2020 signalled a seismic change for contact centres, implementing cloud technologies, new workflows, and transitioning to remote working environments.
2021 presented many new challenges, as ever-changing COVID regulations scuppered plans to transition to hybrid working models and took their toll on employee wellbeing.
Now, in 2022, it is time to prepare for the long term. As such, many managers are considering how to optimise people, processes, and technology to empower the hybrid agent of tomorrow.
Here are three significant considerations to get started.
Equip Agents with the Tools They Need
Thanks to self-service and automation, the complexity of the “average” contact centre interaction is rising. As a result, coaching and support systems must evolve to safeguard agent wellbeing.
In hybrid environments, this may seem tricky, as the immediate face-to-face support is not there. Yet, combining CCaaS and UCaaS capabilities empowers the contact centre to create channels for subject matter expert (SME) support, video interactions, and group chats. These features facilitate a supportive community that aids agent performance, engagement, and mental health.
Hosting these collaboration tools and other applications within a smart desktop enables a seamless agent workflow that simplifies the agent role. As Louise Newbury-Smith, UK Country Manager at RingCentral, says:
“Switching between different platforms for different capabilities is a real drain on time, so leaders should be supporting agent performance by finding the platform that can act as a central, virtual workspace, encompassing everything they need in a single hub.”
An omnichannel contact centre environment facilitates this, feeding customer context from every interaction into a CRM, conveniently embedded within the smart desktop.
Adding a well-managed knowledge base into the loop will also help hybrid agents to secure much-needed support. Combining this with an agent-assist bot that understands customer conversations and proactively feeds the agent with relevant real-time knowledge articles will further empower hybrid teams.
In terms of supporting agent wellbeing, WFM software helps to give the team more control over their schedule and a better work-life balance. Meanwhile, analytics-driven real-time reporting tools enable supervisors to monitor remote agent sentiment and intervene when troubling patterns emerge, safeguarding mental health.
Establish Clear Agent Processes
The Harvard Business Review pinpoints four essentials for managing and supporting remote employees. These are:
- Regular, structured check-ins
- Multiple communication options – and established norms for each
- Opportunities for social interactions
- Ongoing encouragement and emotional support
Baking these into the company culture requires clear processes to ensure initiatives do not fall by the wayside. In contact centres and larger companies, this often happens as frantic firefighting embeds itself into the workplace DNA.
In a hybrid environment, processes are especially crucial, ensuring that remote agents do not feel as though they are missing out. After all, social isolation and uncertainty are dangerous, harming mental health and accelerating attrition.
Establishing clear processes around the four essentials above protects the contact centre from such dangers. Meanwhile, other processes – across areas such as performance management, governance, and call handling – build agent confidence that they are doing the right things.
For example, consider call escalations. In many remote environments, agents are unclear when to escalate and who they should pass the conversation onto. During difficult interactions, this causes panic to set in.
As such, providing clear guidance is crucial. Tools such as RingCentral Call Monitoring can help. As Newbury-Smith says:
“RingCentral offers a whisper coaching tool, meaning supervisors can guide agents through the interaction, if they receive an alert that the agent is struggling. Call barging allows you to take over the call whenever necessary.”
However, Newbury-Smith stresses that contact centres must adopt such tools with a coaching and supporting mindset rather than falling into the trap of micromanagement.
Of course, this trap is one to be wary of when creating processes. Yet, by engaging with hybrid agents when creating these processes and building in their feedback, the contact centre gives itself every chance of success.
Support Supervisors to Assist Agents
Equipping supervisors with the reporting tools to monitor agent wellbeing in real-time and intervene at the most significant moments is an excellent strategy to avoid burnout.
Sentiment analysis, which measures agent and customer emotion, is especially good for pinpointing the optimal moments for a quick, supportive call. Or, if the supervisor is busy, a short agent break.
Supervisors that lack this capability can instead monitor metrics – such as average handling time (AHT) and break times – to gather an indication of wellbeing.
To drive further benefits from contact centre KPIs, supervisors can also harness gamification tools to engage agents and inspire healthy competition that supports a vibrant culture. Making this point, Newbury-Smith says:
“With elements such as gamification, leaders can also foster a real sense of team unity and positive motivation among their team, helping to drive better productivity and results, as well as employee engagement.”
Such motivation should also come from a sense of purpose. The supervisor’s job is to communicate that purpose, telling agents why they do things, not just how.
Therefore, it is crucial to coach supervisors to be excellent communicators, so they can both motivate agents and have difficult conversations. Being able to do so over video is a tricky but fundamental skill for an inspiring leader of a positive hybrid community.
Create a Culture and Community That Drives Success
2022 will continue to present unique challenges to contact centres as they tweak and perfect their hybrid working strategies.
Yet, by equipping hybrid agents with the tools and coaching they need, establishing transparent processes, and supporting supervisors, contact centres can build a positive community that sets the customer service team up for success.
Eager to enhance the hybrid employee experience and build such a positive culture? RingCentral offers the tools and knowledge to help you do just that. Discover more by delving into the following in-depth (with a familiar title): The Hybrid Agent Starter Kit
To instead uncover more about RingCentral and its position as a leading CCaaS vendor, check out its fascinating Next-Gen Cloud Contact Centres for Dummies report.