text analytics to generate notifications when negative sentiment is expressed in text-based channels
- Workforce management (WFM) with mobility to allow agents to schedule their work hours and vacation, make swaps, and participate in overtime and voluntary time-off opportunities
- Voice biometrics for employee identification and verification and to ensure each agent is performing his or her job
- Video technology to enable employees to interact with one another and possibly to monitor agents
- Update and enhance the security requirements for WAH employees; keep in mind that WAH employees need access to their mobile phones to participate in WFM-related activities.
- Create online training programs to be used by premise-based and remote agents. Use virtual and eLearning management software to facilitate the training process.
- All agents should be trained to participate in the department’s quality management (QM) program; this should be a standard training module.
- Design rewards, incentives and team-building activities to accommodate both in-house and remote staff.
- Use a cloud-based KM solution to collect and curate the product, process, procedural and system knowledge required by all agents.
WAH programs should address the needs of agents, supervisors and managers. All contact centers should encourage a certain percentage of their employees to work from home on a regular basis, as this will help them be successful when it becomes necessary to handle a business continuity situation. And given the changes in the business world due to the pandemic, allowing employees to work from home, if desired, is going to be expected of employers, including contact centers.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.