Should You Climb on the Remote Agent Bandwagon?

For those of you who have been in any of my training sessions, you know the conversations can sometimes get a little off topic. This isn’t a bad thing as it allows people to share ideas and learn what’s working for other people and companies in similar circumstances. During one of these conversations, the topic of remote employees came up. It seems that there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration if you are going to allow contact center agents to work from home.

remote worker

Before jumping on the bandwagon and letting everyone work from home, here are some things to consider:

Companies start offering remote employment for a lot of reasons but not all reasons are relevant to every company. How do you evaluate if it’s right for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

  •  Would it widen the pool of potential employees? Remote agents allow you to include people with limited hours of availability or transportation issues in your candidate pool.
  • Would it increase employee retention? Since a lot of people like knowing they don’t have to commute to work every day, or drive in a snowstorm, remote work may appeal to them.
  • Will it offer a significant cost benefit to either you or the employee?
    • Employees no longer have to pay for transportation to the office.
    • You may no longer need a building to house employees.
    • You can offer extended hours by using a part time workforce that doesn’t require benefit packages.
  • Would it allow you to adapt faster to changes in demand? Remote work can create a flexible business model where you can add headcount only when needed to accommodate temporary projects.

Now that your company sees some benefit to having remote agents, should you just tell the group to stay home tomorrow? Probably not. Here are some additional things you need to look at before diving right in:

  • Consider potential security risks to your network and make sure they are addressed.
  • Determine what system and hardware requirements your company will be responsible for and which will fall to the employee.
  • Ensure your IT systems and people can support it.
  • Determine what changes will need to be made to general procedures (like going paperless) and train the staff on them.
  • Establish clear communication lines between supervisors and their direct reports to make sure employees don’t feel remote even if they are geographically distant and train your supervisors to use technology to bridge the gap. This could include a chatting software or allowing for video calls.
  • Involve your Human Resources department to make sure you are compliant with regulations and policies.
  • Develop a training and onboarding process for new employees who may never physically meet their supervisor.
  • Roll it out in phases with a small test group first.

These are not all of the reasons why companies decide to go the work-at-home route but it covers some of the big ones. And depending upon your situation, there could be other dependencies as well. For additional guidance on deploying remote agents, I suggest reading the three part Home Agent Series for insight into the benefits, the technology and how the customer experience fits into the bigger picture.

For those of you who have remote agents, what are some of the ways that you are accomplishing it? What were the benefits you saw as a result? Share what you’ve experienced to help the rest of us!

As always, thanks for reading!


Six Attributes of a Great Contact Center Plan

My last post, Seven Steps Your Contact Center Strategic Planning Process Needs, discussed tips around how to ensure your contact center planning process develops great plans. But, what about the plan itself? What makes a contact center strategic plan great?

Here are the six hallmarks of a great strategic plan:

The plan is accurate. Most contact center managers look for an accurate volume forecast, and this is important. But it is also vital that other important metrics are forecasted well. For instance, sick time and other shrinkage items are important to forecast. Similar for agent attrition, outbound contact rates, and […]

Calling All Cloud Contact Centers – Join Our Data Quest

Far too many times, I have been burned buying something that never delivers upon my expectations.

About five years ago, I bought a device that plugged into my iPhone that would broadcast an FM signal to my car stereo allowing me to play audio books stored on my iPhone. With a great deal of excitement, I tore open the packaging, put it all together and then started on my 45-minute commute, eager to listen to the audio book I just downloaded. Of course no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to work.

Can you relate?

In 2009, Interactive Intelligence started investing heavily in data […]

Contact Center Callbacks – The Whys and Why Nots

In the course of my consulting travels, I always get asked the question, “Do I offer my customers callbacks?”

My answer is typically, “It depends.” It depends on what you are striving to accomplish. You might be striving for truth, justice and customer loyalty, but it is a tool that could derail the customer experience and your contact center just like Kryptonite did Superman!

The best way to see if the callback shoe fits is to understand what a callback is and to answer the question – “why or why not implement?”

A callback is a feature which provides the […]

Customer-Focused Quality – What is it?

Customer-focused quality goes beyond the development and testing divisions within organizations. Every employee is a stakeholder in the quality process. I like to look at all functions within an organization as dots connected to a circle. The success of a company’s product, services, and ultimately the entire organization, is interlinked. When any of these dots are neglected there is a risk of collapsing the circle, alienating customers, and ultimately losing business.

For example – if case studies aren’t written and published in a professional manner, the quality of the marketing department suffers; if invoices are repeatedly sent late or not sent, […]

Citibank Shows the Future is Bright for Customer Engagement

In my last blog post, The Future of Customer Engagement Will Look Much More Like This, I shared a personal experience that sure felt like the future of customer engagement. And wouldn’t you know it, I had another one. This time Citibank brought the love.

Not too long after the Amazon incident, my family traveled from California to Oregon for my daughter’s softball tournament. My son decided to take advantage of some tax free shopping and purchased a MacBook Air. When I tried to make the purchase on his behalf, my credit card was declined. As I grabbed my phone […]

Three Ways Real-Time Speech Analytics Can Improve Your Debt Collection Efforts

A major challenge of debt collection organizations is determining which calls to monitor in order to identify potential issues before they escalate, especially meeting critical compliance requirements.

Of all the useful contact center technologies available today, one of the most valuable I’ve seen in addressing this challenge is real-time speech analytics.

The following are three ways that speech analytics can help improve your debt collection efforts and reduce compliance violations.

The ability to identify when debt collectors break the rules. Regulatory compliance is a well-defined problem. Analyzing call recording with speech analytics is an effective way to identify compliance violations. In […]

A Logical Approach to Setting a Schedule Adherence Goal

The dynamic nature of contact centers require us as leaders to have a keen awareness of what our contact center volume and staffing will be at each daily interval. As a contact center matures, a typical growth step includes the addition of resource planning teams and tools to plan workload and resources needed to meet service goals for each of those intervals.

Agents following an assigned schedule, which is known as schedule adherence, have a profound impact on how well a contact center operation can perform. By using a schedule adherence key performance indicator (KPI) your operation team is able […]

What Do Consumers Value Most in a Service Experience?

As a customer experience professional, I am always interested in what customers value the most. If we get it right, we can successfully manage our resources, priorities and engagements to ensure we are providing the expected value to our customers and ultimately achieve our respective goals.

To that end, we conducted a study with consumers around the world earlier this year, “Customer Service Experience Study, Wave II“, and in it asked two key questions: “What do customers want in a great service experience?” and “What do companies and customers want from the technology behind that great customer experience?” The respondents […]

Do you Know the Best Ways to Engage Multi-Generational Customers?

Millennials,  Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomer. How do these customer groups interact with organizations in today’s technology-driven markets? Are these descriptions accurate? Some attributes are specific to each group, but many cross all generations depending on the level of technical ability they possess, but more importantly the technology channels they prefer to use, as well as the manner in which they process the information they seek.

As customer experience strategies are developed and implemented across all industries, organizations must fully understand all aspects of how customers prefer to interact. There is a critical need to fully understand social technology […]