A few weeks ago I was on a call with a support specialist when I heard a dog bark in the background. Clearly embarrassed, the agent quickly apologised for the lack of professionalism. Given we have become used to such interruptions over the last year I asked what kind of dog she had and let her know I was unphased.
While stories like this may have some people anxious and excited about a pending return to our offices, it seems that the overwhelming opinion of business leaders and workplace experts is that the days of full-time offices are now history. At least we will have an “I remember when there were offices and we went to them daily” anecdote to tell our grandchildren.
Nobody truly knows what the future of work will look like a few years down the road. However, it does appear that the hybrid work culture is what will be most readily adopted, with 58% of organisations planning to change their work from home policies in the next year to support a hybrid workforce.
Any change brings with it opportunities and challenges, and the move to hybrid work will do the same. When it comes to the contact centre, both challenges and opportunities will arise. Here is a look at a few and, because I like to be optimistic, we will begin with opportunities.
A chance to upgrade your technology
One of the best opportunities that organisations have with the move to a hybrid work environment is to upgrade the technology used by their agents. For my money, the move to a cloud-based unified communications platform is the best investment.
Having this type of “all-in-one” system allows your agents to move from their home office to the corporate office with ease, and there is no worry about the transition from one to another. It also enables agents to have all of the information they need in one place so no matter where they are doing their job, they are well equipped to deliver.
An opportunity to improve employee experience
When offices were closed a little more than a year ago, most were not prepared to be working from home full-time. However, as is often the case with time, a good majority have adapted and are even thriving in their new environment.
The lack of socialising while at work notwithstanding, 56% of employees state they are happier while working from home. With this being the case, business leaders have an opportunity to use this to their advantage by getting their employees more engaged. Why would this matter? Many studies show that companies that have engaged employees perform better than those that do not.
Additionally, if your organisation is looking to deliver on customer experience, it begins with employee experience, and happy employees consistently perform better than those that work in a low morale culture.
While there are numerous opportunities – far too many that can be listed in one article – there are also challenges that need to be addressed for a hybrid work culture to be successful in the contact centre.
One of the hallmarks of a high-performing contact centre is one that is continually training. This training can take on multiple flavours such as real-time feedback, 1-1 coaching from managers to their agents, or group training sessions. However, in a hybrid work environment, this becomes more of a challenge.
Rather than limit the training that will occur due to the new way of working, managers will simply need to get more creative. Scheduling multiple training sessions, delivering virtual training, deploying an e-learning solution, and establishing coaching hours are all solutions that can be just as effective for agents as it was when all were on-site consistently.
If you want some additional guidance, this article can serve to help you ideate how to deliver training in this new world of work.
Hiring the right people
Finding the right talent to do a job was challenging enough when we had the regular in-office routine. That task got infinitely more difficult with remote work and that will not change.
Add to this that working in a contact centre is not for the faint of heart. I often believe that it is one of the most challenging jobs in an organisation for many reasons, but suffice to say it takes a certain kind of individual to thrive in a call centre environment.
I wish I had a magic bullet solution for ensuring you hire the right people for the job, but I do not. However, here are some tips that I would encourage you to think about as you seek to fill contact centre agent positions:
- Ask their references for a reference. We know that each potential employee will come armed with three to four references that we can call. When you speak to them ask those references who you can speak to about your potential candidate. It will give you a more accurate picture of the employee and their performance.
- Create the environment they will work in. As part of the hiring process, put them in the hybrid environment that they will work in and have them respond to “practice issues” to see how they handle themselves and the customer
- Have them complete a personality assessment. Not all people are meant to be in a high-pressure environment like a contact centre, so before you put someone into a position that is not ideal, assess their personality and ensure it will be a good fit for them.
The one constant we can all count on is change and the move to a hybrid work culture will certainly bring that. Take advantage of the opportunities and be ready for the challenges and most importantly, be sure your agents have all the support they need to do their jobs effectively.