These are times that many of us have never lived through or previously had to adjust to. Children have been sent home from school and for many college students, the rest of the semester is now adjusting to an online format. As for employees, most of our clients are asking for ways to allow their employees to work remotely. Mostly, with contact centers, they are the first ones to be tackled. This blog provides thinking beyond the technical aspects needed for a successful transition.
We should think about what has happened from the employee’s point of view and how we can enable them quickly and easily to meet both the company’s needs and their customers’ needs. Contact center employees are used to being in a very busy, collaborative environment, not working from home. They are used to asking their cubicle neighbor for help or advice, raising their hands for a supervisor, and accessing other individuals who aren’t part of the traditional contact center for help on problems and guidance on moving around the systems the company has provided.
Technically, at a minimum we need to enable agents with a good-quality headset and VPN access to your internal systems. You may also need to look at the bandwidth you currently have on your network to enable this. Many employers are asking the agents to use a home computer or PC—but do they all have one? Will it be accessible, or do the agents’ children need to use it? Depending upon how quickly you’re trying to respond, many clients are asking for an IP or SIP phone, as well.
All of these technical components need to be discussed and vetted with regard to capacity to make those moves. Most of the larger vendors and systems integrators are available to help you along this process, and they have the systems to enable this move for you.
Are you working with partners and vendors that will allow you to take your premises-based licensing and use it temporarily for remote workers? If you’ve already moved to a cloud-based system, how is the provider accommodating you?
Many vendors are allowing for this, so that companies can respond quickly to their needs to keep their employees safe. Check with your provider.
Think about the chatter that happens in the center, the questions people ask of each other, the mid-day huddles to adjust. How will we handle those? This isn’t business as usual. Many companies are changing policies throughout the day. The policy changes affect the process, as well. Centers and their employees need to be able to adjust quickly and easily.
How have you set up the remote workers to continuing the teaming they already have, and answer the questions they have quickly and easily?
Do you have IM capabilities? IM group capabilities? Discussion boards? Internal websites that can be updated regularly? Alerts that are presented through the agent desktop when something is changing? A good knowledge management system? eLearning capabilities that can be tapped into and scheduled? At a minimum, have you established “go-to” subject matter experts to help?
Your agents’ homelife is now possibly filled with children, many of whom are typically of school age and not used to being at home during the school year. Other provisions are sometimes made for them, but that’s mostly during the summer. Structuring them and their time during this pandemic will be challenging, especially as this stretches into many weeks. The environment your employee is in directly impacts customer satisfaction. Being flexible with your employees may be key here.
Do you have a way of scheduling your employees when you need them the most AND at a time that is convenient for them?
Workforce Management packages allow for this flexibility to work with scheduling changes to accommodate for all of these new scenarios.
What provisions and leniency do you have while asking this workforce to move home? Are you OK with children playing and dogs barking in the background of a call? Are your customers?
Setting employee and agent expectations are key during this time. Noise-cancelling headsets may be helpful. Expectation setting along with an explanation to your customers may be in order.
At this time, there is much uncertainty. The needs and longevity of our situation are not yet determined. However, the way we react to the situation is within our control, and we must move with consistency, flexibility, accuracy to the best of our knowledge, and speed. It’s important to help your employees, who in turn can answer customer questions and meet their needs. Putting your employees first and enabling them with the tools you may already have is a discussion worth having with your trusted advisors in the consulting and technology areas.