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The Hidden Expertise Needed to Successfully Run a Work at Home (WAH) Contact Center

by | Oct 5, 2020 | Remote Solutions

Do you think Work-at-Home (WAH) just means sending your Agent home with a laptop? Doing it right involves changing every aspect of your contact center. Six months after March’s “Great Migration”, do any of the following challenges apply to your team? Human Resources (HR) has not updated hiring profiles. So, they cannot find good WAH candidates. The Training team is re-designing their new hire course since it was meant for in-person classes. Quality Assurance (QA) Coaches struggle with remote coaching, while Team Leaders have no idea how to deliver performance management discussions via videoconferencing.

The good news is, “Properly led WAH Agents achieve Key Performance Indicator (KPI) & Quality Assurance scores that match or exceed onsite Agents” according to Tracy Carter, Senior Vice President, Work at Home Solutions, Contact Point 360 (contactpoint360.com)” However, successfully managing a WAH or hybrid (onsite and WAH) team requires a new skill set. There is a “hidden expertise” involved in doing it well.

Some people ask, “Won’t everyone be coming back to the office soon?” The reality is WAH is here to stay. Some companies are already shifting to smaller office spaces and reduced overhead costs, by having some – or all – staff working from home. Meanwhile, every company needs a 100% WAH contingency plan, since COVID safety precautions and rolling lockdowns could continue for the next 1-2 years. That means successfully combining technology, processes, AND support systems for your WAH program.

Every department in your company needs to evolve to support WAH. For example, HR must recruit differently. They need to find people who work well in isolation, require a minimum of supervision, and thrive on being self-managed. The good news is WAH opens a new demographic/talent pool of Agents. “This capitalizes on a semi-retirement trend and mature experienced professionals attracted to WAH opportunities. The work-life balance and many other advantages WAH offers, attracts a higher caliber of Agent, who might not have considered a contact center job in the past” according to Carter. Does your HR team have the expertise to recruit this hidden, higher performing workforce?

Tapping into this hidden workforce has a second advantage. Compared to offshore and nearshore outsourcers, BPOs (Business Process Outsourcers) with “homeshore” i.e. North American WAH Agents, provide native language proficiency and a local resident’s understanding of your customers. So, if you want to outsource part – or all – of your WAH contact center, you can do it with Agents who live in your area.

Your Workforce Management (WFM) team also needs to change. For instance, WAH offers the flexibility of split shifts, since no travel is involved. So, a WAH Agent could work from 10 AM – 4 PM, take their children to ballet class, have dinner with them and finish a shift from 8-10 PM. That creates a wider range of shifts choices for both Agents and employers, if both can agree on a schedule. It also demands increased WFM sophistication.

As a contact center leader, you may have to manage onsite, work-at-home, and outsourced teams. Each requires different management skills. Which brings up the ultimate choice: Can your HR, IT, QA, WFM, training and operations groups evolve to support WAH? Or is it better to outsource the WAH portion so, you can focus on your onsite team? Either way, Work-at-Home opens an exciting new world of contact center work.

Mike Aoki
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