1. Hiring: Create Your Ideal Agent’s Profile
Hiring remote employees gives you an opportunity to use a larger talent pool than usual. You are not bound to your city, region, or even country and can choose employees from places with cheaper workforce thus saving significant costs. Where should you start?
Firstly, create your ideal agent’s profile. List all skills and personality traits that are must-have for your potential employees. Make sure that you have detailed and updated job descriptions, requirements, and policies. It will help your agents to understand your expectations better from the start.
Secondly, reorganize your interview process. It should include such tiers as:
- competency-based assessment for starters that has to ensure your candidates have necessary skills and high levels of motivation;
- behavior-focused interviews with the help of apps or live interviewers;
- interview on specific channels they will be supporting.
And finally, conduct thorough background checks on those who pass your interview process. In remote mode, it is even more important than usual because you have to rely on people whom you will never see and who may work hundreds of miles from you.
2. Deliver Detailed Training with a Trial Period and Constant Coaching
When working remotely, your agents can’t learn from more experienced colleagues so your training program has to be much more detailed than in an on-premise call center. Provide them with comprehensive knowledge bases, leverage e-learning platforms, or design your corporate training portal if your company can afford it.
Offer a 3-month trial period to newbies. It is the time they can learn how to use your call center software properly and confidently. Also, the agents can understand if remote work is their cup of tea. Before connecting them with real customers, practice training calls with experienced guides. During this period, your agents have to go through all the call scripts and outcomes and be acquainted with every process and policy in your call center.
Constant coaching is also important. Your managers should listen to recorded calls regularly to choose successful and unsuccessful examples for coaching sessions. It will also be useful to monitor calls in live mode and discuss the conversations with agents afterward.
3. Understand Behavioral Styles
In work-from-home mode, empathy and interpersonal communication matter even more than usual. Children, parents, partners, and domestic responsibilities put additional pressure on employees. Keep that in mind when communicating with them.
Dean Hallett recommends using one of the numerous behavioral styles assessment models - for instance, DISC (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive, Cautious) or Myers-Briggs. Both of them are quite simple and effective maps that will help you to understand basic behavior differences among people. Why is it important?
Each behavioral style requires different communication approaches, remarks Hallett. You can’t deal with a Dominant type person in the same way as with a Supportive one. He emphasizes that behavioral styles “aren’t there for labelling or stereotyping people, but as a starting point for understanding important general differences among us that affect everyone in the workplace”. A team leader should start with passing a behavioral test by themselves and later introduce it to their team members. It is a good way to get to know each other better and discuss possibilities for collaboration.
4. Maintain a Sense of Community
A lack of a sense of community and connectivity is one of the most common concerns for leaders who decide to switch to remote mode. It is for a good reason. Remote agents may feel disconnected from the rest of the team and that affects their productivity. That’s why maintaining a sense of community is extremely important.
How can you do that? Use tools that allow each team member to feel they are not working alone. Video conferencing meetings are one of them. They help agents to meet each other and build relationships. Each team member gets a face on such meetings that enhances collaboration among employees. Moreover, video conferencing ensures that all your team members hear the necessary information from you and increases their engagement.
Hallett recommends implementing team check-in at the beginning of the meetings. This activity may have different forms. For example, at the start of the call, you can ask everyone how well they’re feeling on a scale of 1-10. Or each of them can mention one thing they are grateful for.
Also, do not forget about team-building activities. They are as important as offline because it is the time when employees can have a break from the normal routine and know each other better. Whatever it may be - a talent show, virtual game night, or virtual escape room - the main point is to make your team members feel that they are a part of the community.
5. Offer Collaboration Tools
When your employees are scattered across the different locations it is extremely important to ensure seamless collaboration. There are some tools that you can offer to them:
- Slack - a great communication tool that allows direct and group messaging. Your team or department can easily create their own channel, drag-and-drop files, and pin documents. Many companies use Slack instead of traditional email because it makes communication quicker and easier.
- Monday, Trello, Asana - project management tools that help easily assign and manage tasks and initiatives within your team or company as a whole.
- Zoom - video conferencing tool that became very popular due to lockdown. During Zoom meetings your team members can use such features as screen-sharing, file exchange, and messaging in group or individual chats.
6. Leverage Technologies (Quality Assurance and Reporting Tools)
You can’t monitor and track your remote agents in person at a moment’s notice but there is no need to do that if you have appropriate software solutions.
Let us take call quality monitoring. With our cloud-based call center solution, your managers can join the live dialogue in three different modes (call center barging, hidden mode, call whispering). Customizable scoring cards allow them to assess the quality of conversation and attach a relevant call recording. It is also possible to play back recorded calls to agents during feedback sessions, discussing weak points and opportunities.
Reporting software is also of great help. With Voiptime Cloud reporting tools, you can get total information on each agent’s performance as well as monitor the change of agent statuses during the day. Work schedules reports will help you to control your employees’ schedule adherence. Moreover, our solution provides you with detailed information on outbound campaigns, service level, call distribution, and processed emails, SMS, and web chats on a particular day and at a particular time. All these features allow you to track your agents’ performance as thoroughly as possible.
7. Use Gamification for Better Customer Service
Employees like playing games when working. During the TalentLMS recent survey, 89% of respondents said that gamified tasks make them feel competitive and eager to complete them; another 89% claimed that gamification makes them more productive. So gamification can significantly improve your customer service. Reward employees who achieved the best results in this field, offering them such prizes as gift cards, special privileges, paid time off, or other items that appeal to them. These incentives will inspire them and increase their loyalty, thus improving your customer experience.
8. Give and Receive Feedback
In the remote work environment, feedback is even more valuable than in the office. It is a beacon that helps your employees move to the shore of success and perfection. Receiving feedback they understand what to improve and feel appreciated. It is important to you as well. When your employees are free to discuss the aspects of their work with you as a leader it gives you a tremendous opportunity to improve business processes in your organization.
The other benefit of giving feedback is that it airs out tension, inevitable in any community. Hallett recommends framing this process with two statements that people will complete with each other in partnership.
“What I really admire about you is _____”
“How you could be even better at is ______”
The team leader can send members into breakout rooms, then call them back and send them again with a new partner until all members have a chance to speak to each other. If there is some obstacle, people may choose partners and connect offline after the meeting to exchange feedback. Just remember to explain to them everything that no one feels bushwhacked by their co-workers.
Management of the remote call center team is quite challenging. You need to put more effort into keeping your employees motivated and engaged than in the office. Maintaining a sense of community may be tough as well. But when you manage to succeed in doing that, all your effort will pay back: you will get a dream team that can work across any distances.