Best Practices for Contact Center Agents Working from Home

The need for flexibility has never been more acute in the contact center and customer service environment than today. This is especially true with the transition to mass remote working due to COVID-19, which is forcing businesses and employees alike to quickly adapt to the upsurge in demand for customer service.

Customer service success and loyalty are influenced by the ability to continue to provide a high-quality service. Here are three steps you can take to empower your customer service teams and protect your brand’s reputation in times of change.

1. Establish a solid foundation

Moving your Contact Center to a true cloud-native environment is the only way to gain the speed and agility necessary to seamlessly move employees to a remote work environment. Why is this?  It is because cloud-native applications can be accessed from anywhere that employees have an internet connection, computer and web browser.  Given the ubiquitous availability of these three things, makes the transition to agents working from home seamless and immediate. With the COVID-19 crisis requiring this, you can now understand how a cloud-native solution is essential for organizations to continue to service their customers and ensure business continuity.  These solutions are also more cost effective and elastic as they can easily scale up and down based on business demands versus investing in a fixed infrastructure that may be more than you need some months and less than you need in others. 

Think about the various solutions organizations have today. Most organizations have a blend of home grown and enterprise solutions- some might be in the cloud, but most are still on premises. In fact today, I’m still seeing more than 50% of enterprise organizations that are still hesitant to move to the cloud but for reasons that 10 years ago were valid concerns; mainly the availability of applications that were built for the cloud as well as security. This is no longer the case as we see more and more cloud-native applications as well as enhanced security that is centrally managed.  In fact, security breaches when they occur, we see them in legacy platforms, not the cloud.

When you think of cloud-native you need to think of the ultimate in flexibility.  Unlike traditional solutions, applications are not managed at the individual desktop, they are managed in the cloud itself.  As a result they don’t require an IT professional to load and test software on each desktop.  With the current crisis, its also not just our contact center employees at home its also our IT professionals who are unable to install something on each agent desktop.  In a cloud-native solution everything is centrally managed and employees can easily access these new applications through their web browser. 

2. Use Advanced Analytics

One of the main challenges in today’s distributed contact center, where employee work from home, is how you can understand what is happening on the customer interactions, and ensure that agents are providing the best level of service.  This type of solution leverages speech and text analytics to understand the root cause as to why customers are calling and then automatically categorizes them across all channels and customer journeys.

A fantastic way to reduce contact volume is to reconstruct your entire quality process from end to end. Organizations should leverage interaction analytics technology to automate and act on their top contact drivers and focus their development on alternative ways to promote self-service.  Interaction analytics enables you to gauge things like customer sentiment and agent empathy.  From that you can make necessary changes through coaching to improve customer satisfaction and create extraordinary customer experiences. 

Imagine being able to  interpret every interaction and transform subjective behaviors into data that is: consistent, accurate, and without bias. Let me give you a quick example of what I mean. Imagine for a second- the ability to listen to your customers and measure your agents on things like soft skills (Is the agent actively listening? Are they building rapport? Are they asking the right probing questions?) and being able to take that data and use it to predict future churn statistics? This technology is amazing! And it’s real! And it’s in the market today! 

3. Deploy Automation

Remote workers need access to the same subject-matter experts and support as they have in the office and Automation can provide that. Especially in these times of change, policies and information related to answers provided by Customer Service are modified daily. Organizations need to be able to drive those changes to their remote employees.  From the employee side, they need ready access to the company’s knowledge bank of information in real time.  A lot of companies tend to overlook this during all the chaos. But as soon as they move people home- it becomes a harsh reality.

Remember- when you’re in the office, employees can reach out to their neighbor- but when they’re working from home, they can still do that- but you want to make sure that you: a) continuously have someone there throughout the day to help answer any questions and b) have a process in place to monitor those interactions. In a work from home environment, agents lose their entire support structure.  Automation can fill that void and take the place of support previously provided in the office. 

A lot of companies are using this horrible Pandemic as an opportunity to break into this really cool stuff.  Imagine having a virtual attendant there to guide your agents?  Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you just brought on a new hire class of 20 people and they’re now in  production. We know that new people are still trying to get the fundamentals of their job down but what if you could have an automated virtual attendant pop up on the screen as you’re taking someone’s payment and that attendant says- don’t forget to update their contact information or offer to add X to their order for 50%. The ROI on this is significant. Challenge yourself to look at automation during this transition time. There are tremendous benefits as well as economies of scale that can be gained here.

Employees are having to adjust to working from home (WFH) and manage increased customer demand, while thinking about their own health and safety and that of their families. Businesses are also quickly adapting to support the demands and needs of both their agents and their customers, while complying with government directions and protecting their revenue.  These three best practices can smooth the transition and accelerate performance in these times of change we all live in.  


Written by David Wasserman, NICE.