Overcoming Agent Availability in the Work-at-Home Call Center


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Maximizing agent productivity and managing agent availability can be a challenge with Work-At-Home Agents (WAHA).  Is the work-at-home agent dispostioning the call correctly? How do they absorb best practices from top-tier agents when they are isolated in their home?

 The economics around the work-at-home model are extremely compelling. Web-based technologies have lowered the cost of managing customer interactions and opened the door to new possibilities for how (and where) agents interact with customers. However persuasive the economics are, a real challenge exists to overcoming agent availability in the work-at-home call center.

Addressing the Uncontrolled Workplace
In an uncontrolled workplace (i.e. a home office), agents can knowingly or unknowingly muddle the system. In a hypothetical scenario, agents are working the call, navigating a CRM, and ultimately land on a “wrap up” screen to enter in call notes and info. During this process, the workforce management system (WFM) indicates that the agent is unavailable, but the call has ended. The CRM system indicates the case is closed.  But where’s the agent? This is one of many scenarios indicating that if you want to control your costs and your call center operation, you must make sure that what you’re inspecting is in fact reality.

Telephony, CTI, and CRM apps do little to capture the customer dialog and provide reporting on the entire transaction. Call center managers are left with an opaque view of who is really productive and who’s really available.   WFM is dependent on the agent to accurately set their status.  In addition to creating a disjointed process for the agent to navigate open windows and applications on the desktop, these tools are data centric and don’t address the problem of availability in an uncontrolled home environment.

Leveraging a Unified Agent Desktop for WAHA
A unified agent desktop however, has the ability to build upon best practices. An isolated, remote agent is costing you money; best practices must be instilled regardless of where they sit. Within a unified agent desktop, companies can create business rules that deliver timed alerts to managers. For example, when the agent is sitting out on the ‘wrap up’ screen for over 5 minutes, the manager would receive an alert and contact that agent to see what the issue is. 

The presence of a unified, integrated agent desktop is crucial to the agent-customer dialogue and even more crucial in the work-at-home agent call center. As most operations executives can attest, agents are empowered, but only in a highly-controlled contact center environment where every step of the dialogue is timed and every call is recorded. 

A Stepping Stone for WAHA Best Practices
Insights on data derived from the agent desktop will lead to best practices. In the Work-at-Home Call Center, it’s extremely difficult for agents to learn by “osmosis.” At home agents don’t benefit from seeing or hearing other agents’ best practices. To counter this, companies can look to data that supports WAHA best practices.

How long does it take the top performers to get through each step in the dialogue? Where in the process are there are a longer than expected call times? Are agents effectively transitioning to new calls? How long do they need before the manager is alerted? Don’t just find best practice by looking at Average Call Time, but compare call times, results (close ratios, FCR, upsell rates), and actual work steps and timing.

Find out more about how RiverStar enables you to minimize dead time and reinforce best practice call transition approaches.

Bob Fike
An executive with 30 years of experience in communications and technology, Bob is a well-respected leader and pioneer in software development and contact center solutions. Over the past 15 years, Bob has served as the top executive for Fortune 500 companies such as Bell Labs, AT&T, Ameritech and Bellcore. Bob has achieved a PhD in Systems Engineering and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Arizona. His bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering was received from Carnegie Mellon University.


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