Creating Home Agents for Your Call Center
May 23, 2012
Having a team of work at home agents for your call center can be a great! Outside of the obvious cost savings, a work at home force also exhibits lower attrition levels, offers redundancy in case of disasters, and can allow the outsource provider to tap into a workforce that may be qualified but not able to work in an office atmosphere like busy mothers, the elderly, or the disabled. In this post, I will address some of the things that you should keep in mind in order to create a world class team of home agents for your call center.
1. Have Clearly Defined Policies
It is extremely important to have the right set of people policies in place when you employ home agents. You should clearly define the expected norms during work hours (including, but not limited to, no pets at hearing distance), leave policies, and expense reimbursement policies. In fact, it would be a good idea to organize surprise inspections to verify whether the home office meets the defined quality standards.
2. Do Not Ignore Training
Although telephone answering services typically place a lot of stress on training programs, home agents are often left out of these corporate initiatives, either due to lack of technology or because they are temps or contractors who do not fall under the purview of such initiatives. However, you must remember that these home agents are also handling your customers and unless the calls meet the same standards regardless of whether they are handled from home or office, you will most likely start to lose customers. Make sure that you have the necessary technology and infrastructure to deliver trainings through video conferencing or webinars.
3. Provide Opportunities for Teamwork and Bonding
You must encourage teamwork and bonding among your agents. If you run a mixed mode call center with some home agents and some onsite agents, then it will be a great idea to allow for opportunities for both teams to interact with each other. You can organize trainings in your corporate office which home agents can be encouraged to attend in person. You can also organize virtual team meetings where members of both teams participate.
4. Prioritize Scheduling
Since most home agents would have constraints on the work hours, it is essential that you offer flexibility in terms of shift hours as well as total work hours for the home agents. However, you need to always keep the interests of your call center in mind before you agree to such demands. Therefore, it is essential that you have a proper analysis of call volumes and call flows, to arrive at an optimal schedule for your call center. Your home agents should be allowed the flexibility to choose shift times only within the limits of the optimal schedule designed.
5. Keep Your Team Motivated
One of the biggest challenges of having a virtual call center agent team is to keep the agents motivated to deliver high quality call handling and call resolutions. It is important to incentivize the team appropriately and to link these incentives to the KPIs of the call center and the SLAs for these KPIs which have been agreed with the client. Yet another way to motivate the virtual agent team is to offer them the alternative to enter the mainstream work environment, if they choose to do so. This will be a huge motivating factor for young moms who may want to ease back into full time work once the baby is older.
6. Ensure Data Security
Data security is an important aspect when it comes to having a team of virtual agents. Ensure that your IT team has a push strategy when it comes to patch and anti-virus updates. Make sure that anti-virus software and firewalls are in place to protect your corporate network from intended or unintended harm. Allow remote users to connect to your systems only through a secure VPN channel.
7. Measure and Improve
Finally, you must measure the success of your virtual team in terms of performance metrics as well as workforce metrics which need to be measured for the call center as a whole as well as for the virtual team separately. This will help to identify pain points and take necessary corrective action.
These are some of the things that you should do right, in order to have a successful call center operation by employing home agents.