Industry Commentary

Rapid Shift to Home-Working Must be Done Prudently

By March 20, 2020January 10th, 2024No Comments

As outsourcers around the world cope with the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, many face the delicate balancing act of embracing home-working while preserving business continuity. The decision to virtualize as much of a contact center’s workforce as possible simply makes sense, both from the standpoint of seamless customer experience delivery and for the sake of agent health.  But, any operator with limited experience in home-based agent solutions must be wary. The work-at-home model is complex, there is little margin for error, and these are turbulent times.

This is why seeking assistance in some way, shape or form, from a provider with experience in home-working should be on the priority list of customer experience executives, especially if they have limited expertise in virtual working.

COVID19 has clearly established that the work-at-home model is no longer just a niche way of delivering contact center services.  From its inception in the early 2000s up until the end of 2019 really, this way of managing interactions has ebbed and flowed in popularity.  Going forward, it is safe to say that the virtualization of the contact center ecosystem will become far more mainstream.  However, in the interim, as organizations navigate the current pandemic, playing work-at-home prudently is crucial.

A key priority needs to be compliance, with so many organizations moving their agent pools home in order to deliver voice and digital services from their residences..  The security of computer terminals is paramount, and ensuring secure connections (such as VPNs) to any central point must be considered essential.  Equally, having the right monitoring tools in place for agents that have been sent home from the contact center is also crucial, so as to drive maximum levels of fraud prevention.  In certain verticals, not being compliant with these standards will be a deal-breaker.

Then there is the matter of managing remote teams.  If there is one area that many contact center operators have struggled with from an operational standpoint, this is it.  By sending home a large number of agents, many of whom are not used to working remotely and who thrive on the social energy found in a large contact center, customer experience executives are likely to find that many front line staff have trouble adapting to this new work environment.  In order to prevent attrition and job dissatisfaction, finding the right method to keep morale alive among remote teams is crucial to business continuity.

So, too, is having the right tools in place for agents to receive feedback from their supervisors, as well as to pose questions that are answered as rapidly as possible.  One of the reasons that agents tend to leave bricks-and-mortar facilities is faulty communication with their line managers.  If this is exacerbated in a home-working environment, it is a recipe for churn, which directly impacts end-user experience.

It is key for contact center operators aiming to move work home in this current COVID19 situation to not go into the process blind.  By finding a work-at-home partner that has experience in managing the compliance, technology and people aspects of virtual working, what could be an overwhelming move of agents to their residences will be far more straightforward.

Fortunately for those with limited home-agent footprints, there are resources that can be leveraged to assist in this transition. There are advisors in this domain, as well as pure-play work-at-home outsourcers who are willing to partner with other BPOs that lack a home-working background.  But it is vital to engage with these work-at-home entities as quickly as possible; with more restrictions on the horizon around large groups of employees in collective workspaces (such as the recent Philippines lockdown), time is of the essence to make certain the right processes are in place.