Frontline supervisors have often been described as the contact center linchpin. They connect agents to the organization’s vision and goals while providing the support that drives productivity, engagement, and positive customer outcomes.
The shift to remote work has made the supervisor’s role even more impactful. In the work-from-home environment, supervisors are the main—and often only—human touchpoint that agents have with the company. Their responsibilities have reached beyond managing performance to ensuring the health and well-being of their agents.
The transition has been a tough one for supervisors. Management by walking around the contact center floor has been replaced by scheduled check-ins with agents. Information previously shared through informal, ad hoc conversations is now intentional. It is a dramatic shift for supervisors who are used to overseeing a group of agents sitting within their line of sight.
3 Top Remote-Work Challenges for Contact Center Supervisors
It is no surprise that the frontline supervisor’s effectiveness is a key contributor to the agent experience. As McKinsey and others have pointed out, employees regularly point to the relationship with their immediate supervisor as the top factor in their job satisfaction.
How can you support your supervisors and help them to thrive in a remote environment? Below are three top reasons why remote work is challenging for your supervisors, and how to set them up for success.
1. Supporting Remote Teams Takes a Lot of Time
Frontline supervisors were already battling time constraints. They have taken on even heavier workloads during the shift to remote work. The deluge of meetings, chats, and emails to communicate up, down, and across the operation has made it difficult to carve out time for team bonding.
How to make it easier for supervisors to support remote agents:
- Reduce agent-to-supervisor ratios. Many contact center supervisory roles were created with on-site management in mind. Consider how to reengineer them for the remote-work model.
- Free up supervisors to focus on new methods for supporting their remote teams. Assign routine tasks to career-minded agents who are looking to expand their job skills. Empower frontline agents to self-manage tasks like PTO requests or swapping shifts.
- Provide supervisors with training to help them keep pace with their expanding responsibilities. Besides developing new techniques for coaching and managing remote teams, supervisors require training in written communication skills, engaging remote teams, leading with empathy, and advanced listening skills.
2. They Have Less Visibility into Everyday Productivity Issues
Contact center supervisors are used to sitting in the trenches with their teams where they can see every agent. Physical proximity provides supervisors with visual insights into adherence issues, such as an agent who likes to linger too long in the break room, or a team member who arrives at work on time, but then decides to grab a cup of coffee before logging in. With team members working in different places, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint—and coach—behaviors that affect adherence and absenteeism.
How to make it easier for supervisors to improve agent performance:
- Review your existing KPIs and policies. Were they created for an on-premise operating model? Are they realistic for your work-from-home teams?
- Gather agent feedback. Seek to understand their challenges and frustrations when working from home. Do adherence issues stem from behavioral, environmental, or technical problems? Are individual agents struggling with personal challenges, such as child care, an illness in the family, or the lack of home-office space?
- Calibrate agents’ and supervisors’ expectations for how adherence and absenteeism are measured in the work-from-home environment. Set clear expectations for start and stop times for shifts and breaks, and time off phones.
- Provide Power of One training to increase agents’ buy-in for schedule adherence. This time-tested WFM training activity illustrates the impact that one person can have on service and teammates simply by logging in a few minutes late or logging off early.
- Offer agents incentives for meeting attendance and adherence objectives.
- Share individual adherence metrics with agents so they can track their own performance. Accountability increases when agents can identify when—and why—they go out of adherence.
3. Manual Processes Slow Collaboration Among Internal Teams
Proper contact center scheduling requires constant collaboration among supervisors, agents, and WFM analysts. When agents have to rely on slow channels like email to communicate schedule changes, tardiness, or call-outs, supervisors and WFM teams must constantly scramble to adjust staffing levels.
How to make it easier for supervisors to collaborate across functions:
- Give agents, supervisors, and WFM analysts access to synchronous channels (SMS/text, desktop popup notifications, mobile alerts, internal chat, knowledge bases) to speed up information sharing.
- Set expectations for cross-functional collaboration to ensure that everyone who needs information has it at the right time and at the right point in the process.
- Leverage WFM technology to empower agents to manage their schedules, request PTO and sick leave, get updates, track adherence, bid on upcoming schedules, and communicate with supervisors and analysts. Providing access to scheduling tasks via mobile devices can help cross-functional teams stay connected anytime, anywhere.