With working from home being more common than ever, how can contact centres turn this into an opportunity to improve leadership?
Working from home is the new normal for many organisations, including numerous contact centres. In this article, we'll concentrate on what that means for agents and managers in terms of productivity and performance monitoring.
The contact centre has been around since the last century when businesses realised the potential to improve communication with customers. Today it is considered to be one of the most reactive channels available to an organisation because it provides multiple methods through which communication can take place: phone calls, emails and web-based chat sessions.
But is there merit in investing more money into training staff who now work exclusively from home? Not only does working from home bring advantages such as reduced costs thanks to lower overheads, but it also has an impact on employees' work-life balance. With the emergence of new technologies, this is becoming increasingly popular with today's workforce, especially following the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Yet there are certain risks involved which must be considered (for example, the reduction of collaboration opportunities amongst teams). Besides, some traditionally contact centre jobs do not lend themselves to working from home (complaint-focused agents for example) because they require frequent contact with supervisors and co-workers to maintain high compliance.
To avoid wasting time by checking up on people who aren't even in the same place as you, managers can now monitor their performance using software tools that detect key events such as logins/logouts or number of issues resolved, etc. They don't have to ask their employees whether they have completed a task or not.
This software allows managers to receive an automated notification on their smartphone every time a certain event is triggered. Simply, the better your organisation is at capturing data, the easier it is for managers to identify pain-points. Whilst this can be beneficial for management, it also massively reduces the amount of human contact for agents, which in turn leads to a dip in morale and therefore higher employee turnover.
Zoom fatigue (we've all felt it) has been shown to encourage people to be less empathetic and reactive to the person they are speaking to. This can be detrimental to the performance of your managers and coaches who are discouraged from reflecting on their behaviour and coaching skills as a result. Developing a process for honest and transparent 360 feedback can help encourage managers to fine-tune their skills and identify any additional points for training.
This takes away some of the pressure from managers who used to be expected to monitor every employee working from home, which often meant travelling back and forth between homes just so that they could speak to each of their staff personally. In contact centres with several teams working from home, this becomes even trickier because it's difficult for managers to keep tabs on everyone simultaneously.
The main advantage is increased productivity thanks to less interference for agents who are now free from being monitored by bosses all day long, as is sometimes the case in traditional work environments. Obviously, there are some limitations to how much managers trust employees and it would be naive to think that agents could be completely autonomous, because this would mean giving up any meaningful management structure.
By reducing the level of supervision, your managers and coaches are freed up to spend more one-on-one time with their reports, boosting mutual understanding between management and staff. That doesn't mean having no contact whatsoever (which would make motivating difficult), but rather finding an acceptable balance between checking up on people and letting them get on with their jobs independently. It is this change from observer management to proactive management that helps to identify early signs of problems and provides pinpoint support that is most effective. It is, though, still necessary for leaders to keep track of what their teams are doing to ensure that those that are over performing are recognised and rewarded (yay kudos!)
Contact centre leaders therefore must also consider how working from home affects their employees' outlook to find the right balance between personal and professional lives. They need to motivate their teams by handing out tasks, challenges and goals (and making sure they're not overloaded) whilst making them feel part of a wider team through virtual meetings etc. In this context, remote management becomes ever more important at improving productivity, especially if the number of staff has increased over time.
With better opportunities for a good work-life balance, contact centres can focus on putting the right processes and technology in place to empower leaders and agents to be data-orientated in their decision making. This means remote working could present itself as an opportunity to your organisation rather than a logistical nightmare.
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