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 Employees – Interactive Intelligence

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!

~Shanti

Shanti Lall

Shanti Lall

I came to Interactive Intelligence in 2010 as an operational trainer for the Education department. For about a decade before that, I worked in a contact center, where I started out as a line-level agent taking customer service calls. I worked my way up to team lead, supervisor, and finally, project manager. I was doing quality management with a circa 1982 tape deck in a spare office with a speaker phone and workforce management in an Excel spreadsheet with about 5 billion lines of formula. Eventually we upgraded and brought in Interactive Intelligence. When I’m not training people who can relate to my former life, I’m traveling with my family.