Ten Tips for Optimizing a Remote Agent Workforce
For obvious reasons (which we need not go into here), the ability to manage, motivate, and optimize a remote, dispersed workforce has never been more critical for today’s contact center leaders.
While working from home has become steadily more normal for employees worldwide, no one was expecting this trend to go into overdrive at such short notice.
For contact centers, this ‘new normal’ presents unique concerns, exacerbating pre-existing challenges around productivity and performance, workforce engagement, and, of course, risk and compliance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this is all a bit too much, too soon.
But do not despair. Firstly, your company is far from the only one facing these challenges – solidarity people!
Secondly, in today’s environment, there are a plethora of innovative workforce optimization capabilities and strategies that you can use to keep your at-home agents happy and high performing – and keep risk low.
What follows are our top ten tips for remote workforce optimization for contact centers grappling with today’s unique challenges. By keeping them in mind, you can:
- Ensure the highest level of productivity,
- Foster team building and a sense of agent community
- Mitigate the risks associated with security and compliance.
1. Scheduling smart – right people, right jobs, right time
If a contact center’s agent schedule is still a print-out stuck to a wall, then they have a problem – especially if those agents are under government orders not to travel to that wall. But even if they could, why create schedules using a slow, manual process?
If you feel like you’re losing control, for the benefit of your operation, your peace of mind, and your agents’ focus, consider tools that allow you to automate schedules by balancing shift rules, work hours, breaks, off times, and the skills of your organization’s personnel.
This should help you and your whole team to stay organized and focused at a time of upheaval.
Plus, your agents aren’t the only ones being affected by current events. There’s every possibility they’ll need to make personal adjustments—for example, new childcare arrangements – that will impact the days, dates, and times when they are available for their shifts. And, sometimes those changes are last minute.
Having a system that can efficiently distribute your schedule with real-time updates and allow for things like shift-swapping, and shift-bidding can be a big plus.
2. Get data and insight in front of the people who need it – fast.
Be honest; this is a significant change. Not everything is going to tick along like normal. It’s never been more critical to have the full picture of whats going on in your contact center.
That means understanding performance and compliance from an individual agent through a team of specialists up to a whole contact-center level.
Consider these questions:
- Are you still relying on slow manual processes to create and distribute business intelligence reports?
- Are you able to quickly get intuitive, visualized data in front of decision-makers?
- Are you able to overlay relevant data beyond standard contact center KPIs?
We’re not trying to scare you, but these are essential questions to address when maintaining the health of a virtual contact center. There is a range of solutions out there that can give you same-day access to the data you need to power smarter, faster business decisions.
3. Keep developing your team through scalable, digital training.
The industry average for annual contact center agent turnover is 44%, with a lack of training development cited as a primary contributor. An at-home workforce could make the delivery of training even more challenging. Moreover, updated agent workflows and corporate processes need to be ingrained using training.
If you don’t have one already, think about implementing a scalable, digital agent training solution.
Having the ability to digitally distribute e-learning materials and call and screen recordings, while tracking completion, can be an excellent replacement for traditional, face to face training methods.
4. Make sure you still have eyes and ears.
When you have no managers walking the floor, or indeed a floor for them to walk on, there is a risk that agents’ attention could be diverted.
Let’s face it – even when not in times of crisis, there is a TON of potential for distraction on the internet and social media right now.
Having a robust solution for both call and screen recording can be an excellent way to keep a check on this. Tools that integrate well with each other and with your current quality management process will work best. This will ensure that screen and call recordings are easily accessible alongside one another.
And, consider having the capability to:
- Record agent workflows end-to-end,
- Pause and resume call and screen recording for secure payment,
- Get a complete view of the desktop across multiple monitors, not just the agent panel,
- Record 100% of interactions in full across all channels.
5. Your agents could be the best training resources you have
Why spend time and money gathering third party training materials when the best resources you have are sitting right in front of you? Or at least they used to be, now they are at home, but you get what we’re trying to say.
Recording 100% of interactions and having a system for accessing corresponding call, screen, and multi-channel recordings together gives you access to a vast library of learning resources that are bespoke to your business.
Having the tools to quickly identify the interactions of high performers and then distribute their recordings as training materials can be a game-changer for performance and help to cultivate a sense of community in your agents.
Conversely, evaluate the performance of those that require additional support and training and provide it in 1:1 settings.
6. Empower agents to find their own path to improvement
Your gut might be telling you to take as much control as possible right now, but sometimes giving back some agency to remote employees can be a great move.
Empowering your agents to take some control over their personal development can be an effective way of building trust and lightening the load on you a little.
By using interactive, 90-day trend reports of individual agent performance, the BPO, TSI, was able to change the culture and approach to agent training significantly by enabling agents to leverage data and discover their own path to improvement.
7. Think about a speech analytics solution
While it is nice to have tools and strategies to empower your remote team, realistically, you’re probably also thinking about the compliance and performance risks of having your agents work behind closed doors.
Even if you are recording all calls, you can’t possibly listen to all of them.
Speech analytics tools have been a growing trend in the industry for some time and, in allowing you to monitor 100% of voice conversations, can be an incredibly powerful quality management tool.
The best solutions automatically alert you intraday to inappropriate language, compliance concerns, and any keywords of your choice.
Any number of problematic trends or individual agent behaviors could emerge as a result of this new working arrangement. A good speech analytics tool will allow you to nip these in the bud.
8. Listen to your customers too
Things haven’t just changed for you and your team – they’ve changed for everyone, so you need to be able to understand both ends of the conversation. Your customers’ circumstances may have changed drastically recently, with potentially profound effects on how they need to or can interact with your business.
You also need to understand how changing to a dispersed workforce has impacted the customer experience that your agents are providing.
Having the ability to run Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys after calls or message interactions can be a good way to build hard data and insights in this area. These surveys give callers a chance to rate their interaction and levels of satisfaction to help managers better understand and receive feedback on their agent’s performance.
When choosing a solution, consider how you will access and use this data after you’ve gathered it. For example, will you be able to easily overlay it with other agent performance and business outcome data for in-depth and actionable analysis?
9. Flag risk fast
How quickly can you currently receive call and screen recordings and CSAT data, identify potentially problematic interactions, score them and, finally, do something about it? Can you even do all of these things, confidently, for 100% of interactions?
Probably not. But don’t worry, you are far from alone.
When the challenges of managing a newly-remote workforce are numerous, manual quality management processes can be a massive time and resource drain. As mentioned, new trends in your agents’ interactions could emerge quickly in a new working environment.
You need to be able to address these quickly – not wait too long for reports that tell you something you needed to know last week.
Think about how you can move towards an automated QM process that takes in 100% of interactions and can triage all of them. This will likely involve a combination of interaction and screen-recording, multi-channel scorecards, and speech analytics.
10. Finally, be ready for anything.
If the current situation has taught us anything, it’s that we have no idea what is going to happen next year, next week or even tomorrow.
You need to consider whether your current contact center platform positions you to be able to react rapidly to an environment that could change for both you, your agents, and your customer at a moment’s notice.
Adding workforce optimization tools piece-meal, by stitching on additional third-party systems, can take months of development time, millions of dollars, and leave you with a workforce optimization Frankenstein that’s very disjointed and uncoordinated.
That’s why the industry is moving more and more towards comprehensive, integrated, cloud-based solutions.
It’s a weird and uncertain time for us all. Take confidence in the fact that there are already many innovative solutions out there to help ensure you’re looking after your agents and looking after your business.
And, of course, look after yourself. Stay safe.
LiveVox is a leading provider of enterprise cloud contact center solutions, managing more than 14+ billion interactions a year across a multichannel environment. With over 15 years of pure cloud expertise, we empower contact center leaders to drive effective engagement strategies on the consumer’s channel of choice. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients quickly adapt to a changing business environment. With new features released quarterly, LiveVox remains at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Supported by over 450 employees and rapidly growing, we are headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Denver, Bangalore, and Colombia. To learn more, schedule a demo today.