by Dave Murashige
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the average contact center went from being a single office to a combination of kitchen countertops, dining tables, and even closets across the country.
Now, we’ve met each other’s pets and children, commented on each other’s decor choices, and taught each other how to use a virtual background in Microsoft Teams. In many ways, remote work has brought us closer.
While 87% of both employees and executives agree that a physical office still has benefits in a post-COVID world (according to PwC's 2021 US Remote Work Survey), the two groups have differing opinions on just how much of the workweek should be spent there – and when employees should be expected to return to in-person work. While businesses have yet to answer those questions, remote work has clearly been more successful than anyone could have predicted in 2019.
Presently, large companies like Microsoft and Target are downsizing physical office space and enabling remote workers by announcing flexible work environments, including hybrid remote, fully remote, and day flex policies. These are significant signals that, in some form or another, remote work is here to stay.
Remote work has become ingrained into our lives – and that’s down to a combination of people, processes, and technology.
The past year has proven unequivocally that people can adapt to remote work without their productivity or collaboration suffering – in fact, according to the PwC study, 52% of employees' productivity improved when they started working remotely during the pandemic.
The pandemic also forced organizations to develop processes that work for remote teams. Those who thoughtfully made the initial change have been reaping the benefits for over a year, while many others have had to pivot a few times to find their footing. But overall, most organizations have transformed their processes and adapted.
The technology space is unusual in that it was already trending toward a more diversified, remote workforce well before the pandemic hit – people can work from anywhere as long as they are enabled with the right tools. But COVID further accelerated the adoption of remote work in the tech sector, as Microsoft’s changes to their workforce prove.
So now that you know that remote work is here to stay, here’s how you can better enable your remote workers to facilitate efficient, productive widespread contact center teams:
Improve Training with Artificial Intelligence
The core of a successful contact center is human: everything hinges on your employees being talented and well trained. That’s where tech can help – artificial intelligence (AI) can provide your contact center agents with automatic training that’s remote-accessible and consistent across the organization, enabling them to perform better and helping to save the company time and money.
A sophisticated AI software also often includes meaningful and comprehensive bots, which can use voice analytics to assess how consistently your agents are using proactive language or reactive language or even provide real-time recommendations and links to knowledgebase or 3rd party data sources as references to the specific topic of conversation.
Voice analysis can then be added to a comprehensive data analytics platform, along with automatic interaction scoring and other data metrics that pinpoint where your team is excelling and where they need improvement.
Focus on Culture
One challenge to working in remote teams is maintaining a sense of connection among employees – without a physical space to chat in while you make coffee, it can be easy to feel isolated. On an organizational level, you no longer have access to the standard in-person tools for team-building, which bolsters employee pride in the services and products you offer.
But just because you can’t take your agents out to a group dinner or other in-person activity doesn’t mean you can’t show them that you value their work and their humanity. Sending small gifts and company swag go a long way toward reminding agents that they’re part of a team.
Even from afar, you can still foster a positive company culture through the gamification of team challenges and enable remote workers to make connections with one another on virtual group meetings and chat platforms like Slack.
Get Your Head in the Cloud
A major tool for enabling remote work is the Cloud – as long as your employees all have solid, reliable internet connections, a pure cloud environment or hybrid can serve as a foundation to remote teams collaboration.
Many cloud options also include a variety of ready-to-go agent enablement tools. For example, Genesys Cloud includes built-in Quality Assurance, Sentiment Analysis, and Topic Spotting to help automate performance monitoring.
Enabling remote work may seem like a big change, but many organizations have already laid the groundwork and many employees are advocating for more remote flexibility in their work lives. The great news is that empowering widespread contact center teams ultimately improves the customer experience – and in turn, your bottom line.
Competency and empathy are core aspects of positive customer experiences and, as a result, the primary drivers of customer loyalty. When you enable your employees with better competency tools through training, technology, and AI, they have more time to focus on empathy to deliver a truly excellent customer experience.