For the most part, organizations have succeeded in enabling their employees to work from home during the global pandemic we are all living through. But what about the staff responsible for customer success and support in contact centers? These employees require a different set of communications tools to adequately do their jobs from decentralized locations. Enabling remote contact center agents can be a costly and logistically difficult challenge, especially for small and medium sized businesses. But that does not have to be the case.
Many contact centers have not missed a beat since the start of the global pandemic. While some companies were grappling with challenges like getting the right equipment to their agents that would allow them to adequately do their jobs or trying to replicate the same equipment that employees had in the office at home, others were leveraging cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions that have allowed them to continue to serve their customers as if their agents were operating from a centralized office location.
Before I get into actual solutions and what they should include, I think it’s worth taking a look at where the contact center space is amid this global pandemic. Analyst firm Nemertes Research recently conducted a study of global businesses that included some very interesting findings. The study found that 59% of companies had contact center agents working from home prior to COVID-19 and that number increased to 74% following the global lockdown.
The question is, now that employees have gotten used to working from home, will companies allow them to continue to do so and if so, what major factors are contributing to these decisions? The Nemertes study found that across key verticals like retail (68%) and healthcare (70%), employers are planning to allow their employees to continue to work from home post pandemic.
The reasons they cited included:
• 57% of companies said it will improve agents’ quality of life, which could in turn lead to lower turnover rates.
• 46% said it will prepare them for future disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic made many companies realize they are not ready for a major disaster (another pandemic, terrorist attack, weather event, etc.).
• 36% said it is better for the environment to allow people to work from home.
• 34% say the technology works better than they thought.
In addition to these reasons, the ability to save on real estate was another major factor. According to national averages, the cost of office space per agent is about $8300 per year, and a 50-agent contact center saves more than $200,000 per year in real estate by hoteling and allowing employees to work from home part-time.
So, what do these findings mean? They mean that as more companies support their contact center agents working from home, having the right solutions that will allow them to do their jobs and keep customers satisfied is going to be critical.
Three things that companies should look for in a UC solution to support their remote contact centers workers are:
1. A solution that is easy to set up. For example, my company offers a solution, Live Support, that is browser-based with no software installation required and can be up and running in a few minutes.
2. A solution that can be easily integrated into their existing contact center and one that will allow them to communicate in context whether it be via chat, mobile, landline, etc. For example, a Generation Y customer may prefer to conduct a conversation via chat whereas I prefer the phone, being a little old school.
3. A solution should be cost effective. Live Support is a license-based solution that offers enterprise-grade communications capabilities such as voice, video, chat and even screen share at a very affordable price.
COVID-19 has forced many businesses to rethink how they service their customers, and contact centers are no exceptions. With the right communications tools, companies can not only better serve their customers regardless of where their employees work, but they can also leverage them for employee retention and satisfaction.
As the Nemertes survey points out, for companies that keep agent turnover rates at less than 15%, there is a 26% improvement in customer ratings – which is important. When contact center employees can effectively and happily work from home, customers reap those benefits. Consider that a win-win.