Failure Points for work at home call center agent programs
ILLUSTRATION BY NICK ABRAMS

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with 800-plus organizations in design, implementation and continuous improvement of work-at-home programs for contact centers.

Now that home working for contact centers is moving into the mainstream, there are some patterns emerging in terms of failure points. The following are the top three, along with proven methods of turning things around, or better, avoiding the failure points altogether.

1. Bad Hiring

Sixty-two percent of respondents from the “2015 Remote Working Benchmarking Survey” cited poor job matches as the top reason for turnover, particularly in the 30 to 120 day employment window. This is generally the highest turnover segment for contact centers, and the highest cost, due to churn. To minimize bad hiring:

  • Streamline and automate processes; transform from a “manual” environment.
  • Use 21st century technology for sourcing and assessing candidates (recorded interviews, simulations).
  • Incorporate personality testing into your process once you’ve established what “good hires” look like.
  • Put together well-thought-out behavioral interview questions.
  • Arm yourself with ample and qualified hiring resources.
  • Don’t set unrealistic hiring targets.

2. Bad Management

Employees who are successful in training, but who later (around 30 to 120 days) disengage and depart, are likely feeling too much distance and lack of support. Distance and lack of support could be caused by your business processes and technologies (covered in “No. 3: Virtual Distance”) or by the quality of your managers. The following are a few best practices for improving poor remote-working management techniques.

  • Align the way work gets done (on site and virtual). If everyone accesses the same systems to share knowledge, communicate, recognize and exchange, then moving someone a few blocks or a few hundred miles away won’t matter much, if at all. In other words, go digital (chat, enterprise social networks, video).
  • Prepare managers for the virtual distinctions that do exist in your organization and best methods to close the gaps.
  • Set expectations for the frequency and quality of touch/interactions.
  • Expect and measure demonstrated competency of virtual working (for managers and team members).
  • Be careful not to put a mediocre manager in charge of remote employees—they will struggle or fail.

3. Virtual Distance

When people feel cut off, isolated or have to exert incrementally higher effort to be seen or heard (compared to their in-house counterparts or other jobs they’ve had in the past), they will eventually lose interest and move on to an environment where it’s not so difficult to achieve their personal best. Surefire methods of marginalizing “virtual distance” in your work environment include the following:

  • Go digital. Everybody works from the same platforms to get stuff done, regardless of where they sit.
  • Visibility of co-workers. Implement an enterprise social network (Yammer, Jabber, Socialcast).
  • Require use of social platforms. It’s not just for fun, it’s where most exchanges take place.
  • Share knowledge. Use peer resolution to solve problems (group chats, groups on the enterprise social network).
  • Keep score. Implement real-time desktop scorecards so everybody knows how everyone else is doing.
  • Engage/applause. At a minimum, utilize the enterprise social network for reward/recognition—and even better, add gamification to amp up the fun and value.
  • Measure effectiveness of your remote program frequently—bimonthly mini-surveys at a minimum.

Join us at one of the two Advanced At Home Strategies Workshops in 2016 for deep-dive discussions and best-practice exchanges on all of above. (July 20-21, 2016, in Denver; or November 16-17, 2016, in Laguna Beach, CA). Click here for more information.

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