Is it time to question your assumptions about the signals and signs you use to manage your staff?
The promise of work at home, or work anywhere, sometimes called “smart working,” is that employees can work where they please, when needed, when the company and its customers require. The evaluation of a “smart work” employee then needs to shift to rating the impact of their work, the achievement of their goals and the quality of work output rather than other methods. All of this sounds good for certain types of roles, but we know our contact center workforce needs to work at times when customers need to communicate with our company, which we have painstakingly planned and updated continuously using workforce management.
Over the past several weeks, our situation is different from the classic smart working use cases for contact centers. Employees are predominantly at home and not on the go, customers are also staying home and everyone is experiencing a unique set of needs along with many of the previously known needs that drive your contact center volume.
Adherence to assigned scheduled activities and compliance with those activities at the planned times observed in real-time and historically are familiar ways to understand your employee’s activity, and are still crucial tools, but the signals they send need to be assessed in the new light of changing employee and customer situations.
For example, if an employee is not starting their break on time, still working in the queue, a ‘begin break late’ situation could have several meanings. While you might assume this is a problem based on experience with this type of adherence issue during normal operations, there are several new possible causes you should be aware of:
- Employee is spending extra time with a customer
- Employee has identified that providing this customer with more time and an empathetic connection for a few minutes is necessary to have a successful interaction
- The employee themselves might feel isolated due to their remote work environment and might be stretching out the time with the customer seeking some connection
- The customer’s expectation of your company’s services may be different now based on their personal situation or the general situation
- Your policies and procedures may not be ready for the assistance the customer requires and the employee is spending more time to get to the best outcome
- Your policies and procedures may not be ready for the assistance the customer requires and the employee is spending more time and may not be able to provide the best outcome without additional assistance
- The employee may not have the experience or access to tools needed to resolve the interaction and needs assistance from other internal resources
- Your policies and procedures may take more time due to recent changes or require refinement because they are new or may simply involve more time needed in customer interactions
- Your employee’s expectation of their work situation may be different now based on their personal situation or the general situation
- System-related causes related to working remotely may slow down interaction resolution or process steps
When you see one of these adherence signals, schedule time to follow up with the employee so you can understand the situation as well as get as much information from the customer’s point of view as possible: review a recording of the interaction if available and a post-interaction survey if available.
After taking time to get the perspective of each party involved in the interaction, determine how to improve things for the future. Do employees need time to connect with others on their team to break down the sense of isolation? Do your customers need something from your company you don’t currently offer in policies and procedures? Can the contact center offer that to them? Does this long–term customer loyalty opportunity warrant a relaxation of service delivery goals?
If you find that something fundamental has changed, consider changing your adherence/compliance goals to reflect:
- longer handle times expected
- slower system access times when remote
- fundamentally different contact handling due to customer need shifts
- more time required for team building and employee morale health
Consider relaxing AHT targets, scheduling time for team communication or enabling tools for employees to request and receive remote assistance while in a customer interaction.
- Managing Your Contact Center Facilities Amid Contagion - June 23, 2020
- Employee Adherence at Home: Watch for Signals — but Reassess Their Meaning - April 2, 2020
- Turn Social Distancing in to Distant Socializing - March 27, 2020