The Key to Enhancing Contact Center Operations in the Shift Towards Remote Models

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting employees across every industry. Frontline workers have been forced to drastically adapt their work styles to adhere to social distancing, while many typical on-premises office staff are now shifting to a work from home model. For most employees, this move to teleworking doesn't call for much more than a Zoom account and a strong internet connection.

But for contact center agents, transitioning to work from home can be a challenging move, especially if their company is not prepared for remote operations. They might lack the infrastructure and processes to effectively make the shift, which opens the door to a number of challenges that will plague agents and managers alike. Fortunately, there are solutions to ease remote contact center operations and supplement the roles of agents and managers.

This rapid transition to remote work has made many routine tasks like agent training, managing adherence, and maintaining engagement, even more difficult for operations than in a physical contact center. With a tethered contact center model, where agents work remotely but live in close proximity to the contact center, in-person training and coaching might be more manageable but managing adherence and ensuring engagement will still be really tough. A natural progression for contact centers to flow from physical to tethered and eventually to remote models might have been more helpful in the transition. But what happens now that our current circumstances have seemingly eliminated the first two options?

Companies are now forced to leapfrog the tethered model and quickly move directly to the remote operations. But without the right systems in place, this can put enhanced stress on agents and managers and lead to a dip in efficiency across the board. Many contact centers are reporting record levels of volume since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and need to maintain peak efficiency despite the challenge thrown their way. With workforce automation (WFA), many of these issues can be alleviated, allowing agents and managers to execute their roles from home just like they would in a physical contact center.

Empowering Agents

Data-driven automation is essential in managing contact centers with remote workforces. Specifically, a platform that leverages real-time insights ensures an engaged and connected workforce, despite agents and managers being miles apart. Even with surging call volume, in-the-moment data can keep agents on track to hit key performance indicators while automatically updating schedules to account for breaks, training, and coaching. Real-time notifications can be served directly to agents at the opportune time to share company-wide updates, inquire if assistance is needed, prompt breaks, offer overtime shifts, or provide additional training.

This is likely the first time that many agents will be working from home, and the change of scenery can be a challenge for many. Stress is at an all-time high for many, and a combination of increased volume, potentially upset customers, and new remote processes can lead to increased burnout and poor performance. In fact, 52 percent of contact center staff believe their companies aren't doing enough to prevent teams from burning out. Managers increasing the frequency of communication by ensuring multiple daily interactions with agents, for example, can help to improve staff morale. Despite today's unexpected circumstances, leveraging automation to boost interaction and engagement can enable agents to succeed.

Driving Value in Troubling Times

Workforce automation is also a vital tool to continue driving cost-savings during this pandemic. Companies have been forced to shift agents remotely and to ensure that despite the isolated nature of their new environment, there is no lag in productivity. With well-established WFA software, managers can rest assured that handle times are in check and agents are correctly logging on for their remote shifts. Volume is monitored in real time and adjustments to staffing can be made automatically without manager intervention due to predetermined rules.

The role of the manager is supported by automation and frees supervisors to focus on more strategic initiatives. They can prioritize the well-being of the agent and concentrate on coaching and engagement. This is a sustainable option to ensure consistent engagement and productivity, regardless of external variables.

Many companies were late to the game and are playing catch-up in terms of their contact centers in the face of COVID-19. But it is not too late to adopt workforce automation to combat the uncertainties of COVID-19 and supplement the roles for both agents and managers. A recent survey revealed 55 percent of industry professionals believe a remote workforce will become permanent within the contact center operations. This means organizations should view our current landscape as the inflection point toward a future of remote work and look to automation as a catalyst for enhanced operations and happier agents.

Matt McConnell is chairman, president, and CEO of Intradiem.