Originally posted by ICMI.
The contact center has transformed rapidly since the global pandemic took hold. COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the trend of virtual and hybrid call centers, at first with stay-at-home orders, and now with social distancing protocols. Corporations and contact centers must take advantage of innovative platforms and processes to engage contact center candidates and employees.
From sourcing and recruiting to training, management and retention, digitized solutions alongside process changes are crucial for supporting virtual and hybrid contact centers and work-from-home agents. Doing so will reduce time spent on routine tasks, create a steady flow of candidates, increase employee retention, and, ultimately, improve customer service levels.
Below are some suggested best practices for corporations and contact centers to ensure their candidates and employees remain engaged in the new remote contact center:
Recruiting virtual contact center candidates.
Contact center recruiters have been accustomed to hiring in location-specific markets. Now, with work-from-home (WFH) agents, they are far less constrained geographically. In some cases, their candidate pools have grown 100-fold, leaving them faced with evaluating massive amounts of applicants while ensuring their organizations cut through the noise in the marketplace.
To optimize this process, contact center recruiters are investing in targeted pay-per-click posts on social sites, SEO for Job Boards and Google Jobs, programmatic job postings targeted to each market, and virtual career fairs. A one-size-fits-all approach to job posting spend can lead to a poor return on investment, as market supply and competition levels can vary greatly by geography.
Many organizations are looking to partners for help with such programs, often requiring flexible terms to match the wild fluctuations in talent demand and supply. Recruiters also are discovering that many people can't work a full 40-hour week due to other responsibilities, such as caring for high-risk family members and supporting children who are distance learning. This means they need more candidates to meet demand. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help manage both the increased number of required hires and increased applicant flow from a broader recruiting geography. AI automatically engages candidates via text and email, responds to common questions, and sends scheduling reminders to reduce drop-offs and no-shows. This frees recruiters from administrative tasks and allows them to focus on higher level functions such as developing candidate relationships.
Assessing work environment and technology capabilities is a crucial step in a work-from-home world. Does the candidate have a quiet place from which to take customer services calls? Does she have good phone reception, solid internet access, and a powerful enough computer to do the job? To determine candidate quality, tools such as online candidate assessments, virtual job tryouts and tests shed light on core customer support behaviors, competencies, and skills. Background checks can be outsourced, and companies can assess technology and work environment via in-house or outsourced audits.
Onboarding, training and managing remote and hybrid contact center employees
Once you've found and hired the right agents, you then must turn to onboarding, training and retention. Remote agents require trained supervisors that can motivate and help troubleshoot from afar. Communication is the name of the game in this environment, and good communication can be difficult when wading through material. Some organizations have gone as far as hiring comedians to be part of their online training program to keep new employees engaged during the process.
Communication and collaboration are key, and contact centers can start by setting clear expectations for work hours, meetings, and how to troubleshoot. Regular check-ins with managers and team meetings can be facilitated with tools such as Slack and GoogleMeet. Employee surveys also are helpful.
Motivating and rewarding WFH employees helps maintain a connection to company culture. Employee recognition and fun virtual events, as well as training, learning and knowledge sharing, play important roles. Companies should consider offering health and wellness support, perks and discounts, and reimbursements for home office equipment, such as chairs and headsets. Also, be sure to communicate corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and be sure your employees have an opportunity to participate in them.
Better results today, more agility tomorrow
The contact center has been transformed into a new world of remote and hybrid work. Thankfully, there is a road map for ensuring your candidates and employees are engaged, even in this rapidly changing environment. And, there are partners available to support you every step of the way whether you need a point solution or a holistic program. By investing in the right combination of people and technology, your contact center will remain competitive and be better prepared to meet changes in demand for talent and customer service.
Brian Cotter is co-founder and president of PSG Global Solutions, the world's largest and fastest growing provider of outsourced recruiting support to the global staffing and recruiting industry.