Which of these scenarios describes your call center agent layout?
1) All agents are in-house
2) Some agents are in-house, some work from home
3) All agents are work-at-home
Studies show that the work-at-home call center population is seeing a 25% annual growth. Although this is great news as work-at-home staff experiences up to 50% less attrition than regular contact center employees, managing a remote workforce presents a whole new set of challenges in terms of communication.
And why not hire work-at-home employees? After all, employees are able to manage their day and spend more time with their family, as well as save on commuting costs and time, thus leading to an increase in productivity and happiness. As a result, they end up having less sick days.
But as good work-at-home employees have it, retaining them isn’t easy and failing to do so can hurt the quality of the service and increase company costs.
This is in partly due to the difficulty of managing employees remotely. As much as we like to say that technology keeps us connected, nothing quite replaces face-to-face communication. Sure, tools like emoticons and GIFS help convey facial expressions and personality, but not all the information passes through the wire.
With this in mind, it’s important to maximize the use of the available tools in order to keep clear channels of communication and make work-at-home employees feel part of a team.
Here are a few ways to engage work-at-home contact center staff to ensure higher retention rates and quality customer service.
Hold some friendly competition
Just because your employees work alone doesn’t mean they have to work alone. Imagine teaming up your work-at-home staff and having them communicate and work together to compete against other teams. By doing so, you would not only motivate staff to excel, but you would help establish rapport amongst team members.
This would engage employees on a professional and emotional level fulfilling both social needs and professional growth.
Still not convinced teams are for you? An individual on a team is less likely to fall off the wagon and lose momentum as they are propelled by other members. Plus, no one wants to be the reason for their team’s setbacks.
Open your lines of communication
It’s easy to lose focus when working from home. Although a company culture might not transmit the same way online, do your best by keeping clear lines of communication between staff and management to make it easy to get in touch.
Don’t just allow team leaders and agents to engage with each other, put in place the right tools to encourage them to do so. Create a group, forum or even thread to discuss sales, ideas, and heck, why not one for jokes.
Instead of managing from above, free flowing channels create an environment for peer-to-peer feedback and advice.
So even if everyone is thousands of miles away, they can still feel like their team members’ are right around the corner. This gives agents a sense of voice and empowerment to stay committed to your organization for a longer time.
Gamify the deed
Let’s admit it, sometimes, it’s good to spice things up a little bit. Break away from the ordinary platforms and make working for your contact center just that much more fun.
This doesn’t mean distracting employees from doing their jobs, but instead motivating them through gamification elements. This could mean points for logging into a performance management platform, awarding virtual badges, or giving prizes for reaching specific goals.
The most important aspect of applying gamification to any performance goals is to keep employees focused on continuous improvement, not the prize. Provide effective coaching. Enable visible, real-time data at the agent-level that team leaders can provide feedback on. The award should be an afterthought.
Gamification not only makes the job more entertaining, but it can serve to value an employee by recognizing a job well done even when they’re an ocean away.
When working with work-at-home employees, it can be easy to forget certain coworkers as you don’t see them face-to-face very often. And like a high school cliques, no one likes to be excluded. Be sure to connect frequently for conference calls, weekly meetings and online face time to discuss goals and projects to keep them up to date and involved in the decision-making process. Everyone wants to feel valued. Involving them sends a clear message that they are.
But don’t just talk work. We are social by nature and talking about our weekends, friends and family not only nurtures work relationships, but also creates bonds that form stronger commitment to the company.
Meet them in person
Being a work-at-home employee myself, the difference I felt before and after I met my coworkers and shook their hands was incomparable. By meeting them, I was able to get a feel for their personalities, which helped break barriers of hesitation when communicating online.
I no longer worried if Adam would misunderstand me or how I should ask Julia for help on an assignment. It became easier to ask for advice.
But more importantly, meeting in person transmits the company’s culture across. Employees can experience the company’s mission and vision instead of just reading it online. What a big difference that makes in an employee’s mindset! When staff understands and shares their company’s culture, they are able to go beyond their job and bring real value to the company.
Are you succeeding at engaging your contact center work-at-home employees? If so, what methods have you used to keep them motivated and in line with the company?