The new norm post-COVID means redefining home working
At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has caused large-scale disruption to businesses worldwide, remote working has been a shining example of how to ensure ‘business as usual’, particularly in areas such as customer service. If Gartner predictions are correct that over 40% of all employees will continue remote working post-COVID, businesses must redefine remote working by ensuring customer service staff - contact centre agents and supervisors - are equipped with fit-for-purpose technology to ensure they deliver a truly first-class service to the customer. Anne-Meine Gramsma, Chief Commercial Officer at ContactCenter4ALL, explains.
Although working from home was originally intended to be a stop-gap for many businesses while the pandemic paused normal office operations, employers and employees alike are seeing the benefits and many businesses are seriously considering shifting suitable operations to 24x7 remote working, ushering in a new long term way of working that surpasses ‘traditional’ office-based work and what we traditionally refer to as home working.
Remote working used to mean staff worked from home using standard office applications - often on personal devices and leaving employees lacking dedicated remote working solutions that ensure staff and customer communication and collaboration remain unaffected.
Home working redefined
During lockdown, businesses became more aware of the need for Unified Communications platforms to form a backbone for advanced remote working and provide the enhanced technology that could offer these dedicated remote collaboration and communication features.
Witness the boom in popularity for Microsoft Teams - there were an estimated 20 million daily users of in late 2019, which has skyrocketed to 75-plus million users per day since lockdowns were established worldwide. This upward trend is not set to disappear post-pandemic.
Remote working - the new norm for happy employees
The new norm post-COVID is likely to encourage employees to work from a remote location, when and where is convenient to them and to their employers. The objective is to embrace a strategy that is more efficient and effective for everybody - and that includes the customer. Yes, commute times and expenses are significantly reduced, and yes there is pre-pandemic research that indicates employees who work from home are significantly more productive than their office-based counterparts, but businesses must ensure they put in place effective, long term remote working strategies that ensure customer service levels are not affected or interrupted but rather enhanced.
Redefining remote working means delivering uninterrupted first-class customer experiences
In the contact centre space, all that is typically required for agents to work effectively from home is access to modern contact centre software, a headset and a pair of monitors. But it takes more than this to deliver uninterrupted services to customers at the speed and level expected by today’s consumers.
I’ve already mentioned the dramatic growth in usage of Microsoft Teams during this lockdown period. When a proven collaboration platform such as Teams is integrated with dedicated contact centre software, then businesses can stay fully accessible to customers, integrating collaborative platforms and capabilities for all remote agents to maintain the same high level of agility and flexibility.
Remote workers must be able to speak communicate with customers, using their channel of choice
At the customer-facing level, this solution must be able to handle omnichannel communications, in which remote workers can communicate with and provide support on the customer’s channel of choice - whether this is phone, email or alternative channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook depending on regional popularity.
Integrating these communication channels into a single client unlocks further powerful features to help deliver an excellent customer experience, such as warm transfers, enhanced call routing and colleague availability alerts.
Intelligent call routing a priority for remote working
Disparate customer service teams due to remote working can pose challenges in delivering a consistent customer experience. Customer calls are often at threat of being routed to the first available agent instead of the most suitable agent for a specific query. This threatens to increase resolution times and customer frustration as a result of unnecessary transfers between agents.
Features such as intelligent, skill-based routing help tackle this by ensuring customers receive first-time problem solving from the best available expert, without compromising on answer times. All incoming customer calls, regardless of channel, can be routed through the same engine and assigned based on query type.
Skill-based routing offers an excellent opportunity to boost both employee and customer satisfaction - agents are happy they can apply their specific skillsets and interests to solve customer problems, while customers enjoy a swift, knowledgeable resolution to their issue on the first time of asking.
Remote working must not mean poor accountability
Another challenge to overcome with remote teams is ensuring employees are fully accountable and operating as effectively as their office-based counterparts - a challenge that scales based on the number of agents working from home at any given time. This is where businesses should look to contact centre solutions that can incorporate extra functionalities for real time reporting, to ensure agents are operational and delivering a consistently high level of customer service.
For supervisors this means access to granular reporting dashboards, with performance metrics and data visualised through tools such as Power BI. This level of reporting goes far beyond capturing standard details such as customer solve rates. Supervisors are provided with heats maps of activity to identify particularly busy periods of demand on a daily and weekly basis, and can track average call-back times and queue times to identify and address potential bottlenecks where more agents are required.
The time is ripe to embrace the remote contact centre
Remote operations based on a platform such as Microsoft Teams and deployed in partnership with a company that can effectively demonstrate, tailor and roll out a solution with low Total Cost of Ownership will ensure contact centre agents can effectively collaborate to provide the right service and skillset to the customer’s channel of choice.
Businesses without dedicated remote working solutions can today make the transition to large-scale remote working within weeks - this is no longer a challenging, long term digital transformation project spanning months. Shifting to a fully remote contact centre offers benefits for businesses, employees and importantly customers alike - if a remote strategy is thoroughly evaluated, tailored to requirements and deployed effectively to ensure customer service levels remain high.