Five Ways to Make Every Agent Your Best Agent

Much like The Beatles song "Here, There, and Everywhere," many companies have implemented flexible work options for their employees to work remotely. Effective processes, tools, and resources are required so that your agents get what they need to do their best work and your contact centers operate smoothly and successfully.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, contact centers everywhere were forced to quickly transition to remote work, while still requiring high employee performance and customer satisfaction. As most of us remember, this was at a time when contact center interactions were at an all-time high. For most companies, the shift to work from home was well-received by contact center agents, with increased job satisfaction and retention rates, especially for those who had access to the right resources to make remote work a positive experience.

The topic of where people work is again challenging both companies and employees as the future of work remains unclear. Some companies are all remote; others are trying their hand at hybrid work options; while the rest are transitioning and enforcing a return to the office.

Fostering a positive and empowered work culture improves employee morale and engagement, which can, in turn, improve the overall performance of your contact center and customer experience. Engaged agents are more invested in their work and meeting their performance goals and key performance indicators. At the other end of the spectrum, disengaged agents can damage the customer experience you have worked so hard to build. Gartner found that disengaged agents make getting service harder for your customers by not resolving issues on the first contact.

Playvox research found that contact center agents have grown to appreciate the flexibility of remote work and that it is, in fact, a top motivator contact centers can offer. According to the research, 68 percent of agents said they don't want to return to the office and 56 percent would consider leaving their current employers if they weren't offered a remote work option. Seventy percent said their job happiness has greatly increased due to remote work. Given the traditionally high attrition rates in the contact center industry, this is good news for managers who want to positively impact agent retention at a relatively low cost.

While the data calls out the strong preference for remote work, we also found only 40 percent of support center managers were planning to continue remote work. This can present a big disconnect between contact center management and agents. Forcing agents back to an office full-time can backfire.

Gallup found that employees who want to work remotely but aren't allowed to show higher burnout and a greater desire to quit. Compare that to thriving employees who are motivated and engaged with their work (and where they are able to do that work) and the customer experience. What type of employees would you rather have?

The Right Processes, Tools, and Resources Wherever Your Agents are Located

Almost 40 percent of service centers in our research were entirely remote, and nearly 60 percent had a hybrid work model. Wherever your contact center team is physically located, up-leveling agent performance can be a big challenge. Adding remote work or a hybrid setup can make things even tougher. But it doesn't have to. Letting agents continue to work outside the office doesn't have to be a minefield of potential issues.

I'd recommend establishing processes, tools, and resources to help agents succeed. Here are five ways to make every agent your best agent, regardless of physical location:

  1. Stay engaged with your teams. While quality management is always important in measuring the interactions agents are having with customers, it is even more critical when all teams are remote. In this scenario, you can offer the constant support and feedback needed to deliver high-quality service and support while improving efficiencies and reducing costs. Quality management solutions can help managers walk the floor remotely to stay better engaged with their teams.
  2. Maintain high expectations without micromanaging. The main objective is to understand what is happening in your support center remotely without micromanaging your team—a surefire way to decrease employee engagement. Occupation/productivity and adherence are leading indicators to ensure your agents are working on assigned tasks during their shifts. Tracking the right metrics using smart technology such as workforce management solutions can help you keep a close eye on your agents' success and productivity. Conversely, if you don't have a solution that allows real-time monitoring of agent adherence and productivity, it's impossible to tell if that's happening.
  3. Accurate forecasting and scheduling. Anticipating the volume of interactions is a definitive factor for capacity planning and scheduling the right number of agents. Turning to workforce management solutions that use AI, for example, can take historical data to predict future needs with greater precision, calculating the optimal number of agents needed in each channel to provide an outstanding customer experience.
  4. Maintain KPI and business metrics. Monitoring KPIs is essential to maintaining proper standards, regardless of where your employees are located. KPIs might include customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score to measure the willingness of customers to recommend your products or services, productivity (sometimes measured as occupancy rate) to determine the percentage of logged-in and available time that agents spend in active contact handling, and adherence or the amount of time agents work vs. the time they are scheduled to work.
  5. Give feedback and recognize agent successes. It is important to recognize employees' positive achievements to keep them engaged and motivated to provide the best customer experience. Diagnosing opportunities for improvement in customer interactions from afar isn't too complicated, but coaching agents to succeed and recognizing agents when they do well at a distance can be a bigger challenge. It's critical for agents to have visibility into the metrics that are most important, to help them understand how their performance impacts the business. Recognizing achievements also helps remove the anxiety some agents have around quality management. It's not just a tool for finding out what's wrong, it's also a way to celebrate what's going right.

As the heart and soul of your company's customer experience, it makes sense to provide flexible working options for your teams. Happier agents are more engaged and committed, which directly translates into a better customer experience. Whether it's nurturing and empowering your employees or creating connected experiences with customers, human connections remain essential. Improving processes and breaking down silos will empower teams and make every agent your best agent, regardless of physical location. Technology can help you do the heavy lifting and make your remote or hybrid contact center work even better.

Emily Gray is chief customer officer of Playvox.