How to build a powerful remote agent workforce

How to build a powerful remote agent workforce

Sep 29, 2021

 

The market demand for quality customer service agents is typically high, but it can be even higher during peak seasons, such as during the holidays (think online retailers during Christmas shopping season), or vacation periods (think travel or resort agencies). This means that if you build and maintain your workforce effectively, you’ll have all the required resources ready when needed – regardless of seasonality or location.

In fact, according to an Aberdeen Group survey, one of the strong benefits of contact centers going virtual or remote is that it allows employees to work from home, which could reduce overhead costs for companies by as much as 30%.

In the contact center, every agent is unique and brings something different from their background, experience and expertise. While some people have a natural predisposition for managing customer interactions, all agents need regular and systematic training to gain additional skills, improve performance, reinforce core skills (active listening, empathy and ability to manage escalated calls), and ultimately enhance the customer experience.

This is especially true when faced with a largely remote workforce. Training takes on even greater importance. So, how do you build a powerful remote contact center? Let’s take a look.

 

Traditional training is not enough

While contact center managers are responsible for scheduling and managing agents, training is usually the task of contact center trainers. Trainers prepare different contact scenarios to test an agent’s ability to answer questions and resolve issues. They also provide feedback on the quality of agent answers and interactions, and make guided suggestions on how to improve.

Contact centers have been able to successfully implement work-from-home programs by employing cloud-based solutions that maximize productivity through an optimal use of contact center resources. But what happens when these resources are spread across home offices or remote locations? How can you keep them aligned with individual and company goals?

Providing effective training is difficult, but even harder when agents are virtual. Trainers need to see an agent’s expression and answer time – which is difficult when you’re dealing with a remote workforce spread across different locations. It’s why during this pandemic and the new work-from-home era, contact centers need to rethink their training programs to focus more on learning.

 

Learning is not training

Training is the process of applying knowledge to an existing situation – like improving an agent’s ability to respond to a specific question, while learning occurs when agents gain new knowledge and skills that serve to enhance performance, the customer experience or other key objectives.  Learning can be done through online or instructor-led training, or by following video tutorials.

And because a strong, cohesive workforce is a team effort, contact center managers need to play an active role in the training process – even if they are not directly responsible for the actual training.

 

Use technology for contact center training

Modern contact centers need modern training strategies to achieve high-quality customer service goals. The advent of advanced technologies and contact center software has enabled companies to use video-based customer interaction scenarios for training purposes.

Video scenarios provide effective agent training using individualized guidance and instructions on responses. With videos, instructors can add personalized commentary, thoughts and additional information immediately after each scenario recording. Agents can replay these videos as many times as they want, enabling them to study the interaction scenario at their own pace, and refer back to the video as needed.

Contact center solutions with recording capabilities help managers and supervisors identify interaction issues and evaluate agent performance in real-time. It enables them to measure quality – including average handling time, abandoned calls and even, post-interaction survey results – and can use these recordings as a basis to monitor and audit, and to identify agents who require additional training or coaching.

 

Incorporate e-learning into agent training

Remote or virtual contact centers are promoting the concept of learning from anywhere at any time. They also adopt learning solutions that make training more flexible and agile, so contact center agents can receive more frequent training when and as needed.

Contact centers that implement an online learning system as part of their training strategy will be able to provide more consistent customer interaction scenarios – without the need for managers or trainers to act as live instructors.

Online learning systems can help contact centers provide their agents with access to accurate and timely training materials, customer interaction recordings and other helpful material during off-peak periods or at scheduled times throughout the year. Plus, individual or group sessions can be scheduled at any time and helps managers and supervisors review agent performance in real-time.

And the good news is, some e-learning systems can integrate with telephony and certain contact center platforms with the ability to push training during slower or off-peak times.

Another great reason to adopt e-learning? It reduces contact center training costs because there are no in-person associated fees or costs and can be updated as needed.

 

Learning Management Systems (LMS) create a learner-centric environment

An LMS is an online portal where agents can access various training modules based on their current skill level and areas of expertise. Agents can access company-approved courses according to their training level.

An LMS also offers contact center managers and contact center supervisors the ability to create, assign and track agent performance based on real-world customer interaction scenarios or past history. The information can be used as a part of the agent’s regular performance review process – helping contact center agents understand specific customer interaction issues that require additional training.

In contact centers where agents often have to work in teams, an LMS can be used for agent collaboration purposes where managers can provide feedback after each interaction scenario which helps contact center agents learn from each other’s experience.

Additionally, because contact centers are under increasing pressure to reduce costs while increasing productivity, managers can reduce contact center training costs by using scenarios as part of the contact center agent’s regular performance review process.

For organizations that want to expand the capabilities of their LMS system, they’ll need to make sure it integrates with existing enterprise-level contact applications and multimedia recording systems.

Leading learning management systems offer mobile-friendly courses so you can deliver scenarios to your contact center agents in the way that best suits their needs – via email, PC or mobile device.

 

Quality management

The contact center is a fast-paced industry, which means that agents need to be able to deal with high volumes of different types of interactions across channels while maintaining quality standards, without compromising productivity. Contact centers usually have established workflows that aims for an optimum customer experience across all channels.

A quality management system (QMS) ensures that agents perform their job efficiently by reducing errors or deviations when managing customer interactions. It also helps contact center managers and customer service managers coordinate their activities and maintain standards across operations.

An essential element in a contact center strategy, the data collected from quality management is gathered, analyzed and used to identify problem areas or growth opportunities for use in new agent trainings. By constantly monitoring quality, agents are provided with a continuous stream of improvement trainings.

 

The assessment tool is a powerful performance weapon

A contact center assessment tool can help supervisors monitor agent performance over time and give meaningful insights on interaction management, quality and resource utilization.

Performance data collected can then be used for monitoring purposes as well as training agents on improving handing capabilities.

 

It’s not about the tools, but the strategy

When it comes to contact center training, contact center managers should keep in mind that agents are increasingly spending more time working remotely instead of in physical locations. As the nature of work changes and more people are working remotely, it’s become increasingly difficult to maintain processes and share timely information and knowledge. The key is training agents in such a way that they’re able to get up-to-speed quickly while still providing an excellent customer experience.

That’s where an all-encompassing learning strategy comes in supported by tools that facilitate effective learning.

E-learning web applications, MLS systems, assessment tools and quality management are all important pieces of the puzzle when engaging with remote workers. Some e-learning applications and MLS systems can integrate with telephony platforms so that training can be pushed during low occupancy times or even offer on-demand training sessions based on agent requests.

With these solutions in place, it becomes much easier to maintain quality standards across your enterprise while also ensuring a high-level of customer service, at every touchpoint.

 

What does your company do to manage this challenge? Let us know! We would love to hear from you.

Not sure where to start? Our workforce management experts can review your learning environment and propose strategies and solutions that can promote quality agent interactions.

 

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