Heard about the benefits of contact centre homeworking but worried that it’s not going to work for your business? Here are 10 commonly-held facts about home agent working that are actually nothing more than myths:
- “Contact centre homeworking can’t be compliant.” Being compliant is about process and its application – whether through supervision or technology. Regulation does not state that compliance is location-specific. A number of UK-based contact centre home working operations today are fully FCA, Ofcom and PCI DSS compliant.
- “You can’t manage what you can’t see.” Yes you can, you just need the right people, processes, technologies and know-how. The proof point here is that contact centre homeworking operations today routinely outperform office-based centres when it comes to quality, NPS, employee engagement and other key metrics. It takes a different mindset to get the best out of a virtual team, and that includes appreciating issues from the perspective of the homeworking agent. Ensure managers are home-based (even if only partially) and that your team leaders are the bridge between your contact centre and homeworkers.
- “You can’t effectively monitor quality amongst home agents.” Again, yes you can through specialist technology tools that provide office-based and virtual managers with real-time visibility of home agent activity across all media (via call monitoring, screen capture, key-stroke technology and webcams) and enable managers to intervene in real time where necessary.
- “Homeworking is a reward for people who are trusted and work hard.” Homeworking is about individual choices related to work-life-balance. People often voluntarily trade the freedom to work their own hours and avoid travel time and cost, with the benefits they get from office working. Homeworking does not suit everyone regardless of whether they are a high achiever or not.
- “Recruitment needs to be done in the office.” Some contact centre homeworking practitioners still recruit face-to-face but a growing number have switched to virtual methods. The reality is that there’s not a lot more information you can get from a face-to-face interview than you can from a real-time Skype video call.
- “Training needs to be done in the office.” With tools such as Adobe Connect GoToTraining, the virtual community can be the virtual classroom. Homeworking agents live in a culture where they are totally comfortable being on webcam and communicating online, so there are generally few barriers to online meetings and training. In the virtual classroom, managers can post information on message boards and use live polls or post training surveys to test knowledge. Most virtual training technologies report on trainee attendance, participation and completion.
- “It’s difficult to build team spirit amongst remote teams.” Empirically, there’s little evidence to support this claim. In fact, because team members are conscious of their remote working status, people often choose to participate MORE enthusiastically in team-based activities, discussion forums etc., helping to engender a great sense of team identity. Homeworkers are typically disciplined individuals who require lower maintenance and are less demanding. That is why ratios of team leaders to agents for homeworking can be up to 30:1.
- “You can’t properly support remote workers when they get into difficulty.” ‘Remote’ shouldn’t mean ‘isolated’. Just because a homeworker can’t physically pop over to their supervisor’s desk doesn’t mean they can’t get immediate assistance. The key is to have specialist online real-time communications tools that ensure homeworking agents are part of a virtual community. Processes such as recruitment and induction ensure remote workers have clear procedures and protocols, as well a list of ‘dos and don’ts’. Virtual working is about operating in a culture of trust, whilst using processes and technology to protect against potential abuse.
- “Systems and processes that support office-based contact centre employees can just as easily support homeworkers.” Not necessarily so. It’s always useful to get your best operational leaders to audit contact centre processes (such as Health & Safety guidelines, huddles, and real-time communications) and re-engineer them as necessary for homeworking. Keep an open mind about what face-to-face processes can be virtualised, and identify people who may be resistant to change. Often a straight translation on face-to-face processes copied to a virtual environment does not work because there were flaws in the process rather than virtual working being the issue.
- “Homeworkers avoid work and commit fraud.” Look at the points addressed in 1-9 above. i.e.:
- The real reasons people want to work from home.
- The processes and technologies organisations are putting in place to recruit the right HomeAgents and then train and manage them to be effective.
- The processes and technologies they are putting in place to monitor/improve quality and guarantee compliance?
Then ask yourself “Is homeworking a soft option? Or is it something that can be hugely beneficial to all parties if taken seriously?” Whether on-site or working remotely, contact centre workers should be party to normal activity checks – and the technology available today for remote working will often provide more detailed checks and real-time feedback than systems used in traditional centres. Indeed, organisations that have turned the table and used virtual homeworking tools and techniques within their office-based centres have often realised significant quality and productivity improvements.
Michael Gray, Marketing Specialist, UK HomeAgent Forum