While the need for contact centers isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the way in which the work is completed has and will continue to change. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen recently, mainly as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), is a shift to remote work. And even though the PHE is entering a less impactful phase, many contact centers plan to continue offering fully remote and hybrid working opportunities — some by choice and some at the request of their workforce.
Regardless of the reason, this means a lot of new questions and the need to reevaluate working environments to maximize the happiness, efficiency, and effectiveness of agents.
So, where do we start?
Instead of having to guess how agents feel or what trends have emerged that could affect the future of the contact center, the Conversation Excellence Lab (CEL) research team at Balto conducted a data study earlier this year to find the information key leaders need to decide on the best path forward.
The Study – Background
Before we dive into the key findings, here’s a quick overview of the methodology behind the study. The CEL surveyed 2,000 contact center employees across a multitude of different industries about a series of questions related to in-person, remote, and hybrid working environments. The data was then analyzed and broken down to look at things like workforce makeup, employee satisfaction, and industry-specific findings.
Let’s take a look at three important findings from this study and how they may affect the future of the contact center for agents and leadership.
Key Finding #1 – The Size of the Shift
According to the CEL study, the majority of workers (55.29%) are still working fully in person. 25.56% are working a hybrid model and 19.6% are fully virtual. The peak of virtual work during the PHE was around 35% in May 2020 but dropped back to around 21% by March of 2021.
The Takeaway: While hybrid and virtual employees are nearly half of the workforce, the majority still belongs to fully in-person employees. When developing strategies to manage and support agents, make sure you don’t put all your eggs into the virtual basket if you still have a significant number of employees working in person. There are solutions that can work for both environments, and it doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Key Finding #2 – H is for Hybrid…and Happy
When asked about their level of satisfaction as it pertained to pay, advancement, and overall enjoyment, hybrid employees led in-person and fully remote workers in every category. While these findings may have something to do with the nature of work that must be completed in person and what is feasible in a hybrid setting, it’s still something that can’t be neglected.
The Takeaway: If hybrid is an option for your contact center, consider giving it a test run, if you haven’t already.
Key Finding #3 – Hybrid May Offer Additional Benefits
According to the study, hybrid employees displayed the highest levels of educational attainment. On a scale from 1 (middle school education or below) to 5 (advanced degree), in-person employees average a 3.00 and virtual employees a 3.14. Hybrid employees? 3.55. In other words, hybrid employees had a higher level of education than their counterparts working in person or fully virtual.
The Takeaway: While more study is needed to dial in on exact conclusions, it’s safe to theorize that offering the flexibility of a hybrid work environment where agents get the best of both worlds may be more attractive to higher-caliber candidates.
Do These Findings Present New Challenges?
Absolutely. Anytime there are changes to your workforce’s organizational structure, you can expect challenges. But, at the risk of sounding cliché, challenge breeds opportunities to find new ways to innovate. And innovation can lead to better processes, more effective agents, and opportunities to save money.
For example, how do you handle real-time, impactful coaching when the agents are in a different location or maybe even an entirely different state? This is where technology can not only bridge the gap but offer the ability to provide better agent support and a better customer experience.
Balto’s Real-Time Coaching (RTC) allows managers to set alerts and identify opportunities to advise in real-time, as well as start listening to calls that may be escalated early on in the process. And all of this can be accomplished through streamlined dashboard integrations remotely. So, instead of hovering over the agent’s desk, as is often the in-person process, technology now does the monitoring for you and affords the opportunity for better and more effective coaching in the moment.
This is just one example of how technology and opportunities exist to meet the new challenges of remote workers.
One thing we can be certain of is that at least a partially remote workforce is here to stay for the foreseeable future. This means that forward-thinking leaders need to be prepared to implement the processes, technology, and support needed to help their agents succeed. Not only is this good for outcomes, but it can go a long way to help with employee retention.