The Home Working Contact Centre – How to Make It Work

Over the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increasing number of contact centre employees working from home. For many organisations, this period has demonstrated that home working is not only possible, but also both beneficial and desirable.

With this in mind, we take a look at a few key factors you’ll need to consider when setting up your home working contact centre.

  1. Understand what the benefits are

When first establishing your home working contact centre, it’s helpful to understand what the benefits of this kind of setup are. This allows you to design the system to its strengths and to maximise performance levels.

  • Reduced expenditure – one of the most appealing benefits associated with remote working is reduced expenditure, as a significant amount of any organisation’s budget goes on leasing and maintaining a brick-and-mortar property. However, as you’re spending on setup, you’ll likely find that expenditure actually increases at first. It’s important to remember that home working yields savings in the long run and that you have to remain patient.
The Home Working Contact Centre - How to Make It Work
  • Lower attrition rates – some businesses are reporting attrition rates that are 50-70% lower than traditional contact centres (Transcom Worldwide).
  • Improved productivity – Research has shown that contact centres can expect a 13% improvement in productivity. Broken down, 9% of this increase is attributed to working more minutes (because employees are taking fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% is attributed to handling more calls per minute (CX Central).

  1. Manage employee expectations

For many employees, home working is the promised land – the perfect work environment. A workplace where you can work when you want, where there are fewer arbitrary rules and where you’re able to achieve a better work-life balance.

While this may be true for some people, there’s a considerable number of employees who will likely be disappointed by the reality. To prevent dissatisfaction with your home working setup, it’s a good idea to establish and manage employee expectations. This may mean:

  • Ensuring employees understand that contact centres cannot be flexible with work hours as they’re dictated by peaks and troughs in customer demand
  • Establishing the fact that the nature of the work will not change and that existing standards will be maintained and in some cases raised
  • Communicating the idea that home working requires a great deal of self-discipline
  • Explaining that current home working conditions are not representative of future home working conditions. For instance, many organisations are very understanding when it comes to interruptions or employees having kids around the home – this will likely change when the COVID-19 measures are removed.

  1. Health and safety considerations

Just because your employees are now working from home, doesn’t mean you’re no longer responsible for their health and safety. You still have the same H&S responsibilities as before, except now you’re faced with the challenge of ensuring employee safety in an environment over which you have very little control.

We would recommend taking the following H&S factors into consideration when setting up a home working contact centre.

The Home Working Contact Centre - How to Make It Work
  • You’ll have to provide your homeworkers with a complete workstation kit consisting of everything they need (e.g. phone, desk, chair, computer)
  • All equipment provided will have to be H&S compliant
  • Employees will need to be given guidelines detailing what is and is not permissible from an H&S perspective
  • All equipment needs to be installed in a way that’s compliant with H&S and then signed off by a supervisor
  • A reporting process for H&S issues must be established

  1. Building the right technology suite

One of the key factors that will determine the success of your home working contact centre is what technology you choose to utilise. When it comes to building your home working tech suite, we think there are five key factors you need to consider.

  • Hardware – your employees will need computers and digital infrastructure that meet your required specifications
  • Software – employees will need communication software (while Zoom has emerged as a lockdown favourite, there are far superior pieces of software that will serve you better in the long run), channel contact software, CRM software and perhaps a VPN
  • Security – security is one of the biggest home working concerns. You risk the future of your organisation if you don’t provide employees with adequate security software
  • Management – those in supervisory and management roles will need access to software that allows them to carry out functions that previously took place on a face-to-face basis. Monitoring software will also be required to ensure that employees aren’t taking advantage of home working
  • Collaboration – employees will need a way to work together and collaborate. This means equipping them with chat software and a productivity suite that utilises cloud technology to provide access to shared files

  1. Ensure knowledge can spread between employees

Not every employee is equipped with the knowledge required to work effectively from home. Consequently, you need to ensure that you’ve got a good education programme in place for those members of staff who need to up-skill.

While some of the instruction you’ll need to work from home will come from presentations, lectures and workshops, employees are also very good at picking things up as they go.

The Home Working Contact Centre - How to Make It Work

However, this ability to learn new skills independently doesn’t mean much if they can’t pass on the information. Peer to peer learning is one of the most effective means of information transmission and you need to ensure that employees have a platform to share what they’ve learnt. This could mean setting up short, weekly tech meetings, creating a forum for employees to communicate and troubleshoot, or asking individuals to conduct their own lectures or create unique educational resources.

  1. Maintaining the sense of togetherness

One of the main reasons many employees gave for not wanting to work from home was that they value the camaraderie of the office and enjoy being part of a team. While that team may no longer be working in the same physical space, individuals will still appreciate and seek out that feeling of togetherness. An intelligent home working solution will recognise this desire and find ways to provide that sense of belonging.

What Next?

While setting up a home working contact centre may seem complex, the technology and expertise required to do so are readily available. The real challenge is equipping employees with the right equipment, managing, motivating and teaching them from a distance, and ensuring that they don’t begin home working with unrealistic expectations.

For many managers, productivity remains a concern – how will they know if employees are actually doing what they’re supposed to? In reality, monitoring software provides you with more in-depth productivity data than you would ever have in a traditional contact centre. Instead, it’s a case of providing employees with the tools they need, establishing expectations and providing high-quality support when it’s required.

We’ve been helping customer contact centres deliver better service for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more.