Can Work From Home be a Permanent Solution For Contact Centres?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of business operations, and contact centres are no exception.

Employees had to make a sudden switch to remote working to keep businesses up and running. Surprisingly, even as the curve flattens and vaccine rollouts are in full swing, the WFH trend continues. This holds true for people in all kinds of roles, including the customer experience (CX) workforce in the contact centres.

According to Gartner, 20% to 80% of the support and service workforce will still be working from home two years from now. The question is, do you want to have your agents back in the office or let them handle customer queries from their home office?

However, making remote work permanent is about more than keeping employees safe from the virus. It’s best to consider both sides of the coin before coming to a decision.

The pros of embracing remote contact centres for the long haul

It is imperative for an organisation to understand the upsides of any decision—especially for something as significant as allowing CX agents to work out of the office for the long term. Here are the pros of the choice:

  • Flexibility with scheduling- Remote work makes agents accessible and available around the clock, which empowers the business with scheduling flexibility. They are able to serve customers better, even during peak hours, special events, and seasonal spikes. Remote contact centre agents can easily accommodate spikes even on short notice because they need not commute to the workplace. They can connect with customers virtually from their home office at any time of the day or night.
  • High productivity- WFH for contact centres makes an excellent choice for businesses that want to avail the highest level of employee productivity. Agents have access to the best tools from the comfort and safety of their living spaces. No time wasted in commute, no anxiety about social contact amidst a pandemic. This translates into higher productivity, which is a big plus for any business.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction- Round-the-clock availability of agents means that callers need not queue up for query resolution or support. They get assistance from agents as soon as the need arises, regardless of their location or call timing. This enhances caller satisfaction, so people tend to stay with your business even during a crisis.
  • Reduced operating costs- Letting your contact centre agents work from home also reduces infrastructural requirements. Lower operating costs are especially beneficial in the pandemic era when money is tight, and every penny saved matters.
  • Lower training costs- When you go remote, you can save considerably on training new recruits. Virtual training is far more economical than in-person sessions as you can educate the staff with smart tools and applications.
  • Decrease in staff turnover- Businesses can save on turnover costs with remote operations. In fact, the retention rate for contact centre agents is much higher if they are allowed to work from home. The arrangement boosts their morale since they can work around personal inconveniences and perform productively in their own time. On the company’s part, it shows that they care about their staff, allowing empathic customer handling and greater employee satisfaction.
  • Workforce diversity- Your remote agent pool is limitless as you need not be confined by any location or travel barriers. Rather, you have the option to pick the best talent in the industry from anywhere and let them connect to your system—without missing out on any functionalities.

Cons of remote working for contact centre teams

When it comes to weighing the decision to embrace remote working for your contact centre for the long run, you need to understand the challenges too. Here are the ones you must bear in mind to make the choice that works for your organisation.

  • Ineffective communication- The biggest challenge that remote workers face with this arrangement is ineffective communication. When you have a large team, it can get hard for managers to keep them on the same page. Things can get even tougher when complex queries or difficult customers come around.
  • Low employee reliability- Managers might be hesitant to rely on remote workers completely since they cannot oversee the performances in-person. Some employees make inadvertent mistakes, while others simply want to take advantage of the situation. It can get hard to monitor everyone on board when you have a large number of agents working from home.
  • Distractions at home- People can get distracted as they work from home, with family members, chores or personal events coming in the way. Poor Internet connectivity and lack of the right tools can also result in a dip in productivity.

Overcoming the challenges to get the best benefits of WFH contact centres

If any of the challenges mentioned above, or any other considerations are deterring you from transitioning to a remote set-up, fret no more. Some simple measures can help you overcome the challenges and get the best benefits from the decision. Here’s what you can do:

  • Empower agents with a cloud-based contact centre solution- WFH agents cannot use on-premise resources, so they will definitely need a cloud-based system to manage calls. Managers can use this for monitoring agent activities and KPI tracking. You may already have a cloud system in place, but it makes sense to evaluate it and ensure that it has all the requisite features for agents and managers.
  • Give access to internal data and applications- Agents working remotely will require enterprise data, knowledge base, and back-office CRM to resolve the queries of the callers effectively. Ensure that they have access to everything they need to aid productivity.
  • Have a proper communication system in place- Remote teams often struggle with communication and connectivity, so having a proper system in place helps. A unified communication system makes sure your internal, as well as external conversations, are effortless with voice, video and text functionalities. Instant messaging tools are useful for keeping everyone on the same page, while managers can also leverage remote agent monitoring applications for performance management  phrases and real-time coaching.
  • Optimise workforce scheduling- A distributed workforce has an even greater need for collaboration and coordination. Having the best communication tools is one step of the process, but not the whole story. You need to invest in a reliable employee scheduling application that helps managers allocate tasks and keep track of adherence at all times.

Are WFH contact centres here to stay?

Work-from-home culture is not new for customer-facing businesses with many organisations having run the model well before the pandemic took over. However, the switch wasn’t easy for the ones that were too set in their traditional ways.

Though there was no choice at the onset of the crisis, it’s safe to say that over time, things worked out pretty well. Now, most companies are ready to take work from home ahead for the long haul.

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