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The new norm post-COVID means redefining home working

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The new norm post-COVID means redefining home working

Although working from home was originally intended to be a stop-gap for many businesses during the pandemic, employers and employees alike are seeing the benefits. As Anne-Meine Gramsma, chief commercial officer at ContactCenter4ALL reports, Gartner predicts over 40% of all employees will continue remote working post-COVID and many businesses are seriously considering shifting suitable operations to 24×7 remote working, ushering in a new long-term way of working that surpasses ‘traditional’ office-based work and what we traditionally refer to as home working.

Remote working used to mean staff worked from home using standard office applications – often on personal devices and leaving employees lacking dedicated remote working solutions that ensure staff and customer communication and collaboration remain unaffected.

Home working redefined

During lockdown, businesses became more aware of the need for Unified Communications platforms to advance remote working and provide the enhanced technology that could offer these dedicated remote collaboration and communication features. Witness the boom in popularity for Microsoft Teams – the platform has seen 75-plus million users per day since lockdowns were established worldwide. This upward trend is not set to disappear post-pandemic.

Remote working – the new norm for happy employees

The new norm post-COVID is likely to encourage employees to work from a remote location. The objective is to embrace a strategy that is more efficient and effective for everybody – and that includes the customer. Yes, commute times and expenses are significantly reduced, and prepandemic research indicates employees who work from home are significantly more productive, but businesses must ensure they put in place effective, long-term remote working strategies that ensure customer service levels are not affected, but rather enhanced.

Redefining remote working means delivering uninterrupted first-class customer experiences

All that is typically required for contact centre agents to work effectively from home is access to modern contact centre software, a headset and a pair of monitors. But it takes more than this to deliver uninterrupted services to customers at the speed and level expected by today’s consumers.

I’ve already mentioned the dramatic growth in usage of Microsoft Teams during this lockdown period. When a proven collaboration platform such as Teams is integrated with dedicated contact centre software, then businesses can stay fully accessible to customers, integrating collaborative platforms and capabilities for all remote agents to maintain the same high level of agility and flexibility.

Remote workers must be able to communicate with customers, using their channel of choice

Solutions must be able to handle omnichannel communications, in which remote workers can provide support on the customer’s channel of choice depending on regional popularity. Integrating these communication channels into a single client unlocks further features to help deliver an excellent customer experience, such as warm transfers, enhanced call routing and colleague availability alerts.

Intelligent call routing a priority for remote working

Disparate customer service teams can pose challenges in delivering a consistent customer experience. Customer calls are often at risk of being routed to the first available agent instead of the most suitable agent for a specific query – increasing resolution times and customer frustration. Features such as intelligent, skill-based routing help tackle this by ensuring customers receive first-time problem solving from the best available expert, without compromising on answer times. All incoming customer calls, regardless of channel, can be routed through the same engine and assigned based on query type.

Remote working must not mean poor accountability

Another challenge to overcome with remote teams is ensuring employees are fully accountable and operating as effectively as their office-based counterparts. Here contact centre solutions can incorporate extra functionalities for real-time reporting, to ensure agents are operational and delivering a consistently high level of customer service.

For supervisors this means access to granular reporting dashboards, with performance metrics and data visualised through tools such as Power BI. This goes far beyond capturing standard details such as customer solve rates. Supervisors are provided with heats maps of activity to identify particularly busy periods of demand on a daily and weekly basis, and can track average call-back times and queue times to identify and address potential bottlenecks where more agents are required.

The time is ripe to embrace the remote contact centre

Remote operations based on a platform such as Microsoft Teams and enhanced with dedicated contact centre software will ensure agents can effectively collaborate to provide the right service and skillset to the customer’s channel of choice. Businesses without dedicated remote working solutions can today make the transition to large-scale remote working within weeks. Shifting to a fully remote contact centre offers benefits for businesses, employees and importantly customers alike – if a remote strategy is thoroughly evaluated, tailored to requirements and deployed effectively to ensure customer service levels remain high.

By Anne-Meine Gramsma

VanillaPlus Nov 19th 2020