Hybrid Workforce Model for Contact Center: What are the Perspectives?

After the pandemia in 2020, many companies had to shift from an office-based workforce model to a remote. Even though those bad times have passed, a greater challenge has appeared. Now, after almost 2 years in remote mode, almost 70% of employees all around the world have no willingness to come back to their offices. The era of home-based working has changed peoples` minds, and now more than ever workers are interested in the hybrid work model. On the other hand, almost 50% of US-based companies want their employees to work in an office for 5 days a week. So where is a solution? What is the future of contact centers` workforce management? What type of work organization is the most preferable today? We`ll try to answer. 

Types of workforce management

First of all, let’s talk about obvious things. There are only three ways to organize the work in your call center- in the office, from home (WFH), and by a hybrid work model. 

Office-based call centers  -  the oldest, but already not the most popular solution. This model requires more spending on rental, equipment, workspace for every agent, and other details which do cost a lot of money. There are two conclusions - not every company can afford such costs, and sometimes there is no need to build an office-based call center.

The remote workforce model is based on cloud contact center software, which offers your agents all features to work and communicate with customers while the managers have enough options to control processes and fix any issues as soon as they appear. This solution is much cheaper, needs no hardware, offers more functionality for your contact center, allows you to work from several time zones, and provides the best employee experience - and it sounds like an ideal solution. Unfortunately, there’s nothing ideal in our world. Some spheres - like medicine, law services, or banking can’t allow their agents access to secured data when there is not enough control. On the other hand, you can never get all advantages of live communication, management, and brainstorming with the remote team. No video call can replace the possibility of working in the same space. 

The hybrid work model is a compromise between previous solutions. It has two ways of realization - by making one agent work both from home and office during a week, and by hiring both remote and office-based agents. This solution is the most suitable for agents, most of whom want to work remotely, even if it’s not about all the time. For the employer, it is also a wise decision, because in this way agents` satisfaction is achieved while agent attrition is decreased, and this is an extremely important component of customer satisfaction. 

What are the pros and cons of a hybrid schedule?

As we have mentioned before, hybrid environments are the most desirable type of workforce management for most people. Many contact center employees understand that their presence in the office is important to define tasks, discuss problematic points, solve existing problems, and communicate with managers. Nonetheless, agents prefer to have working time at home, because it is more comfortable for them and they can show better productivity. 

After implementing the hybrid work model, you will achieve many positive results in the hybrid call center`s work. But there are also some nuances you should consider before you will start to test the hybrid schedule. 

Pros

  • Higher agent productivity - there is direct dependence between the agents` comfort and their impulse to work. If agents feel more comfortable in-home, they will show better rates while working remotely. As a result, you will get better KPIs and more deals just owing to the flexible schedules of your employees.
  • More possibilities for hiring - it’s clear enough, that if you have a call center in an office, you can’t hire agents, who are seeking remote jobs. In this case, you are losing dozens of talented specialists, and this factor will affect the turnover rate - and not in a good way - as well as agent attrition level, which will decrease productivity, motivation, and outcomes.
  • 24/7 mode is enabled - hiring people all around the world offers you a great chance to make your contact center work permanently. Not every business needs this feature, but if you are the one who does - a hybrid workplace model is your prior choice.
  • Higher agent satisfaction - this rate is very important because it influences the customer experience. The more satisfied are your operators, the happier are your customers.

Cons

  • Difficulties in training or onboarding - it’s not a secret that the onboarding process will be much easier and more efficient if an employee will pass it under the chief of an experienced manager. This is more suitable to organize in the office because no channel of communication can offer such engagement as a real conversation. Online agent training is also difficult to organize, especially if you don’t have the experience to do such things.
  • Agents` engagement - remote employees are less likely to be engaged in some processes than people who stay in the office 5/2. Even though you will have enough options to control your remote agents, you barely can affect their engagement level if they won’t do that on their own.
  • Inner communication - any messenger can’t replace live communication and this statement does not need proof. Even communication by phone can’t be more effective and faster in case of training or discussing work processes.
  • Knowledge access - there are tons of information which has to be read by new employees. In-office all details can be easily explained by experienced supervisors, as well as they can demonstrate all work in practice. In remote mode, it is much more difficult to onboard a new agent with all the info he needs.

How to successfully implement a hybrid contact center?

Some tips will allow you to avoid popular mistakes and perform a transfer to a hybrid workforce management system without losses. Remember that only scrupulous preparation is the key to reforming your contact center to a hybrid workplace model.

Prepare knowledge bases and make them easy to use

All data, which is needed by your agents to do their work as well as they can, should be easy to access. Your agents shouldn’t spend time searching for needed information or documents - all should be put in one place to make their work easier and more efficient. Let them search information like it’s in search engines by using one interface for data storage. Watch for managers to update all content in time. Import call scripts into your cloud-based call center software to let agents provide more qualitative service.

Make sure that there is a parity between remote and office-based agents

To build a comfortable working environment, and friendly atmosphere and make your agents satisfied, you should closely look for the similarity of opportunities for both remote and in-office operators. Remote employees shouldn’t get more attention in the case of coaching or onboarding, while those who work in an office should have access to all knowledge bases and training materials that are delivered to remote agents.

Reform onboarding strategy to fit new hybrid workplace model

That’s the continuing of our thoughts about knowledge bases. Your new agents should have access to all needed data from the first working day. Complete the easy and understandable list of materials, which are necessary to be read, and give it to your new reps, but only if you are confident that they will be able to find all materials in your knowledge base - that’s why we state that it should be complex and located in one place. Choose supervisors to control the onboarding process and help newbies to feet themselves comfortably. Don’t forget to communicate with new employees in different ways - by video calls, by phone and messengers, and, finally, in the office.

Let your employees learn 

The LinkedIn and Josh Bersin research states, that 20% of workers in the UK prefer to leave their job if there is no possibility to learn. Another fact is that for 19% of employees the opportunity to learn and grow is the priority. Professionals who spend their time studying at work are almost 50% less stressed, 40% of them are more productive, and almost a quarter of them is ready to take on additional responsibilities. 

Provide your team members with opportunities to learn in breaks between work. Such learning is the best choice for remote employees because they can consume needed info during their work and on their demand. Formal learning sessions are also important, but if they take place twice a year, let your agents study as often as they want to. Give them enough video, audio, and written content that they need to learn and upgrade their skills. Take care about the access to all studying content - make sure that every worker can find what he needs at any time. 

Balance team communication

In remote mode, asynchronous communication is the main way to communicate. Dozens of video calls, hundreds of messages, and virtual meetings are draining energy and sometimes even waste time. Hybrid workplace model enables you to provide your agents with live, real-time communication and it’s a hitch to create equability between communication types. Asynchronous communication is great to share information, mostly documents, and status upgrades of other materials, which don’t need to be discussed or answered at once. 

How to make your agents engaged, if you are managing a hybrid call center?

Now let’s talk about agent satisfaction and engagement. A hybrid workplace model is a gift for contact center employees on its own because all eNPS show working from home as the second most liked feature of a job. Nonetheless, McKinsey and Company research shows that engaged and satisfied contact center agents are 5 times less likely to leave their job, 4 times less likely to leave in comparison to their unengaged colleagues, and what’s amazing - they are 3 times more likely to do their best to solve clients issues. Isn’t this enough to invest in the engagement of your agents? Below are 6 features you should work on if you want to make your reps engaged, satisfied, and client-oriented. 

Company culture

Company culture is the feature that suffers in most call centers - extremely high turnover rates and overload are the factors that don’t let the managers build and implement company culture. It’s difficult to encourage an employee with company culture if he is going to leave in the next few months. 

We all know four key elements of strong company culture - recognition, purpose, community, and ownership. 

Implement a recognition culture with the help of special software, which allows remote agents to stay in touch with those, who are in the office and feel like a part of a team. Build a strong community using all opportunities to make the atmosphere and working environment more comfortable for your agents - create a tradition for collective celebrations, team-building activities, especially outside of the office, and master classes to share skills between team members. Upgrade ownership and purpose elements by including agents in pointing goals process, brainstorming, learning, or even giving them access to the data related to them. 

Motivate and Gift your Agents

Try to create a system, where achieving the key KPIs will be rewarded. Agents feel more engaged when they know that their high work results will be awarded. Consider this as a game - the more challenges your rep tackles, the more he earns. It’s not all about money - you can motivate your agents with free mentor courses, seasonal gifts, free subscriptions, and so on. The gist is that your reps will be much more results-oriented when they will know about the reward. 

Create clear and achievable goals

Remote contact center employees are often going away from their tasks, if there is not enough control from a supervisor or the tasks were not clear enough. This feature of the remote and hybrid workforce management model is important to be understood by contact center leaders to avoid slumps in work, low optimization of working time, bad understanding of the company`s purpose, and absence of motivation. Use easy and understandable task management to be sure that your agents, no matter where they are, will completely understand their tasks and deal with them. 

Hear your employees

There is nothing more engaging for a worker than a feeling that his opinion is important for higher management. Even if it’s about little things, employees want to be heard. There are many instruments to provide them with such an option, but the most popular and the most efficient is surveying. Different surveys, such as eNPS or satisfaction surveys, are provided via special tools and collected and analyzed by managers. 

But the biggest problem is not organizing a survey, but the reaction to its results. Many companies implement surveys many years ago, but employees don’t get the essential thing - they fill their lists, and bring them to managers, but nothing changes. They are still not heard by anybody, and this makes them feel upset and it can be a strong reason to leave.

Make sure that you’re not only collecting agents` feedback, but you react to issues they are mentioning in their surveys. If such a reaction exists, your employees will feel happy because of your engagement in their problems  - and they will be more engaged to work too. 

Consecutive communication

Employees are happier when they can communicate internally. In a hybrid workplace model, this is much more difficult because there are always different combinations of people present in an office. Anyway, if you want your employees to be engaged, you should build consecutive internal communication in your organization. How to do that in the right way?

Make your managers be in an office on different days to make sure they know every employee. It’s needed to provide your agents with 1-to-1 communication with managers, which will increase trust and help to solve issues comfortably. Choose one day per week to perform Zoom meetings with your employees and discuss news, goals, tasks, and other important challenges. Look for the onboarding process - every new hire should know all terms and lingo, used in the industry and your company. 

And what’s in the end?

The pandemia-2020 has greatly changed the world and workforce management principles when no one has awaited such changes. Companies have found themselves in a situation where classic approaches were no more and they had to find a way out in the very tight deadlines - that’s the way how we achieved the hybrid workforce management model in addition to the remote one.

Even though the pandemia is almost over and business is looking for a possibility to bring back an old office schedule and workforce modes, employees are no longer interested in an office-based, “5 days per week, 8 hours per day” model. The hybrid work schedule looks like a compromise between nostalgic businesses and workers, who are keen on flexibility and more freedom for them. This model, as any else, contains as advantages as disadvantages. Your agents will be more satisfied, engaged, and productive, while the call center will be able to work 24/7 because of your possibility to hire people from different time zones. On the other hand, difficulties in onboarding, learning, communication, and engagement can be a great challenge for the company. The engagement of your agents is so important, that we have put all recommendations about it into a separate paragraph. This rate influences all other - unengaged agents can do more sales, they can’t provide good customer service and they are likely to leave soon.

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