The Remote Contact Center Agent: 3 Reasons Employers Worry (and Why They Shouldn't)
Even before the pandemic, remote work was a fast-growing trend, fueled by advances in mobile devices and cloud computing. For forward-thinking employers, it was a way to offer job flexibility, save money on physical office spaces, and attract the best possible talent regardless of location. Yet the average contact center agent didn't have much experience working from home until COVID-19 temporarily turned a majority of employees into remote workers.
Even as some states and countries ease restrictions and let companies bring more people back to the office, employers are realizing that contact center staff might not be safe in their usual workspaces. They typically work in large, open spaces and sit close to their colleagues; everyone talks all day, which can lead to a higher risk for airborne-disease transmission.
The good news: As many employers are currently learning, contact centers can work and perform well remotely. After all, the contact center is NOT a place, it's a function.
All employees need to complete their typical contact center agent responsibilities are a browser, a headset or mobile phone and a home internet connection. After all, the contact center is not a place.
Still, when transitioning workforces to this new normal, cloud contact center leaders face several common concerns and challenges. Here's what's keeping them up at night — and how cloud communications address these issues to ensure business continuity and a great customer experience, wherever agents are working.
Worry #1: Inability to Control Network Security and Quality
Corporate tech teams were already struggling to contain shadow IT risks and educate workers about mobile security best practices and the dangers of unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Now the sudden shift to remote work means a multitude of devices and networks need to access company systems and data — devices and networks that are outside company walls and often outside IT's purview. At the same time, businesses have to worry about network quality when relying on workers' home broadband and how it might impact call quality and the customer experience.
A robust cloud contact center solution helps to address these IT challenges. The solution can be integrated with CRM so workers get all the customer information they need inside the communications platform, which they access via one secure app. Data is encrypted during transmission, so it remains secure even if the device or network is compromised.
Cloud contact center solutions can't improve the quality of employees' home internet connections. But they can improve quality control by monitoring users' broadband and rerouting calls to a mobile or home phone when an agent's network isn't strong enough to ensure a good customer experience.
For companies that are understaffed during the pandemic, cloud communications can also help lighten the load for human operators. Leading contact center solutions leverage artificial intelligence and APIs to provide operators with instant access to all the information they need to serve customers quickly and effectively, using customers' preferred channel — voice, video, or text. If there's no live contact center agent available, an AI-powered virtual assistant or chatbot can jump in to answer simple questions, process purchases and payments, or help customers find the right contact center agents to address their issues.
Worry #2: Difficulty Training People Remotely
Even as companies and jobs in some industries have slowed down, many contact centers are experiencing unprecedented peaks in calls from customers with new needs, questions, and concerns. At the same time, contact centers might be short-staffed, especially in areas that have been hit hard by the virus.
For contact center managers, hiring and training new remote employees can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. With a cloud communications platform that includes secure video conferencing, new employees can meet face to face with everyone involved in the onboarding process — from interviewing with management to onboarding with HR and training for the job. That training can range from live video conferencing with a group or individual to video-on-demand training that employees can access on their own time. Either way, the video gets stored in the platform so they can review it later if they have questions or need a refresher.
Not only is video training useful for new hires, but it can also be a great way to teach veteran employees about new technology, tools, or services the company has put in place to ensure business continuity and better serve customers.
Worry #3: Loss of Management Control
For employers new to the world of remote work, it's only natural to worry that people aren't working as much as they would in the office. Yet studies show that many people are more productive at home, and many employers agree. In the 2019 Global Workplace Survey by IWG, 85% of leaders said flexible work made their businesses more efficient, and 67% said it improved productivity by at least one-fifth.
Even when leaders fully trust their teams, they don't have to wonder about contact center agent productivity if they're using a cloud contact center solution. Using the contact center dashboards and reports, they can see who’s working and when, record calls or listen in to evaluate an agent’s performance. If needed, the supervisor can join in-call or use whisper coaching to train staff, or even create a three-way conversation. Speech analytics is another way to quickly spotlight trends and assess agent’s compliance and product knowledge. If an agent needs additional training, the manager can schedule a video meeting to discuss, possibly leveraging call recordings to highlight best practices or areas of concern. If the agent needs assistance with a customer, help from management is just a click away, even if both the manager and the agent are working from home.
Remote work might be the new normal for the near future, and cloud communications can smooth the transition and close the gaps that might otherwise appear in the customer experience. And when the coast is finally clear for business to resume without restrictions, businesses will be further along in their digital transformation and stronger for it. If there's a business silver lining to the pandemic, that is it.