What WFH Means for the Future of Contact Centres
COVID-19 has affected the way a lot of us work. While working from home (WFH) was a privilege enjoyed by some prior to the pandemic, it has become the norm, with the majority of people having recently learned to adjust to a new working lifestyle.
As some of us begin to head back to the office, many others will continue to work from home either permanently or part-time. One of the things that has become apparent from COVID-19 is that the questions surrounding whether or not contact centre employees can work from home have been answered. In this post, we will discuss a few key learnings from the new WFH trend and what it means for the future in terms of contact centre agents.
Mitigating Security Risks
A major concern with the WFH model is the increased opportunity for security and personnel risk. You must prioritise the confidentiality and security of both customer and company data. Security measures that pertain specifically to remote working must be adopted, and the onus is on your company to robustly train your employees to understand and comply with any changes.
Security protocols will need to be established that consider the worst-case scenarios. What if your employee needs to read back credit card details to a customer but has a nosy neighbour who could overhear? Should employees be allowed to engage in discussions that would otherwise be confidential in their back garden for example? For a start, you can adopt policies which ban the use of personal devices, enforce a clear desk policy, and invest in security tools such as secure payment details tools or a VPN to ensure protection. Do your best to mitigate the risks by adjusting your existing procedures to protect your customers despite changes to the working environment.
COVID-19 has presented a real challenge for new customer service agents, who rather than assimilating into a company in the traditional way have had to learn the ins and outs remotely. As remote working becomes more common, many businesses have adopted strategies that put digital transformation at the forefront of their training so that everything can be done with ease. Shipping a laptop to a home address or video conferencing to learn about HR policies are ways of modifying existing onboarding practices to remote working.
But it’s important to note that remote education cannot be prioritised only for new employees. Existing employees should be kept abreast of new learnings to keep them on top of new products, services, and soft skills. These are the employees who could easily be forgotten as time goes on, so arranging for reeducation is as important as how you address teaching the new employees.
A key concern has been if WFH discourages productivity. The vast number of potential distractions at home could potentially impede productivity, but the reality is that distractions exist everywhere – even in the office. Targets and expectations still exist, so the actual quality of work really cannot be impacted too much by WFH for most people. Ultimately, this differs for everyone and it depends on many factors, but as employees adjust to WFH they are finding ways to dedicate spaces in their homes to be designated for an office.
You should have dashboards and tools in place to ensure that your agents are online and to monitor their work. Tracking agent performance via a VOC platform, like CX Index, is a great way to keep them engaged and motivated. While metrics aren’t everything, if you have a sophisticated system, you should be able to compare how agents are delivering on customer experience in different environments and they should be able to monitor their own performance.
Adopting a Hybrid Model
If it doesn’t feel right for your business, transitioning to all agents working remotely can be something you ease into over time or something you don’t fully commit to at all. Our research has shown that a hybrid model could be the best, and most popular, option going forward, with some employees choosing to stay at home while others return to the office or having employees work part-time from home and part-time from the office.
If you are considering moving to a WFH or hybrid model for your agents, you should ensure that each agent has the tools to be as productive from home as they are in the office. This may mean equipping them with a dual-screen monitor as they are used to in the office or a desk and chair. You should even consider subsidizing the cost of their Wi-Fi, making it a requirement that they maintain sufficient connectivity at all times. Ultimately, the costs of supplying your employees with the tools they need to stay productive at home should cost you less than hosting them in the office full time but will require empathy, adaptability and flexibility to ensure it is successful.