The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been widespread, across all sectors and industries, and without exception. In the past few months, the pandemic has forced many businesses to shut down or shift most of their employees to a work from home model.
Contact centers are also shifting to remote workforces due to mobility restrictions. This means it’s about time to start thinking about the future of contact centers, and hence, customer service. With businesses switching to remote work, the impact of the pandemic on business’ search for software has dramatically evolved in the past few months. The focus has shifted to more remote work-related tools, such as remote work monitoring software, remote work productivity software, and so on.
Switching to remote work
Many organizations’ initial challenge is to prepare and execute a continuity plan that can support this new reality of working from home. While some organizations had a business continuity plan in place, the majority did not consider a scenario where everyone was forced to work from home.
According to a report published by Blue Arrow, there was a 47% increase in demand for remote working call center staff from January to July 2020. The jump in demand was for both permanent and temporary call center staff.
Sectors with rising demand for call center staff:
Healthcare organizations: To support frontline workers and manage chaotic situations, the healthcare sector had to build a strong infrastructure in which contact centers played a major role in handling inbound calls.
Government services: Government services, such as public advisory services, needed assistance during the pandemic, that can be provided by a good contact center service.
Utilities: The pandemic resulted in widespread economic instability and unemployment. As a result, many utility services, such as electricity, gas, and water companies, are experiencing an increase in remediation and customer service calls.
Private companies: Where some businesses like FMCG saw good growth in sales, some companies like e-commerce, need good contact center support for making outbound calls to drive their sales.
The common link between all these tools is that they have been built into the cloud, integrated through an application programming interface (API). With the new work environment today, API has become key to providing a better customer experience—the easiest and fastest way for companies to transition to remote contact centers. With some extra hardware, software, or even network updates, setting up a remote contact center becomes easier and faster. Here are a few pointers for establishing a successful remote contact center:
Scheduling through workforce management software: When managing a virtual contact center environment, it is necessary to establish comprehensive and effective scheduling of the contact center agents for smooth sailing. Contact center workforce software enables supervisors to deploy and monitor their agents on a real-time basis. This ensures the overall productivity of an agent by keeping an account of their login and logout time.
Adherence to organizational compliance: Adhering to the organization’s policy should be the priority of any agent working remotely. To gain maximum efficiency an agent should work in a comfortable and undisturbed environment. However, compassion and empathy should always take the lead.
Proper equipment: An agent must be fully equipped with high-speed internet connections (generally provided by ISPs), a PC or laptop, power backups, and other tools that meet the system requirements of the company.
Quality assurance software: Contact center quality assurance software should be deployed to help businesses evaluate the performance of their customer service operations, as quality assurance (QA) is an essential process for improving customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
Training: To achieve the required quality and productivity, it is important to provide proper training and guidance to the remote agent. Agents who have the proper training and support will provide customers a better experience.
Contact center software—need of the hour
Effective, affordable, and easy-to-use remote contact center solutions are required for managing at-home agents. Here are a few examples to consider:
Telecom services for call centers software: Remote setup needs a good cloud technology that can be achieved by good telecom services for call centers solutions. Setting a secured network for communication is the base of a contact center.
Contact center operations software: This software is important to overcome the infrastructural challenges and scale up a business’ contact center operations to ensure business runs as usual. In order to carry out smooth day-to-day operations, the user needs to have full control over the tool, especially for remote contact centers.
Collaboration & productivity software: Tools that help collaborate and communicate well are also another need of the hour. These tools provide structure to tasks and improve employee efficiency. Efficient workflow and open communication channels benefit virtually all organizations, including contact centers.
Time & attendance software:This software provides contact center agents the freedom to log in from anywhere, anytime. The agents and the supervisors can log in to the system from any device—laptops or mobile phones; and any environment (working from home or office). At the same time, managers and supervisors can monitor user status and allocate resources accordingly.
Adapting to the new normal
This new remote work environment can create new limitations on agents’ access to the support tools they need to perform their roles successfully. Lack of access to paper-based knowledge banks and policies, as well as face-to-face coaching from senior agents and supervisors, can often create feelings of isolation and increase coaching and training ramp-up times.
To overcome these challenges, organizations must find innovative solutions to analyze agent behaviors, understand their interactions with customers, and keep them engaged through measuring and adjusting to their expectations.
According to a report on the Twilio blog, it is speculated that approximately 20% of agents were working from home at least a few days per week before the outbreak. The existing situation is accelerating this need, and the projection is that a whopping 53% of seats would move to the cloud by 2023.
Adopting new technology does not have to be hard, especially if there’s a plan in place to reduce the operational impact. Successful user adoption requires evaluating productivity improvements, defining procedures, organizing change management, and measuring performance.
Transitioning to a remote agent model for a contact center has significant benefits for agents, customers, and the organization. This starts with more satisfied agents due to an improved work-life balance. It then transcends to improved customer satisfaction, as more satisfied agents have a direct correlation to more satisfied customers. Having the ability to turn on agent-at-home work achieves organizational scalability, agility, and business continuity. The result is improved business performance, both operationally and financially. The transition should not be taken lightly, however, it can be done successfully by developing a solid and comprehensive plan.
Priya is a senior research analyst at G2 focused on customer service software. Prior to joining G2, Priya worked as a secondary market research analyst in one of the Big 4's for more than 5 years. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her friends and family.