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It’s been a year now since COVID-19 struck and changed the way people communicate and deliver customer experience (CX). To succeed, businesses have adapted to changing behaviours, and a clearer picture of what has worked, and what hasn’t, is coming into view. So based on lessons learnt, how can contact centres optimise their work from home models?
The crisis management response to COVID-19 has fast-tracked the adoption of cloud-based work from home contact centre and unified communication (UC) solutions for small, medium and large enterprises. With this, comes a new era of agent experience (AX) – one that requires new kinds of support for staff in lieu of the face-to-face interactions that were previously taken for granted.
Any new way of working requires increased emphasis on solutions that manage and optimise. Read on, to learn how contact centre managers can maintain high levels of customer service while agents work from home.
For contact centres that properly managed the transition to remote work, the payoff has been substantial. In the spring of 2020, leading Belgian telco VOO transitioned to a flexible cloud solution in only a week and moved 188 contact centre agents to remote work inside the same time frame. Improvements have already been seen, and they are groundbreaking: absenteeism dropped from 62% to 5% and daily calls per team rose from 1300 to 1800, a remarkable 38% increase in productivity. Little wonder then, that a majority of CIOs expect work from home to become the norm in 2021.
So what’s behind success stories like this? One answer is technology. 2020 propelled a host of agile technologies into the mainstream. Cloud adoption grew dramatically in 2020, and communication and conferencing tools are now standard in any large organisation. These are more than just stopgap solutions. One crucial lesson of 2020 is that many of the solutions which carried organisations through the trials of the pandemic have immense potential going forward.
In addition to technology, workforce optimisation solutions are also helping contact centres enhance their work from home strategies. And one key way to optimise a workforce is through strategies that increase agents’ job satisfaction. According to research by McKinsey, engaged and satisfied contact centre agents are four times more likely to remain in their roles than dissatisfied agents. Agents face specific challenges when they work from home, which a contact centre manager needs to understand. When agents are empowered with added flexibility, they are likely to be less stressed, more focused and more engaged than an agent who is struggling with overly rigid expectations.
For the contact centre manager, this means maintaining the standards established to run a profitable business, including targets and regular reporting, but with the recognition that remote workforce management strategies are necessary for individuals as well as the wider organisation. Even with schools back in session, staff will likely have additional family responsibilities to juggle alongside their jobs, so flexibility and understanding when it comes to changing shift patterns, for instance, do not have to be to the detriment of accountability.
A company-wide appreciation of the changed circumstances enables contact centres to continue remote work post-crisis if it leads to happier agents with greater productivity.
There are many contact centre tools which help maintain an interactive, friendly and supportive work from home environment, such as monthly questionnaires, check-ins, help sessions on a one-to-one basis or remote team building activities for the whole contact centre. The results of such activities should provide the foundation for any changes required to the agents’ work environment to improve their overall job satisfaction and well-being. The Slack Future of Work Study confirmed workers are looking for a deeper partnership with company decision makers; they seek stronger bonds with colleagues, and share a clear desire for better ways to collaborate. Remember, active agent engagement is crucial to positive customer experience (CX).
Contact centre managers need to ensure they keep employees informed, whether they work in the office or from home. Keeping communication flowing, whether through one-to-one meetings, weekly team calls or dedicated chat channels will minimise information gaps and ensure that agents stay motivated and engaged with the organisation. When a steep learning curve is delaying employees’ use of a new technology, training should be provided. Left to their own devices, 80% of people will only use 20% of a software’s capabilities. It’s worth ensuring that employees are aware of the full breadth of new technology’s potential.
To respond and perform well, step up the frequency of ‘town-hall’ style meetings, such as monthly business reviews. Consider individual weekly check-in calls with team members and develop initiatives to enhance well-being and provide more feedback to individuals. Ongoing, two-way communication is essential to establishing trust and transparency and keeping employees confident in the company.
Don’t underestimate the importance of routine at a time when almost all former routines have been disrupted.
Contact centres that learn how to maximise the potential of work from home will have an advantage. A combination of frequent, two-way communication with agents and comprehensive workforce optimisation solutions will be key. Companies are turning to Odigo for answers to today’s challenges and help with tomorrow’s solutions.
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