While you must use tools like the best call center software to improve the efficiency at your contact center by managing the calls and related processes, you will, however, need more than just good software in order to manage your remote agents effectively.
Of course, the question arises as to why remote agents should be used in the first place. The fact is that it is a constant struggle to get the right agents for delivering a fantastic customer experience.
One of the ways that has quickly become the preferred choice of several enterprises is outsourcing. The business model of having remote agents is certainly creative. At the same time, it has proven itself to be a cost-effective choice for the organizations.
By going for the remote option, it is possible for contact centers to get access to talented and experienced agents but at a reasonable cost. Apart from being skilled, they can also prove to be loyal employees.
These agents are not necessarily associated with a specific contact center but can also be employees who prefer working from the comfort of their own home. Whatever be their preferred mode of working, the fact remains that remote agents are quickly become a popular solution for contact centers.
In fact, hiring remote agents is a viable solution for addressing disaster recovery and contingency planning. Nearly all contact centers have weighed the pros and cons of hiring remote agents at point of time or the other.
One of the main reasons why contact centers are seriously considering remote agents is that technology is no longer any obstacle. In fact, technology has actually made it possible for remote agents to work in tandem with the contact center smoothly.
You can easily get some excellent call center software for managing the contact center agents remotely. It does not matter what the location of the agent is. They will be able to ensure that the work is proceeding without a hitch.
On the other hand, there is a major concern on the part of contact centers when it comes to management. After all, the agents need to be supervised and guided in the most effective manner without any personal contact whatsoever.
There are several best practices which can be implemented by the call center to ensure that the remote agents are managed in a manner that works for both parties concerned. Now, you can spend a lot of time in researching those best practices or let us tell you.
After all, we have already found out the various best practices used by call centers for you. They are listed below. Check them out so that you can start deriving the various benefits possible when you start hiring remote agents for your contact center.
1. During the hiring process, you should be using an assessment tool that is based on competencies. Potential candidates for the remote agent position can be evaluated with the help of this tool. The tool should be able to ensure that the candidates possess the requisite skills required by the contact center and that they have a high motivation level.
2. You should have a trial period for determining the new agent whom you have hired is capable of performing the job properly.
The trial period can be of just 3 months. This can also be used in the case of agents who have decided to opt for remote location.
You should also be making it clear to the agent that you retain the right to terminate their employment during the period in case of underperformance.
3. You should make sure that the training opportunities being given to the remote agents are the same that your onsite staff gets to enjoy. Of course, you must make sure that a supervisor is present to help out the new recruits right after they have received initial training.
4. Using an online training program can be particularly helpful. The program should take care of all details from general corporate information to data about your products and systems. You can make use of call center software solutions to deliver the training program to the agent.
5. The training program used should be capable of testing the knowledge of the agents so that they can improve and become valuable members of your organization.
You will also need to ensure that there are supervisors to review the progress of the remote agents and help them with the training challenges.
6. It is vital that all essentials such as job requirements, responsibilities, policies and procedures are established. They must be documented clearly as well. The document must be capable of addressing all the necessities that remote agents must know.
7. A formal process of communication between the remote agents and supervisors must be established. The progress must contain a daily conversation between the two. The schedule must be adhered to.
The agents should also be made familiar for the escalation of inquiries to their supervisors.
8. The majority of the inquiries from your agents should be handled through chat systems. This is due to the inherent benefits offered by chat systems such as instant availability of answers.
Of course, supervisors should be available to provide the responses immediately to the agents.
9. Like all agents, your remote agents must also be evaluated on their quality. The frequency and the number of these quality monitoring sessions must be clearly defined.
You should also take steps to provide feedback on their performance on a regular basis. Do not just concentrate on coaching opportunities but also their strengths.
10. Do not forget to reward the agents when they perform excellently in a similar fashion to your in-house agents.
You must make sure that the remote agents also have access to their performance reports and their quality evaluations. This way, they will be able to take steps to manage their own performance.
11. It is easy for agents who work remotely to feel that they are not a part of the team especially if you have in-house agents.
As such, consider team up agents from both teams to bring about cooperation between them. Try to create a team spirit between them.
12. Make sure that remote agents have been included in the team meetings and other relevant activities. In fact, you can even create teams that consist of remote and in-house agents.
The idea is to keep the agents feel connected and ensure interaction among them.
13. You should opt for cloud call center software solutions. This way, your entire staff will be able to work with the same systems irrespective of their location.
They will be using the same tools as well. This will ensure consistency in your work processes.
14. There is another reason you should be using cloud solutions and that is with the technical aspect of the systems.
Technical issues can arise at any given point of time. Since the system is based on the cloud, these issues can be solved quickly ensuring that your remote agents do not suffer any downtime.
15. When it comes to training your agents, you need to understand the objectives of training that you provide. You need to ensure that they are aligned with the goals of your business.
The fact is that the remote agents must be trained but you need to understand what the training will help you in achieving.
16. Your management should be separated from the agents when it comes to training. Getting the management might even be necessary depending on the objectives of the training.
17. Another excellent way to train your remote agents is by getting the existing agents to help. Find out which of your existing agents are the top performers and get them to train the new recruits.
It will be even better if some of those agents are working remotely. After all, they know the unique challenges that remote agents can face as well as the answers to those challenges.
18. Make the best possible use of technology. Remote agents have been made possible due to technology. So, start using solutions that can make their work easier.
Use technologies which can help you in managing the team remotely while ensuring seamless communication.
19. You are sure to come across several informal training opportunities. Start making use of them to improve the knowledge and the skills of the remote agents.
Encourage the agents to keep enhancing their skills. Call center management systems can be rather useful in this matter as they can provide a hub for coaching and mentoring programs.
20. Understanding the metrics is key to improving the knowledge base of the remote agents. Take a careful look at the performance metrics and understand what they are.
This way, you can start using the metrics to measure the effectiveness of the training as well as the capabilities of the remote agents.
21. In your bid to train the new recruits, you should not forget about the supervisors. There are new things being innovated and developed.
Help your supervisors learn and be trained in them. After all, the knowledge of the supervisors will affect the performance of the new recruits greatly.
22. It is not just the knowledge of the supervisors but also other aspects that need to be taken care of. Train the supervisors to become better mentors and coaches.
Help them become effective leaders so that they can start helping the remote agents perform better. Make sure that you train the supervisors on managing remote agents for better results.
23. Get performance management dashboards that can track the performance in real-time. This will enable the remote agents to keep a track of their daily activities and check how good their performance is compared to the others.
This can provide them with the motivation they need to start performing better.
24. When you have your quality assurance calibration meetings, get your remote agents involved. They should have an understanding of the evaluation criteria used for monitoring their quality. They must also know how these criteria are being applied.
25. You should certainly be monitoring the calls of the remote agents just like you do with your in-house team. This way, you can make sure that they are following the right process for the resolution of the customer inquiry.
Conduct a call center solutions comparison and see if you have features which allow you to communicate with the agents during the call. This will enable you to provide helpful tips.
26. Make certain tasks mandatory for the remote agents such as check-ins and check-outs. You need to be able to keep a track of their working hours.
This is essential to ensuring that the remote agents are working the expected number of hours.
27. You should also make daily reports mandatory. The reports can tell you a lot about the way that the agents work. Of course, they are vital to helping you understand the performance of the agents so that you can evaluate them better.
28. To get the best results out of the coaching sessions, you should consider customizing them. Personalize the training and the coaching program to suit each remote agent of your contact center.
After all, each agent will have his or her own unique needs that must be addressed by a customized coaching plan. This can make it easier for them to start performing at a higher level.
29. To help you monitor the remote agents, consider getting call center management software with features like discrete desktop sharing. By being discrete, the agents will not need to feel stressed about the fact their work being seen and they can perform without pressure.
30. Another useful tool you can consider using is automatic dialers. The tool can be used to ensure that the remote agents are serving a steady stream of calls smoothly.
There will certainly be no downtime. More importantly, they can provide the best service to each customer without worrying about the next caller in the waiting list. Check the call center software pricing before you proceed.
While the above points clearly illustrate the potential best practices you can employ for managing remote agents, you will need more hard data to understand the benefits. For that you need case studies.
Case studies can tell you a lot about how the above best practices can be applied for getting the best results out of your remote agents. Of course, there is no need to start searching for case studies.
We have taken care of that. Given below are two case studies on two different organizations that make use of remote agents in their daily business. They will help you get a better understanding of how remote agents are utilized and the best practices for doing so.
Case Study #1: RDI Marketing Services
RDI has been in business for more than 30 years. It has developed into a leading global outsourcer of administrative services, market research and contact center services across all verticals.
It has approximately 1,100 employees out of which 950 are contact center agents.
These agents provide both outbound as well as inbound services in sales and service along with customer care. There are 4 service centers through which the services are provided. One of them is a bilingual facility as well.
The remote agent model followed at RDI is slightly different from other organizations. Around 5% of the 950 agents in the company work at home. This is considered to be a perk offered by the organization.
The ability to work at home is given out mostly to the agents who have shown excellence at the contact center. These agents were promoted and given the permission to work from the comfort of their homes.
The best people of the organization get rewarded for their performance by being able to work from home as long as they seem suitable for it. Inside the organization, the agents are given the same treatment as the other agents.
The agents get integrated into the different campaigns individuals. The calls get routed to the agents on the basis of their skills.
The tools used by them are the same as what other agents used. They are capable of contacting supervisors and other experts when required.
The remote agents get monitored and managed in the exact same manner as the other agents. The agents are able to remain close enough to the contact center so that they can visit quickly if necessity arises.
The organization provides the bandwidth and the equipment necessary for their work to ensure consistency. Data security is assured by means of security systems.
RDI also insists the agent to have a separate work environment to cut down on distractions.
All the calls of the remote agents are recorded. This allows RDI to ensure rules on work environment are followed.
Training is provided at the contact center. Agents are asked to remain in touch and to visit the center once every month.
Enabling remote agents created several benefits for the organization. They enjoy a low attrition rate. Quality agents are retained by allowing them to work from home when they couldnt attend office.
They are able to attract agents with higher skill levels but would not have had the time to work at a contact center previously.
RDI also states that remote agents enables them to undergo contraction or expansion rapidly as and when required.
Case Study #2: VIPdesk
VIPdesk has become the trusted partner for several global leaders in various industries such as travel, hospitality, finance, consumer products and retail industries.
These organizations trust VIPdesk when it comes to enhancing their brand perception through the customer care programs.
VIPdesk offers a complete range of solutions for Brand Experience Management. This includes customer care services, concierge services, IVR services, social media management and experiential programs among others.
Interestingly, VIPdesk has very few employees working at its headquarters. In fact, all of the contact center agents of the organization works remotely from their homes.
Additionally, 80% of the corporate team do the same. In other words, most of the company is virtual.
The customer services representatives of this organization are referred to as Brand Ambassadors. This is because of the high value placed on the relationship between the customer service representatives and the customers by VIPdesk.
VIPdesk hires its agents based on their enthusiasm as well as their passion. The agents must be passionate about the services and the products they support.
The agents must also display a thorough knowledge of the brand which they will be representing.
The remote agents are managed by means of scheduling based on performance. All agents are familiar with the performance metrics that they are going to be measured on.
As such, agents with the best performance can enjoy their ideal schedules.
This management model followed at VIPdesk is supported by the passion of the customer service representatives in their work.
This results in the creation of a customer experience that is not only fantastic but also memorable.
This is amply demonstrated by the track record of organization in its success. The customer service agents have been able deliver amazing results for the clients.
Some of them include an increase in the average order size and improved sales conversion rates.
They have also managed to decrease the average handle time while increasing the rate of first contact resolution. All of this has been achieved without any extra sales push.
This has been made possible by the effective utilization of the remote agent model.
Remote contact center agents can deliver several benefits.
As you have a gained a better understanding of the best practices for managing these agents, you should now be taking a detailed look into how you can implement such a model at your organization.