Since March, millions of Americans accustomed to spending their workdays in office buildings have instead been forced to work from home. While many industries have struggled to cope with a remote work environment, contact centers, with their sizable tech stacks, have stood out as an example of businesses using the pandemic to reassess their core operations. The era of the virtual call center is upon us.
The same breakthroughs that have helped contact centers cope with remote work can serve as a guide for any business looking to shed overhead costs and move to a virtual workplace.
Take advantage of flexible scheduling
Managing a virtual workspace necessarily means implementing change, but it can also open brand new possibilities.
One upside to work-from-home culture is the increased flexibility managers have when compiling a schedule. As CommunityWFM COO Todd Cotharin shared in an interview with No Jitter, “One advantage of this type of work is the ability to work split shifts. If working at the office is the only option, these aren’t practical due to logistics, such as driving back and forth to the office more than once a day. However, when working from home, [workforce management] schedulers can offer agents flexibility by allowing them to allocate their hours in smaller shifts. This also helps the organization to staff up for peak hours during the day.”
Engage your remote workforce
As Clarabridge CPO Fabrice Martin put it in his interview with Blog Talk Radio, “Agents who are working from home [must be] happy, [and] engaged; that is very important to continuity and the customer experience.” This is undoubtedly the trickiest aspect of remote work.
Contact centers have looked to experts for guidance. The Society for Human Resource Management has continually updated its remote work guide since the pandemic began, and HR tech firms like Traitify offer their own resources. Most expert advice falls into one of three buckets:
- Overcommunicate with employees, especially those who have not worked remotely before
- Continue fun office culture events with remote happy hours, games and social calls
- Intervene to prevent employees from working overlong hours at home
Don’t be afraid to hire
Uncertainty paralyzed the economy in the days and weeks following the outbreak, and according to a Fortune survey, 59% of CEOs instituted some form of hiring freeze. Contact centers and the vendors that serve them do not have that luxury, as customer service rarely sleeps.
Chorus.ai, a conversation intelligence platform for sales callers, didn’t freeze hiring—they even hired a new CEO. On his first day as CEO, Jim Benton opened his computer to a Zoom call with his hundred-strong staff. He still hasn’t met most of the staff from the company’s San Francisco office, but he has faith in his employees nonetheless.
“You might think the workforce just collapsed. It didn’t,” he told Business Insider. “Teams are as productive or more productive working remotely, but it looks different.”
The process of hiring and onboarding new employees, engaging them on a daily basis, and even scheduling their work hours has radically changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not yet out of the woods, but sales and customer service contact centers have shown that with well-organized remote work, businesses can still thrive amidst the chaos.