Updated: 1st March 2021
Leveraging Remote Agents
Working from home (WFH) was a trend well before the world was pummeled by COVID-19. However, the restrictions and ramifications brought upon by the global pandemic made working from home a necessity, and quickly the norm, in 2020. It should come to no surprise that the U.S. is a “working-from-home economy.” In fact, Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom tells us, “Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work." He also reports that this growing group of work-from-home employees already accounts for over two-thirds of the United States’ economic activity. In short, working from home is here, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Of course, some industries simply require in-person interactions, like hospitality, food services, personal care services (think beauty salons), physical retail, and healthcare, just to name a few. But many businesses -- ones that should have been able to have their employees shift to WFH without disruption -- struggled to make the transition.
In most cases, these businesses didn’t have the technology infrastructure to enable people to work untethered from the main office. No one could have predicted this global pandemic, but that doesn’t excuse not having the technology to support employees -- and, by extension, customers -- anywhere, anytime. Regardless, the world we live in will continue to be one that embraces a WFH experience, and brands need to be prepared.
Finding, retaining, and managing top talent while running a successful contact center from all corners of the globe requires new thinking and even newer tools. . .ones that extend beyond the home and can truly support working from anywhere (WFA). That’s where Edify comes in.
As we leave 2020 behind and focus on what’s ahead, one thing is for certain: WFH/WFA actually works! A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely (at least part time) post pandemic, and nearly half will allow employees to work from home full-time. A PwC survey of 669 CEOs found that 78% believe remote collaboration is here to stay for the long-term.
Businesses that didn’t have a game plan need to firm one up now. Like, right now. Brands that put temporary bandaids on issues need to come up with permanent solutions. The time is now to prepare for the next curve ball that’s undoubtedly going to come your way. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
If you can’t answer these questions with affirmations and unwavered confidence, it’s time to get a new business plan ready. Here are some great resources.
To ensure your customer service department can run smoothly from any location at any given time, no matter what’s happening in the world, you need to have the right business communications technology supporting you. And you need everyone in the business using the same system -- not just customer-facing agents but the entire organization.
When we stop separating the contact center and customer support from the rest of the business, we open up the biggest knowledge base we have -- bigger than any database of articles -- we open up access to the entire employee population.
When we consider what is necessary for a brand’s success and survival, we must think outside the traditional contact center. Imagine what is possible when you have one system and you only pay for what you actually use. When you’re not locked into expensive software licenses. When you can add and remove contact center seats quickly to match demand. What’s possible if you can tap into an endless new talent pool, starting with (as mentioned earlier) your own organization.
The virtual contact center wasn’t the status quo pre-2020 but things are changing. In fact, a recent Frost & Sullivan report by Alpa Shah tells us that, “For decades, contact centers have not been keen on utilizing remote workers due to their inability to monitor the quality of agents’ work and ensure a high level of security to customers. The pandemic forced them to move agents to work from home swiftly and soon found that their staff was more productive.” And thanks to technologies and platforms designed to enable the WFA workplace, the virtual contact center is now a thriving reality.
Expanding and growing a remote workforce opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to finding and hiring the best talent. With WFA quickly becoming the new standard, it’s time to reconsider the traditional contact center agent.
There’s a whole host of groups of people to consider for remote customer service roles. Students. Stay-at-home parents. Partly retired individuals. Freelancers. Other gig workers looking for additional income. You get the point.
There are endless groups of bright people earning degrees, raising families, and also earning a living in our gig economy. Maybe they drive for ride services. Maybe they deliver groceries, or last mile packages in rural areas. They could be an extension of your contact center if you have the tools to leverage them. The growing population of field workers could easily translate into some of the best remote customer care agents companies find for their newly-transformed virtual contact centers.
Shah’s report makes a great point: "WAHA (work at home agent) models enable contact center managers to draw from a larger pool of available candidates further away from physical centers, including more highly qualified and motivated individuals or those with a more difficult to find skill set, such as being bilingual or those having experience within a certain market."
Attrition will plummet, because now companies can hire anyone anywhere for any set hours. Sometimes the best people for the job aren't under our nose, but across the world. Maybe they only work half days. Maybe only on Wednesdays. So what? - Candace Sheitelman
As Brent Hyder, Salesforce president and chief people officer, says, "An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead…” We can no longer afford to tether everyone to a desk. It’s just not how work works anymore. So Let’s enable them to really work from anywhere -- by putting the exact same tools with the exact same power and functionality in everyone’s pockets. Empowering and supporting people to work from home has the potential to massively change the way people feel about their work.
Consider this article from Gallup. It says that 75% of millennials are engaged at work. The national average was only 35% in 2019. That’s a massive increase, but this isn’t all workers. Gallup tells us “The new engagement numbers only apply to millennials working remotely since the onset of COVID-19, and, in the case of the staggering 75% engagement level, only among millennials working remotely who also strongly agree their managers keep them informed and who feel well-prepared at work.”
In short, it’s very possible to be engaged, highly engaged, while working from home. But employees can’t be put in a bubble. They need the support. They need to be informed. And you know what? Technology is integral to making this a reality.
“Out of the office” has lost its meaning in today’s world. We all now know that out of the office doesn’t have to mean out of touch. It’s easy to stay connected to friends and family, so we thought it should be just as easy to stay connected to colleagues, which is why we innately built-in modern collaboration tools that unify entire global workforces on one common platform.
Edify keeps employees connected to one another and to customers whether they’re in a physical office, working remotely, or on the go. The choice is yours (or theirs), really. They can chat privately, across teams, and between various departments. And, most importantly, they can work wherever and however they want.
While it IS possible to work from anywhere, this workplace scenario works best when there is cohesion and when all the players are in sync and working towards the same goal. Just think about it. You and your colleagues work best together when you actually know each other, right? This applies to all businesses. Employees with strong relationships can connect and collaborate faster and more effectively. And they can work together to solve customers' problems faster and better too. Our mobile app, compatible with both iOS and Android, delivers the continuity employees (and customers) crave to stay connected -- all from their same business number -- via chat, voice call, and video chat.
Lastly, let’s free ourselves from needing to rely so heavily on our IT teams to make tweaks and changes that can help us deliver better experiences. We need to decentralize that power and let those closer to the customer be the ones to implement those in real-time. Scalability and lower IT demands are one of the primary reasons contact centers are moving to the cloud. Edify’s cost predictability, security, and global availability helps companies feel secure when letting their agents go remote, too.
WFH/WFA has supercharged contact center evolution. Finally. Organizations have been forced to look at their tech, CX strategies, agent skills, real estate (or lack thereof), and get into the 21st century to meet customers where they are. The WFA era is finally here and lucky for you, the tools to support it are too!
Questions? Give us a shout.