Keeping Agents Productive in a Work-From-Home Model
We’re currently being inundated with messages either strongly recommending or mandating that employees work from home (WFH). The idea that your contact center agents will also need to follow suit might leave you wondering if this new environment will negatively impact agent performance. As a contact center leader, have you questioned — will productivity slip as my agents work from home?
A friend shared that a senior leader said something to the effect of, “Productivity will most likely be hindered as employees move to a remote setting, but have no fear. This is natural when employees can’t make it to the office.” Upon hearing this I shook my head, immediately wanting to debate the topic as I myself have been working (productively) from home for years. Is this how organizations perceive remote work?
That conversation got me thinking about how contact centers may share this same apprehension toward remote work. Are these concerns valid? Certainly. But simply stating that productivity will be shorted is admitting defeat before you’ve even attempted to properly adapt to the new circumstances. If you ask me, with the right tools, management support, and outlook, working from home can yield tremendous productivity gains for contact centers.
Let’s explore this further.
Supply the right tools to support work from home
The technology and applications an agent uses throughout the day can have a big impact on their productivity. This may seem obvious but they first need to be equipped with reliable, functional tools. Let’s look at some specific ways in which the tools agents use enhance productivity.
The agent’s application or interface through which they interact with customers should be fully functional. No functionality should change about the agent desktop in the move from the office to the home. This might require setting up a VPN so agents have access to everything they need to do their job.
The application should also be complete with an integrated knowledge base so agents have information readily available to efficiently move through customer interactions.
Finally, it’s important that your agents have visibility into individual and team analytics. This will help keep them attuned to how their work contributes to the overall success of the operation.
Your agents need easy access to other agents or supervisors. Imagine them leaning over to another agent to ask a question and you can see how working from home may feel like they don’t have the same access to quick answers. 1:1 messaging is just the ticket.
Additionally, team or group messaging makes it possible for your agents to easily connect to employees outside of the contact center which is critical to solving customer problems and quickly addressing complex issues. Be sure your agents have easy and quick access to experts across the organization.
Furthermore, group messaging adds a sense of community as agents stay connected to the larger group. This is essential to keeping that feeling of a connected office dynamic alive and well in the home.
Provide management support
Supporting, monitoring, and effectively coaching your agents as they transition to working from home is key to keeping them engaged and productive. Now is the time for supervisors and managers to regularly interact with agents and provide consistent performance feedback. Here are some areas of focus.
A quality management (QM) platform allows you to collaboratively coach agents directly from the application. Offer specific, targeted coaching and feedback about customer interactions to help agents improve. This helps motivate them to achieve higher levels of productivity.
You can also easily monitor both audio and agent desktop and whisper during live customer interactions, offering additional support regardless of location. This is yet another way to let your agents know that you’re in the trenches with them. The inability for in-person access to your agents should never be an excuse to allow coaching to slip.
Insight into contact center and agent performance is essential. Real-time dashboards keep a pulse on operations. And when agents aren’t sitting there in front of you, with this level of insight, they might as well be.
Live screen monitoring, as mentioned earlier, is also a way to check in on your agents to ensure that they are on task and efficiently using their tools. Sure, this may feel a bit like agents are being “spied on”, but I invite you to instead look at this as an opportunity to connect with less engaged agents, helping them feel motivated.
Adopt and maintain a positive outlook
Be positive! Work from home should feel like a reward to your agents, not a punishment. Even when it’s required, emphasize some of the pros that come with working from home. The following benefits come to mind for me:
- Skip the commute! Whether it’s saving on gas or time, there’s no denying that eliminating the work commute will feel like a major bonus to many.
- Delight in making lunch at home or easily whipping up that breakfast smoothie you usually skip because you’re rushing to the office.
- Stay cozy. This doesn’t mean encouraging someone to work in their PJs, but an offer stating that professional attire is not the requirement will be appealing. Tell your agents to delight in getting to wear a pair of sweats, a cozy sweater, or that athleisure wear they love so much.
- Quiet the noise. Working in an office can be quite a distracting space as others are either conversing with one another or customers. Sometimes even the simple act of typing is distracting. Look at this as a time to be completely free of distraction and get in “the zone” as you move productively throughout the day.
We’re currently facing quite a few unknowns which are proving to be unsettling to say the least. But don’t let the thought of moving your agents to a WFH setting be something that contributes to the stress. Instead, I invite you to view this as a time to get creative. Creative in ensuring agents have the right tools to effectively work from home. Creative in how you approach managing your team. And creative in terms of positively spinning the WFH advantage.
Productivity doesn’t have to take a back seat while we transition our workspaces. Stay connected, get creative, and be positive!