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Manage Remote Service Agents

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain how to effectively hire and manage remote contact center agents.
  • Discuss the role of remote agents in your contact center.
  • Identify the benefits and obstacles of having remote agents.

As the contact center landscape evolves, the roles agents play evolve too. The trend toward highly distributed contact center environments means more agents are working remotely. In this unit, you learn why more agents are becoming remote, and the major benefits and obstacles of having remote agents as part of your contact center workforce.

The Trend Toward More Remote Agents

Arguably, remote workers have become the new normal in today’s global workforce. One reason behind the shift toward remote workers is philosophical. Another is driven by innovation and adoption of new technology. In the contact center, both of these play a part in the trend toward more remote agents.

Most customer service agents can perform their core job functions without being onsite. The job requires interfacing with customers online or via phone, which can be done from anywhere. Philosophically, remote contact center agents exist largely because contact center management has overcome the traditional—and increasingly obsolete—managerial bias that employees need to be physically at a company facility to do their jobs. Customer service technology allows remote agents to perform their tasks while enabling managers to provide effective coaching even without in-person meetings.

From a technological viewpoint, the adoption of cloud-based Software as a Service (or SaaS), applications have changed the ground rules for remote workers. The fact that SaaS allows people to log into their workstations from almost anywhere means employees can be physically remote while virtually in the office—completely connected through cloud applications to the rest of the company environment. 

Three Benefits of Remote Agents

The trend toward distributed contact centers isn’t slowing down. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Contact Center Survey revealed that over the next two years, 53% of companies surveyed intend to offer flexible work arrangements for customer service agents, and 40% plan to introduce initiatives to reduce contact center churn.

Let’s talk about the benefits of having remote customer service agents.:

  1. Recruiting and retention are easier. By taking location and commute times out of the equation, a remote customer service model expands the pool of potential candidates. In addition to that, you can use remote work as a perk to reward high-performers, potentially increasing your ability to retain top performers.
  2. Cost savings are significant. The remote contact center agent model eliminates the overhead of a physical contact center. Things like the cost of workstations, power, climate control, and maintenance are cut significantly. Companies can potentially expand their contact centers without having to lease new office space. And for remote agents themselves, travel and parking expenses are eliminated.

Digital chat and collaboration tools like Chatter, Quip, Yammer, Slack, or Google Hangouts keep remote agents connected with onsite agents and other parts of the enterprise. Technology makes remote work seamless, enables better collaboration, and helps bridge the geographic distance between remote agents and their peers. 

Manage Remote Agents

Even though some of your agents work remotely, they’re still part of your team, and as such, they need to be part of your workplace culture. Now that you know the benefits of having remote employees, let’s go over some pointers for managing them and establishing a remote work culture. 

Motivate agents to excel. While you don’t have remote agents in your eyesight, as a manager, you still want to make sure they’re motivated like other agents in terms of goals and achievement. Out of sight cannot be out of mind, and managers need to include their remote agents in areas like leaderboards that track goal performance so the remote agents still feel like part of the agent team.

Coach in the moment. Managers still need to use feedback tools to deliver remote agents both praise and concern without interrupting workflow. Call recording, monitoring, digital chat, and creating a quick and in-the-moment manager-to-agent phone conversation or video call are all ways of staying close to your remote agents.

Maintain service quality. Beyond traditional contact center metrics such as call volume and elapsed time between calls, adding a customer feedback loop enables greater visibility for management. This applies to all agents, but the importance is even greater for remote agents. Customer feedback helps ensure agent quality and creates opportunities for additional coaching and praise for managers.

Conclusion

In this unit, we’ve learned about the growth of remote contact center agents as well as the benefits and challenges you may have when managing them. While there’s still much more to learn about contact center operations, we hope you feel more prepared to discuss tips, ideas, best practices, and areas for discovery within your contact center. 

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