Every contact center encounters its fair share of hurdles on the path to success. Why struggle in silence when you can face the problem head on?
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Fix-It Friday targets contact center leaders’ biggest frustrations with solution-focused content. Keep an eye out every other Friday as we tackle a new topic.
This week, we’re talking through ways to keep remote agents engaged.
How Common Are Remote Contact Center Agents?
The contact center landscape has shifted dramatically in the last few years. Only about 13% of agents worked from home in late 2019; according to Balto’s research, nearly 45% of agents now work remotely or in a hybrid model.
Because this shift came unexpectedly, many contact centers didn’t have time to develop — let alone refine — processes for keeping remote agents engaged. Given the abrupt change, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of contact centers rate disaster recovery and business continuity as the main benefit of remote work.
But as nearly a third of contact centers redesign their processes to accommodate virtual work, it’s clear that remote and hybrid agents are here to stay.
Are Remote Agents Really Less Engaged?
Nearly a quarter of contact centers believe that remote work has had a negative impact on employee engagement.
And it’s easy to see why. Just 10 years ago, only about 10% of agents ever worked from home, so the contact center environment isn’t historically built for virtual engagement.
Still, engaged and satisfied agents are 8.5x more likely to stay at their jobs and 3.3x more likely to feel extremely empowered to solve customer issues. Customer experience and attrition are focal points for many contact centers and engagement is a proven factor in improving both, so leaders can’t afford to shrug their shoulders when it comes to engaging remote employees.
Now that the dust has settled following the rapid reshuffle of agent location, how can contact centers ensure that their remote and hybrid employees are just as engaged as their in-office counterparts?
Finding the Fix for Disengaged Agents
The modern contact center is a rapidly evolving concept, but one thing is certain: it no longer mandates that every agent work in the office every day.
In the absence of in-person interaction, there are still ways to make sure agents stay engaged.
Focus on Virtual Team Building
Despite the documented benefits of agent engagement, many contact centers let engagement-focused initiatives fall by the wayside.
Social events are one of the easiest ways to give agents a sense of community at work, but the number of contact centers that host social activities has fallen by more than 25% since 2015.
It’s true that remote work makes team building slightly more complicated, but it’s certainly not impossible. Dedicate one huddle a month to a virtual game that fosters collaboration, develop a mentorship program between new and veteran employees, or encourage agents to create “clubs” on Slack or Teams to chat about shared interests.
Studies show that creating a sense of community boosts retention. With high churn rates in many contact centers, helping agents engage with their peers can meaningfully impact on your organization.
Stay in Close Communication
When agents have access to the support they need, they feel more confident in their work. And when managers check in regularly, it’s easier for remote agents to stay engaged.
The majority of agents who can reach their supervisors within a couple of minutes report being satisfied and engaged. The longer it takes to reach a supervisor, the less satisfied agents are.
An overly-watchful management style has the opposite effect, so it’s important to distinguish between communicating and breathing down agents’ necks. Give agents some level of autonomy over their work — when they feel a sense of ownership, they’re more likely to stay engaged.
Make sure agents have a clear line of communication with managers, encourage managers to check in with agents regularly, and establish a precedent for speedy replies when agents reach out.
Take Engagement Surveys Seriously
Over 67% of contact centers measure engagement through periodic agent feedback surveys. The rest either gauge engagement through attrition rates, or don’t measure engagement at all.
Surveys can be a great tool, particularly when given to remote agents prone to disengagement, but the feedback must actually be put to use. If you don’t yet complete engagement surveys, start now. If you do complete periodic surveys, make sure you’re using what you learn to update your practices.
Agents may say they feel disengaged because their work is repetitive; explore ways to incentivize performance goals for added excitement. If they say they feel ill equipped to succeed because they receive little coaching, set new coaching targets for managers.
You may notice an engagement divide amongst in-person and remote employees — consider checking in with remote agents more often. Ask in-depth questions around virtual engagement, and take their feedback seriously. Whatever you learn through agent engagement surveys, show agents you respect their feedback by making changes to address their complaints.
Gamify and Customize the Agent Experience
In a virtual workplace, every day necessarily revolves around technology. Without it, remote agents simply wouldn’t be able to do their jobs.
But it’s not just productivity that the right technology can boost. Investing in a solution that supports gamification elements like badges, challenges, and leaderboards can do wonders for engagement.
In fact, almost 90% of employees say that gamification makes them happier and more productive at work. Despite that, 69% of contact centers use no form of gamification whatsoever. Find ways to gamify agents’ work that make sense in your organization and implement game-like elements into your daily practices.
Another key factor in engagement is personalization. Agents are individuals; giving them the freedom to express themselves as such can greatly improve contact center results.
For example, almost two thirds of agents want to change their script, but that number drops for agents highly involved in the script writing process. What’s more, remote agents have lower confidence in scripts than their in-person peers, despite sticking to scripts more closely.
All of this is to say that allowing agents the ability to customize their scripts or making scripts more flexible with room for improvisation can improve satisfaction and engagement with every call.
If customizing scripts simply isn’t an option, look for other ways to personalize the agent experience. Giving agents the option to change the look of an often-used app or software solution can brighten their day and make them more engaged.
Contact center solutions like Balto’s Real-Time Guidance platform enable gamification and personalization that drive both engagement and wins. Whether you invest in new tech or establish manual processes to make remote agents’ work more fun and customizable, remember that these elements compound and lead to better engagement.
Pick Your Fix, Forget Disengagement
Most contact centers are more remote-friendly than ever, so it’s vital to keep virtual and hybrid agents happy. Engaging agents from afar is simple with the right fix.
Check back every other Friday for insight into a new topic, and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s a contact center issue you’d like to learn how to fix.