We’ve all seen the dystopian movies or books with the same doomsday conclusion: Robots will soon rule the world. The tech we humans create outsmart us to take our jobs and conquer our government. 

That’s a bit of a stretch. 

Maybe when you think of the workplace of the future, you envision futuristic-style holograms having a meeting. Or robots cooking lunch for everyone in the office. Instead, the workplace of the future looks simpler — people having the flexibility to work remotely. 

Download Now: 7 tactics to coach your agents, no matter where they’re working. 

In fact, Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report found that 98% of respondents want to continue to work remotely for the rest of their careers. And, 97% told them they would recommend remote work to others.

This spring the world is putting remote work to the test. Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve all transitioned into a work-from-anywhere model to continue operating at the same pace. Globally, companies are attempting to maintain productivity while working in a new environment, through a crisis. How do we all care for our employees, stay afloat, and keep customers happy without the use of a shared office space?

How do you keep your team as productive from home?

When you’re remote, how do you operate at the same level of service? How can you maintain a healthy culture? Will your customers be as satisfied? Is it actually cost effective? With required remote work for those who can over these few months, we may accidentally unlock the future of the workforce.

Don’t get me wrong. Transitioning to a remote staff still requires a lot of intentionality. As your customer service team adopts this virtual call center model, let’s review essential remote work trends you need to ensure your call center team maintains customer experience and productivity.

Stay on Top of the Challenges of a Virtual Call Center

In order to deploy a virtual call center and maintain your operations, prepare for the inevitable challenges of remote work.

1. The Lack of Face-to-Face Supervision

It’s daunting to switch to a new style of management, especially when you’re used to seeing your agents every day.  If you’re like me, a little type A, you may fear that more flexibility will limit your agents’ efficiency. (Though, Harvard Business School research shows otherwise.)

You have to first and foremost trust your agents. In some circumstances, a virtual call center is even more efficient. For instance, our friends and customers over at Blackhawk Network watched their handle times drop 4% in the first few weeks moving agents home, while satisfaction stayed high. 

Often, employees work more from home. In a report by CoSo Cloud, 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home.

This could be due to the lack of office distractions. But, also psychologically, many employees put in more of an effort to prove they’re still working as hard, if not harder, as they would in office.

How to combat this challenge:

Put in place scheduled check-ins and updates from your remote agents in your virtual call center. Require agents to check-in when they start their shift. Have your team update their progress on a midday lunch break, and check-in with their daily report before their shift ends. These practices will effectively replace the in-person supervision your team is used to.

The right virtual call center platform also makes things more transparent for you as a manager. With insightful KPIs in place and the right software, you know immediately how your agents are performing. And, with good in-line training and coaching tools in your platform, supervision can still happen from your home to theirs.

Download Now: Cover all your bases when choosing the right call center platform. Check out the essential questions you should ask on your RFP when evaluating your next platform.

 

2. Social Isolation While Working from Home

There are a lot of days when I’m working from home where I think, “Hm, I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone today.” Loneliness can be one of the downsides to working from home. It’s easy to feel isolated when you spend all day in front of a screen in your own house.

Buffer found that 19% of remote employees report loneliness as their biggest challenge. While CoSo Cloud reports that more than half of remote employees say they feel disconnected.

In a virtual call center, it’s a lot harder for your agents to reach out for help or get quick peer feedback on a customer’s problem. They can’t turn around and ask their neighbor something or call you over to read through an email. And, being remote can amplify miscommunications that wouldn’t typically happen in person. You have to be ultra-intentional about over-communicating, even the little things. You miss out on socializing and banter that comes with physically sharing office space.

Social isolation causes other potential risks. Research shows that isolation can cause an employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization. And, it can even result in increased intention to leave the company. So, how do you avoid losing employees over time? How do you encourage them to stay mentally healthy?

How to combat this challenge:

Call centers can establish social media communities and help agents stay connected through communication tools, like Slack. Slack channels keep all your agents in the loop, and provide a method of communication to coworkers, teams, and managers. You can even have certain ones set aside for water cooler talk, or to share interesting articles, funny memes, or videos of your pets and kids.

In addition, keep things flexible with your team. Help them feel like they can take breaks as needed to breathe, go for a walk, or get away from their screen. Trusting your agents to manage their time and energy well is an essential step to maintaining your operations remotely.

3. Can You Still Provide Exceptional Customer Care?

How can you care for your customers during this time of uncertainty and change? You’re not only trying to figure out how to keep employees prepared and productive. But, you’re also responsible for looking after your customers.

Prior to the Coronavirus crisis, allowing customers to complete transactions remotely was mostly a matter of satisfying growing preferences for digital convenience. But, CustomerThink found that in this new era, digital services can no longer be thought of as a nice addition to the norm.

Digital must be considered the primary way of business, as face-to-face interactions wane.

A recent survey found that 84% of consumers expect brands to find ways to maximize digital interactions to keep them safe. Though it can be hard to know how to care for your customers as a virtual call center, find ways to meet your customers where they are.

How to combat this challenge:

On a digital platform, communication is key — for your own team’s productivity and to continue communication with your customers. Take some time to re-evaluate the channels available to your customers for communicating.

If your call center typically only supports one or two channels, meet your customers where they need you by including omnichannel service. Your customers are likely under the same stresses you’re under with work, health, and family life. So, being flexible and willing to meet their needs during this time goes a long way in keeping customers loyal.

Invest in retaining customers for more value and profit. Read up on why customer retention is so valuable, over here.

 

Find creative ways to answer customer questions, whether it’s through hosting webinars with your marketing team, or using this time of transition to build out self-service tools. Provide customers access to help so they don’t have to spend more time online or on the phone.

Your customers need your team now more than ever. Encourage your agents to uphold standards like nothing has changed. Your customers will remember this when things return to normal.

The Long Term Benefit of a Virtual Call Center 

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced your team into remote work earlier than intended. But taking the leap now with a virtual call center could benefit you long term. Remote work could be the future of our working life.

Fast Company predicts that remote work software, like mobile work tools and virtual reality conferencing, will become the preferred form of communication. It could even replace face-to-face meetings. The transition to managing a remote workforce might be daunting now. But, with the right tech and hardworking employees, it can be a seamless process. And, you may be setting yourselves up for the best virtual solution of the future.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll have resources available to help you navigate this new way of work.

We also have a program to help you spin up a remote contact center in 48 hours during this pandemic if you need help. For free. No strings attached.