A few years back, we imagined call centers as typical brick-and-mortar workplaces where headset-wearing agents, tucked within their cubicles, tackle a constant stream of calls. But that has largely changed now thanks to the new wave of tech-led disruption in recent years. Apart from on-premise, it has now become possible to operate a virtual call center as well.
Our State of Contact Center Report, 2023, shows that as call volumes increased by 3% in 2022, call agents face increased workloads. On the other hand, customer impatience is rising, and people expect shorter wait times. In such a scenario, how do you motivate your remote agents? And how do you ensure your virtual call center functions as efficiently as before? Let’s take a look at it. Challenges of managing remote call agents.
There are many benefits of opting for a virtual call center:
- Infrastructural cost savings.
- The ability to recruit people from around the world.
- No need to run on-site hardware across multiple sites.
But along with the benefits, remote work comes with unique set of challenges Here are some of them:
- Lack of Performance Tracking: To monitor remote call agents and ensure they are working productively, you need to use effective call center software that helps you communicate with them regularly and proactively solve problems.
- Managing Accountability: You may need to monitor issues and ensure accountability among team members, so they feel energized and able to perform.
- Delivering Training and Support: Providing training in a virtual setting can be slightly different than in a traditional setting. You may need a clear process to guide them on making effective calls and correcting mistakes.
- Creating a Sense of Belonging: In a virtual setting, it’s not as simple as going to someone’s desk and talking to them: this is a reason why managers might need to conduct regular team activities and check-ins.
While there are a few challenges, here are some strategies to help you deal with them effectively.
How to Manage Remote Agents Effectively?
Have a look at some strategies to manage remote agents effectively.
1. Make Use of Screen Recordings
Screen recording is one of the most effective tools to improve agent performance. It provides managers with a 360-degree view of the challenges that agents face and real-time insight into their activities. Here is how the screen recording feature can be useful for your contact center:
In remote work, you will not have the advantage of monitoring your agent work personally. So, it is crucial to ensure that contact center agents perform optimally and remain as productive as in the office. A well-functioning screen recording tool can help managers:
- Keep records of agent activities for later review and auditing
- Uphold supervisory fairness and neutrality
- Become mentors to new agents.
Boost Agent Efficiency
The screen recording feature can help managers improve in-call-procedures and streamline the post-call process based on a clear understanding of agent behavior. For example, A screen recording tool can help managers identify areas for improvement across every process in the contact center. It can be used to:
- Improve workflows based on agents’ real behavior.
- Assess the productivity impact of CTI integrations.
- Detect issues in agent performance.
Comprehensive Training and Support
A robust screen recording tool gives a manager a comprehensive view of your agents’ entire work activities. You can identify training needs and monitor agent performance during customer calls and after-call work. An efficient screen-recording tool can enable managers to
- Provide relevant and actionable feedback to their agents.
- Improve new agent onboarding with live, personalized support
- Help agents in wrapping up their calls faster
2. Track Agent Sentiment Throughout the Day
According to Gallup report*, 55% of employees are not engaged in their work, and 15% are actively disengaged.
Making employees feel engaged at work becomes even more important when they are working from home and might face different distractions like having family members interrupt the work, dealing with noisy neighbors, and so on.
One way out is using a conversation analytics tool to measure agent sentiment throughout the day.
It is crucial to analyze every contact center interaction and gain deeper insights into the agent sentiment. With new-age technology, it’s possible to calculate sentiments by using a combination of metrics like tone, pitch, volume and speaking rate, and spectral changes.
Moreover, you can also analyze the polarity & confidence of your agent and classify his behavior as negative or neutral.
For example, if you find out that Sam’s sentiment turns negative at 3 p.m. every day, you can allocate a break time to him during that period. Doing this for all your agents will help you schedule their work time and breaks more effectively, leading to more productive and engaged call agents.
3. Monitor Low-Performing Call Agents
You can monitor all your agents with real-time dashboards and keep track of statistics like the number of calls and pickup rates for individuals. This will help you find the call agents performing poorly relative to the team.
Here’s what you can do next:
– Never avoid the problem: You may be tempted to shift the agent to another team or stay put without doing anything. But this might affect the entire team and let underperformance fester.
– Ask the call agent: You may talk to their seniors or colleagues to find out the reason. But the best bet is to talk to the agent itself. Instead of telling them that they aren’t performing well, formulate questions like, “I see that you’re facing some performance issues. I know you can do better. So, how can we get out of this?” As a result, this doesn’t make the agent feel targeted.
– Create a concrete plan together: After discussing the problem, you might want to create an action plan. For example, if the agent lacks some skill, you can help them undergo a training course, after which you can monitor their performance.
– Conduct regular check-ins: This will help you stay updated on the call agent’s progress and ensure accountability.
4. Leverage the Power of Gamification
It’s well known that teens love games more than adults do. But brands have long since used gamification to keep adults interested and engaged.
Take “My Starbucks Rewards,” for example. This app gives users points each time they buy something at Starbucks through the app. These points are then collected to get prizes.
A report found that nearly 25% of all purchases in US* were made through the mobile app.
This proves that gamification can encourage even adults to engage in healthy competition. You can bring this same spirit and enthusiasm to your virtual call center. Here’s how a call center reduced call time by 15%* and increased sales by over 8% using gamification.
Here are some Fun Ideas to Incorporate Gamification:
– Apply points to everyday tasks. The person that gets the most points at the end of the month gets rewards in the form of gift cards, dinner vouchers, paid time off, and so on.
– Make use of points-based quizzes and trivia during training to make it more engaging and effective.
– Goal-tracking progress bars to showcase daily goal targets.
These give employees more reason to push themselves than just simply checking off their work duties. It also lets employees bond with each other and creates a sense of community and loyalty toward the company.
5. Set a Time For Team Chats
According to research, almost 67% of workers feel connected* while working from home.
When you think about it, this is not so uncommon. While working from home, your remote agents don’t get to have lunch together or have a light talk near the water cooler.
A reason why you need to have regular team chats or even video calls is to create a sense of belonging. This also helps some employees feel less lonely and detached.
During these team chats, you can not only talk about work but catch up on things like the recently released Avatar movie, how your team is taking care of their health, a fun hobby-sharing meet, and so on.
Here are three team-building activities that Hojar* uses to create a sense of community:
– Wednesday bonfires: Workers catch up each Wednesday to share interesting topics or personal growth
– “10 things about you” sessions: This happens during onboarding, where workers share some quirky things or fun stories about themselves
– Coffee sessions: These are short 15-minute meetings where workers talk about something they learned recently that might help the team. For example: how to have quick meetings
How to Manage a Virtual Contact Center
The above strategies will help your virtual contact center have a productive and engaged workforce. But how can you ensure that everything runs seamlessly and that your team doesn’t have to engage in low-value tasks. Here is how you can ensure that
- Build multi-level interactive voice response and call flows
- Access CRM data and use a consolidated agent dashboard
- Set up automatic call distribution and smart routing to accelerate responses
- Monitor agent performance with sentiment tracking, whisper & barge-in tools, and key metric reports
- Auto-record calls and view recordings against customer tickets
- Implement omnichannel routing to distribute both calls and chats to the right agent
- Leverage the power of AI with chatbots, speech analytics, and voice bots
Author: Prashanth Kancherla
Bio: With 24+ years of experience in the contact center industry, Prashant, VP-Product, Ozonetel is still passionate about finding simple, innovative ways in which technology can enable businesses to build better customer experience in an efficient, effortless manner.