The Top 5 Mistakes Companies Make with Remote Work

Illustration by Chris Fernandez

Remote work in contact centers has evolved from an alternate staffing strategy to a core employee benefit. In fact, 80% of contact centers today embrace flexible scheduling and remote working for some segment of their population.

Based on remote-work consulting and conferences with hundreds of clients, trends that we see in terms of mistakes and key learnings that companies have experienced in the last eight months include the following:

1. Employee connection is too much effort.

When connecting and sharing for remote employees requires more effort than their in-house counterparts, participation slips, engagement drops, and remote employees will likely feel as though their participation and contributions are of less value to the company.

Connecting to the company and other employees should be as easy for remote employees as it is for in-house employees—meaning, doing both should be no more than two clicks away. Platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx Teams make it super simple for teammates to maintain visibility and connectivity during the day and have easy exchanges (work and social) across a variety of channels.

2. Virtual new-hire training is off, and early day support is off.

New-hire training is an intense experience in the contact center environment. It often consists of immersion into multiple systems (some usually legacy), exposure to a broad and complex set of customer experience functions, and self-service tools for employees that are not (yet) up to snuff. Companies that couple this daunting three- to four-week experience with limited support coming out of training find that their turnover for remote employees within the first 90 days is often higher than in-house.

Getting virtual new-hire training right takes 12 to 18 months. Incremental support for remote employees (transitioning out of new-hire) mitigates the risk of losing otherwise capable employees and helps to identify gaps in new-hire training more quickly.

3. Going too wide vs. deep with sourcing and assessment.

Companies that expand hiring from targeted markets to 40+ states simply to chase the lowest labor costs often find themselves sifting through tens of thousands of applicants when they only need to hire a few hundred people. It’s a difficult and costly process, and nearly impossible to get to the best applicants in a timely manner.

Unless a company is hiring 2,000+ people per year, a much more effective approach is to target five to 10 markets that align with company objectives and more quickly and deeply engage and assess applicants within those markets.

4. Misrepresenting (unintentionally) the work!

In the bricks-and-mortar contact center environment, applicants usually come on-site to observe the pace, the systems, the navigational skills and customer skills that are required in many roles. In the absence of this exposure, misrepresentation of the contact center role is growing and can contribute to higher attrition in early days of employment.

Utilizing job simulation tools to expose remote/virtual applicants to the job accurately removes a good deal of the risk for misunderstanding in the early days and the costly impact of new-hire attrition.

5. Undermarket wages.

Amazon changed the game for entry-level customer service by raising their minimum pay to $15 per hour. At the same time, the complexity of customer transactions continues to rise, with the maturation of web self-service as a first stop for customers seeking assistance. When customers (today) start reaching for help beyond self-service (to voice, chat, email), it is often with a problem and an emotion they are carrying with it.

Customer resolutions (compared to five, three and even two years ago) require enhanced skills and higher emotional IQ. Companies that embrace this reality with pay that reflects the new environment will more often find matching skills. Companies that choose to ignore the change are struggling to fill positions and suffer higher churn.