Working from home has become an acceptable and appealing option for call center agents. When supporting Work at Home (WAH) Agents, the following should be used when deciding what technology tools are most important to help WAH agents effectively use their skills, stay in control, manage customers, and minimize stress.
According to the National Association of Call Centers, more than half of the contact centers in the United States today (53 percent) have some percentage of their agent population functioning from a home office.
Great Support is the Key to Success
Support can be more complicated with WAH agents. Especially if basic resources are not available within seconds, agents will easily become frustrated and service level will decrease. Investing in technologies that encourage ongoing communication let agents use information to do their job well. Put together a virtual support team to help supervise remote agents and give them easy support. Web chat is another effective way to communicate between agents and supervisors, and between agents.
Many centers fear that productivity will plummet with WAH agents. How do you keep an eye on employees who are working miles away? Most importantly, avoid this problem by hiring the right people. Also, like agents in the brick and mortar centers, using recording and monitoring tools are an effective way to keep tabs.
Knowledge is Power
When agents are spread out, ongoing training can become more difficult. It's key to help agents be ready for changes in service or new products so make sure your platform has the infrastructure to deliver.
Learning should be an ongoing process. Make sure you can train any agent, anywhere, at any time. Offer real-time eLearning capabilities that include the ability to send targeted training content to agents. Your training solution should offer tools to assess learning results, enable quizzes to be embedded or linked to course material. User-created quizzes can measure the full extent of agents' comprehension and the retention of training content.
Use a learning management system that allows remote learning to be interactive and streamlined for WAH agents. Online visual and audio learning combined with instant feedback ensures that agents can easily communicate with the instructor. This is important especially if a student doesn't do well on his or her assessments, it allows for virtual individual time with an instructor to help them out.
Track the impact of specific training with built-in assessment tools. These should allow you to easily measure training results and its impact on group or individual performance. Make it easy for WAH agents to look up their performance results to keep them motivated. Make sure the tools allow managers and trainers to measure whether training was viewed and understood.
Working from home makes it especially difficult to get to know those working around you. Your chosen tech must encourage teamwork and interaction between agents. Organize virtual team meetings where members of both teams participate. The most important part of a successful virtual platform is to connect personally with the team. Even though they physically work outside of the call center, it's vital that your remote staff feel like they are a part of the 'team' and not kept out of the loop, especially for outside activities. Take the time to communicate with them in any form available.
Stay Up to Date
Research and continually use the most up-to-date technology instead of only relying on traditional hardware. This will not only help prevent harmful future incidents but will remove tech that does a mediocre job of supporting your WAH agents. Using up to date and effective tech can make a big difference in agent morale.
What technology and support has been most effective for your WAH agents?
This article has been updated from the original, published on August 8, 2012, to reflect new events, conditions or research.