How Do Customer Service Agents Work from Home?
During a time of crisis, it may be necessary to transition contact center staff to work from home and not from a contact center.
Customer service reps need several things to work from home, including functional home offices and computers that are Windows-compatible. Essential requirements are access to a cloud-based contact center platform and a reliable, high-speed internet connection. If a customer agent starts a shift, all they have to do is log onto the platform and start taking calls.
To carry out customer services from home, agents may also need additional work from home solutions, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), sufficient security over the agent’s device, and features for remote management.
Remote management features include video conferencing to regularly communicate with agents as well as an IT help desk support. The latter is crucial to ensure agents have sufficient support when they have an issue with their devices or the cloud-based platform.
After ensuring that agents have all the infrastructure they need, they can work from their homes. For the most part, remote work is similar to working from a contact center. The most noticeable changes include communication methods between employees and management and higher dependability on technology.
How to Keep Your Contact Center Running During a Crisis
During a crisis, it is crucial to keep your contact center running, especially if the business provides solutions in healthcare, essential retail, government, or shipping. If customers don’t receive adequate support during this time or answers to their questions and concerns, your business will struggle to retain them, and it can harm profits long after the crisis is over.
Working from Home
If the country is on lockdown, the government will not consider contact center agents essential service providers, and they will not be able to drive to work. Additionally, during a pandemic, such as COVID-19, crowding a contact center with employees can put people’s health and lives at risk. The ideal solution in these circumstances is to switch to a remote work solution, where agents can work-at-home, without commuting at all.
Formulate Flexible Scheduling
During a time of crisis, agents may not always be able to meet their shift schedules. Incorporating a flexible contact center scheduling solution is crucial to keeping your contact center running during a crisis. With added flexibility, for example, employees will be able to swap shifts without having to wait for approval from supervisors and wasting valuable time.
A significant number of calls that a contact center receives are routine chat inquiries. For example, customers may want to know where they can find specific information, the company’s business hours, or special procedures.
Assigning virtual agents or bots to these routine issues will automate customer service to an extent and alleviate the burden on your contact center during a time of crisis.
Extend Business Hours
During a time of crisis, it may be necessary to extend the agents’ hours from 9:00 to 17:00 on weekdays to after-hours and weekends. When center agents work from home, extending shifts is easier, and remote workers are typically willing to work longer hours to increase their income and pass the time because a remote workplace can facilitate a better work-life-balance.
What Technology is Needed for Remote Contact Centers?
For a contact center to work, make sure that team members have access to all the technology that they would in an office environment. The technology that people need for remote work is similar to the technology that an office contact center uses. However, there are additional features that management needs to monitor people’s activities.
A Compatible Device
People who work remotely need a device, such as a personal computer, that is compatible with all software-based solutions that the contact center uses. Allowing remote agents to use their own devices (bring your own device or BYOD) is beneficial as it will enable your business to reduce capital expenditure costs. There is also no need to deliver devices to people in different locations.
Endpoint security solutions refer to securing endpoints, which are points of access to a contact center network, namely laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. These security solutions protect entry points from malicious activities and provide companies with enhanced control over the network’s access points.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
Virtual desktop infrastructure is the hosting of multiple desktop environments on a central server. VDI is a form of desktop virtualization, where each virtual desktop lives inside a virtual machine on a central server, and each desktop has an operating system image.
An Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
An interactive voice response system consists of pre-recorded menus and responses to navigate callers to the information they need. With an IVR, your business can create customized greetings, menu options, information recordings, and routing procedures to direct callers to the appropriate contact center agent or recording.
Because home contact center agents work at home and not in the office, it can affect communication between the management and contact center staff. With video conferencing technology, it is possible to stay in touch with the contact center agents at all times.
How Long Does It Take to Transition a Contact Center to be Fully Remote?
When there is a crisis, a business usually doesn’t have a lot of time to migrate to a fully remote contact center. As a result, a common question is how long does it take to transition a contact center to be fully remote?
Several factors determine the transition time:
Number of Contact Center Agents
A company that has an international contact center that consists of, say, 700 employees will take much longer to go remote than a contact center that consists of 50 people. Employees’ circumstances differ, and some may take longer than others to find or set up an office for remote work.
Additionally, during the transition, contact center staff who don’t have the necessary infrastructure may leave, and the company may have to find replacements during this time.
Do You Have a BYOD Solution?
A BYOD solution makes it much quicker to make the transition to a remote contact center. If each contact center agent uses their own point of access, there is no need to purchase new devices and ship it to them. Additionally, if the agents have fast and reliable internet at home, it also speeds up the process as the company doesn’t have to enable the necessary network requirements..
The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure that the business wants to use also determines the transition period length. The more robust the VDI, the longer it takes to implement remotely.
VDI and Endpoint Requirements
Another factor that affects the transition time is the business’s security requirements. A company that only needs endpoint security solutions will transition quicker than a company that needs both VDI and endpoint solutions.
If the contact center requirements are minimal, it is possible to transition a contact center to be fully remote within a week. However, if the transition is an extensive process, it can take as long as three to four weeks.
What are the Main Challenges for Transitioning a Contact Center to Working from Home?
There are several benefits to having staff do remote work. Staff do not have to sit in traffic during their commute, the company does not have to limit their search for workers to a specific geographic location, and some people become more productive when they work alone. However, there are several challenges to transitioning to a remote center.
Limited face-to-face supervision is one of the most prominent challenges of remote working. Some managers believe that a hands-on approach is necessary to ensure that staff members work efficiently. However, if the employee’s livelihood and family income depend on their performance, lack of supervision is usually not an issue.
Many staff members also prefer direct supervision, especially if they need managerial support, feedback, and communication when carrying out their activities.
Lack of Access to Information
In an office, staff members have access to bulletin boards, the intranet, and personal communication to provide and receive information. When the team members are working remotely, however, getting information can be challenging and time-consuming.
If one employee wants to ask another employee a question, they have to pick up the phone or type an instant message. In remote settings, the person who has the information may not always be available, which can be a source of frustration and potential delays.
Common Work from Home Guidelines for Contact Center Employees
Working from home is different than working in an office, and many people struggle to adapt to the change. However, there are several things that an employee can do to increase their efficiency.
When a contact center employee works from home, they typically face many distractions in the form of children who demand attention, background noises, and suboptimal work conditions. Because contact center staff have to be professional on the phone, there also shouldn’t be dogs barking and people yelling in the background.
To make remote working easier, workers should set up a distraction-free work office with all the equipment they might need where they can work efficiently for their entire shift. This office space should also be out-of-bounds to other people and pets.
Use Opportunities for Remote Social Interaction
Over time, social isolation can cause employees to feel lonely and disconnected from others. Isolation and lack of communication can also cause an employee to start questioning their role within the organization, and they may even consider leaving.
To prevent loneliness, staff members should take part in remote social community interactions. Groups on social media and group chats will help workers realize that they are not alone.
Follow a Structured Work Program
Getting up in the mornings, driving to the office, and attending morning meetings puts workers in a productive daily routine. When a person doesn’t have to drive to the office every morning, all these activities that initiate a routine fall away, and their work program can quickly become unstructured.
To prevent a work program from falling out of a structured routine, an employee should get up at the same time, follow the same morning routine, and start work at the same time as they would have done at the office.
When working at home, it can be easy to lose focus. Setting daily, weekly, and monthly objectives will help an employee to follow a purpose-driven work program and maintain high levels of responsibility and productivity.