Benefits of remote agents (part 2) – Productivity myths exploded
Myth #2 regarding a remote agent workforce: it’s harder to monitor quality and performance of at-home agents. Exploded: with virtual technology systems available today, it’s actually much easier.
This post is the second in a series exploring the benefits and drawbacks of the growing trend of homesourcing call centers to remote agents working from home. (Part 1 on expanded recruiting is here.) In part two of our ongoing series, we explore the question of monitoring remote personnel. This is a common objection, and let’s explode it right here. This risk comes down to three basic issues: giving up control, enhancing security and maintaining community.
Myth: With home offices, supervisors won’t be able to control agent quality and productivity.
With remote agents, supervisors can no longer walk the floor and get a feel for the productivity and coaching needs of their agents. However, this was more justified as a concern before the modern virtual call center space. Today, a range of sophisticated hosted tools provides supervisors with more information at their fingertips than ever before. Hosted desktop applications, daily metrics, and internet-delivered call recording and screen capture give a complete picture of agent performance. Regardless of where actual agents may be located, supervisors can and should have access to a host of information about agent needs and performance. For example:
- Call recording Record all or a percentage of calls. Sort and listen to calls by agent, call length (do longer calls indicate a training need?), or by client.
- Screen recording Record all or a percentage of desktop interactions. Capture a larger percentage of new agent interactions for training and a smaller percentage for established agents.
- Quality monitoring View individual agent’s success rates with specified benchmarked metrics.
In fact, many remote agent solutions offer ways to link virtual call centers that replicate a brick-and-mortar call center, with additional real-time metrics and data to provide a wealth of information about phone time and success rates.
Myth: With home offices, customer data is at risk.
One of the risks raised with at-home agents is the concern that remote agents, without immediate visual supervision, might compromise sensitive customer data. As it turns out, levels of employee fraud are in fact not elevated for remote agents. While it may seem to be an issue, this risk is for the large part nonexistant.
Survey results from a study AHCC (At Home Customer Contacts) conducted earlier this year with over 90 companies deploying the home agent model showed that 95% of companies experienced same or fewer incidents of fraudulent behavior at home versus at a brick-and-mortar call center.
Concerns about remote agent security can be easily addressed with the following:
- Rigorous employee hiring practices
- PCI compliant IVR for sensitive data collection
- Use chat, webcasts and telepresence to connect remote agents to their supervisors, each other and the corporate culture
Myth: Remote agents will lose their sense of community, and productivity will suffer.
It is true that call center managers must shift practices in order to maintain a sense of community and achievement with the remote call center model. However, with the wealth of information available through virtual monitoring and through a variety of tools designed for the remote call center manager, this task isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Online collaboration and coaching through group chat, individual chat, VoIP calls and web conferencing can keep remote agents in tune with the organization’s mission statement and attuned to the corporate culture. And individual coaching delivered through phone and web can be more beneficial than the in-house variety specifically due to the distance involved.