How do I monitor contact center agents working from home?

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In my home, we all drink a shot of vodka each time a journalist or family member uses the term “new normal” in conversation.  I’m so tired of this phrase.  We are all adjusting our routines – some more drastic than others.  But if you have been working in the contact center industry longer than 5 minutes, then you know monitoring agents is nothing “new” and quite “normal” indeed.  Quality and productivity demands are the same as before we learned the word Coronovirus.  Now our industry desperately needs a way to predict what the next challenge will be.  Predicting the challenges of engaging work-from-home (WFH) employees and seeing these struggles sooner is our “new normal”.   Now isn’t the time to tweak your monitoring form or add a new script; now is the time to lean on technology to uncover pain, learn from it and fix it — FAST!

And even as I write this blog, we long for good news.  Please!  Some good news!

Good News #1:  Business As Usual.  Kind of.

The good news is that many of you were able to seamlessly move home and continue to record your agents voice and screens.  If you haven’t, ask for help.  Today’s advanced tools should be WFH-approved and should support the trip from the contact center to the home office.  Keep up the good work and don’t let your quality and training goals slip away.  If you feel it slipping away, again, ask for help.

Good News #2:  Technology Used for Compliance Might Save the Day

If your contact center is taking credit cards, you might already have some advanced desktop analytics tools at-the-ready.  Typically these tools trigger start and stop call recording functions that keep you from recording credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII).  Remember that could be Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers or diagnosis codes or even passport numbers.  For most of you who take credit cards, PCI Compliance paved the way for the investment in desktop analytics and now you have the opportunity to use the same technology for additional monitoring.

The same tool already installed can often track your agent’s application activity (what applications they use and how often), idle time (when they aren’t using their desktop), and even the time spent “focused” and not on non-productive tools and websites.

Good News #3:  People Can Change

Improving employee productivity and engagement is not a simple task. People are naturally averse to change, old habits are hard to break, and without real data to prove the need or benefit of the change, little will happen. That is why we suggest you start by focusing on one performance measure – % of time spent in production.  By bringing attention to and improving this one metric, organizations typically realize a 5 to 10% improvement in employee productivity.

Good News #4:  Your Supervisors and Coaches Can Handle It

With the introduction of any new reporting tools, managers need to be trained on how to use the new data to coach employees to help them achieve their goals. Just slapping your employees on the hand or giving managers data without enough explanation of the whys and benefits can create angst and distrust among the staff.  Productivity while working from home can be a blind spot for a contact center supervisor, but you can create additional value by sharing this data with your employees.

Good News #5:  It’s Easy to Try It

Start by picking 20 employees on 1-2 teams.  Now, collect desktop activity data for those 20 employees for 2 weeks.  Look for anomalies in application usage, time on unproductive websites, and even outlying applications like PowerPoint. PowerPoint? What? Yes, I saw one contact center rank PowerPoint as the #2 application used, just behind their CRM. Why? All of their training materials were saved in PPT, the agents created complex folder structures of PPT files for use during a calls, and desperately needed a knowledge management tool.

But just as the old saying goes, “Do you want the good news or bad news first?”

The bad news is that bad habits die hard in the WFH world.  Your WFH employees have already started some bad habits — you just don’t know them yet. Find the bad habits that have become part of your “new normal” today.

Damn.  Someone get the vodka.

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