Work From Home Webinar Series.
In this popular webinar, participants learned about best practices, technology, and tools for managing productivity of remote agents from call center expert Heather Griffin, SVP Inside Sales at Momentum Solar, and Chief Product Officer at Convoso, Bobby Hakimi.
You’ll find the essential points covered in the Work from Home (WFH) webinar in the summary below. Your call center team can thrive with a remote operation that supports a productive at-home workforce.
WATCH THE VIDEO to get the most from the info-packed 30-minute presentation dedicated to lead generation virtual call centers.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy working with call center owners on their transition to work from home agents. The good news is, it’s simpler than you think.” —Bobby Hakimi
Technical Requirements for a Work from Home Call Center
The most basic requirements to get your agents set up with a virtual dialer are a computer, a headset, and a stable internet connection.
Work From Home Call Center Hardware
Recommended: Provide at-home agents with laptops or Chromebooks with built-in webcams, that are dedicated to work and dialing.
Not recommended: Personal devices, due to potential security concerns, as well as the inability to confirm technical specs and capacity to complete work-related tasks.
Recommended: Remote agents need a headset compatible with your dialer system, preferably with echo-cancellation built into the microphone for the best possible call quality.
Not recommended: Earbuds, hand held phone, speaker phone.
Virtual Call Center Software
Recommended: A remote call center operation definitely needs a web-supported SaaS dialer platform. Choose a browser-based dialer with multiple outbound dialing modes, prioritization for inbound dialing, and built-in dynamic scripting. This will get your agents up and running more quickly and help improve quality. Convoso has these capabilities and more, and was built with remote call centers in mind—don’t hesitate to ask us if you have questions.
Not recommended: Your agents shouldn’t have to worry about installing or updating software on their computers.
Connectivity for At-Home Call Center Employees
Recommended: A wired ethernet connection. Few things are more important to the remote call center than a reliable internet connection. Be sure to provide clear instructions to remote agents on how to connect their computer to an ethernet cable.
Less recommended: WiFi connection.
Best Practices for Managing Productivity of a Work from Home Call Center
Managing at-home call center agents effectively means providing support that keeps them connected with good communication, accountable to productivity goals, and positively motivated with employee engagement.
Communication best practices for your remote team
Hearing the voice of leadership give clear direction and guidance, and seeing familiar faces makes a big difference in keeping your WFH agents motivated.
- Hold a brief daily company and/or team meeting led by a member of leadership. Use this opportunity to communicate essential company updates, events, goals, and shoutouts through video conference technology [eg, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Team, Slack] to connect the call center team with leadership and with one another.
- Instant messaging/chat is your go-to tool for individual and small group communication throughout the day. Broadcast chat helps leadership get out quick messages to the remote team.
- One-on-one meetings, preferably via webcam, give supervisors and employees the opportunity to communicate clearly about goals, historical performance, and career growth and progression. “You should make it a 360 and really hear back from the employee and what they want to see in the business. This should happen at least once a month, if not twice a month, or weekly if possible.”
- Email is best for high-level communication, especially as a follow-up to your daily team meeting. When agents are dialing, they’re typically not checking their email—nor do you want them to. So reserve email for communication that isn’t time sensitive.
- Have a remote communication plan for handling call escalations. Is an escalation now going to be taken as a call back? Or are you going to transfer the call to a supervisor? What if the supervisor’s not available?
“Make sure you have a really clear path for all of your workflows when you move to remote.”
Accountability tools when managing work from home agents
Your agents are now working from home. So the question is, how are you going to monitor their time and productivity? You need tools that provide real time reporting and historical analytics.
“Right now, we’ve got about 400 agents working remotely from home, and we are able to see what they’re doing at any time.” —Heather Griffin
Real Time Reporting Tools
You want a dialer system that shows in real time what’s happening with your at-home agents, with a clear dashboard to monitor every employee and their status. Who’s on a dead call, on not-ready or pause, how many calls are active, and how many agents are available. Also, important to watch in real time are your abandonment rates, if you’re dropping calls, your dial speed, and if you’re running out of data. A good system will also automatically email production reports at regular intervals.
Quality Assurance Monitoring and Scoring Software
With real time reporting you may be able to see when remote agents are on calls. What you can’t see is the quality of the call. How do you ensure that agents stay on script, follow compliance regulations for the state they’re dialing, and aren’t losing their temper with customers? New software technology offers automated QA on 100% of calls.
Dynamic Scripting and State Filters
When calling different states, it’s critical to have customizable filters so you can comply with various state, and even city, regulations. The same business may also have a different sales approach in one region over another and use different scripts to reflect that.
Historical Reporting of Remote Agent Performance
In contrast to real time reporting, historical reports are meant to analyze metrics over a time period you sent, enabling you to track trends. Make sure you have access to reports that give you insights into how at-home employee paid time is spent, agent performance, and how your lists are converting.
Time Clock Monitoring
Tracking productive agent time becomes particularly critical when operating a remote call center, in order to ensure that agents are on-task during their scheduled hours. In some cases, agents might clock in to get paid, and go on to other activities before they actually clock into the dialer. By checking daily, managers also see if this happens on breaks and lunch.
Disposition and Pause Time Reporting
Virtual call center managers should be tracking employee utilization, which is the percentage of the time you’re paying an employee that they’re on a workable status. Work from home agents should aim for a utilization of 80% talk time (waiting for a call or talking on a call), and a pause and dispo time of 20%. Heather says, “This is a standard report that’s incredibly imperative and I don’t see it happen at every call center.”
Agent Performance Reporting
A standard report showing number of calls taken, number of sales, some conversions like percentage of sales to data. and so on.
List Conversion Report
“You need this report more than you probably know. Having a system capable of doing this kind of reporting is so incredibly important. It’s going to show you who you’re talking to, and is it working.” —Heather Griffin
The List Conversion Report gives you a quick Profit-Loss statement for your call center lists. It combines revenue and billable hours, and gives an overall profit-loss for the report period you run. Heather says, “I can see if a list is burnt because our contact rates are super low. I can see a list that’s converting. And more importantly, I can turn off lists where we talked to a lot of people and it didn’t result in sales.”
Some key information available in the List Conversion Report:
- Highly customizable to how you’d like to see the metrics. Edit by a 15 minute period, by 30 minute, by an hour, by last month, by the whole year.
- How many leads dialed and how many leads actually got on the phone
- Contact rate
- Number of sales
- Transfer rate
Heather sums up the importance of knowing your remote call center’s profitability. “Opportunity costs are our biggest costs as call center owners. We’ve got payroll, we’ve got overhead, we’ve got telephony. So if I’m spending a long time talking to a lot of people and it’s not resulting in sales, then I’m wasting a lot of payroll.”
Employee Engagement for the at-home call center agent
“There’s so much great technology out there. It can alert us and catch bad behavior. It can tell us who our top performers are. However, especially in this moment of uncertainty and fear, it’s even more powerful to remind yourselves that as leaders, as managers, for ultimately all people, employee engagement is key to a successful remote call center.” —Heather Griffin
When you operate a physical call center, there’s an audible bustle and energy that comes from having many agents in one place, working together toward the same goal. While working from home is different, there are many ways to create positive connections with shared activities that continue to build a relationship.
Besides the daily meetings mentioned earlier, make sure there’s a way to recognize people. Show leaderboards, provide spiffs, and offer loads of public praise and acknowledgement whenever you get the opportunity.
You can use webcam meeting tools to encourage recreational interaction for your team with games, virtual happy hour, trivia night, celebrating birthdays, and so much more.
“Finding ways to have games and virtual meetups is a really fun thing to do and the employees really like it…I can’t emphasize enough how much the cameras make a big difference.” —Heather Griffin
Training of new at-home agents
Onboarding for the remote call center operation means taking advantage of eLearning programs, sharing of slide presentations over Zoom or other platforms, roleplaying over webcam, and other methods.
Career Progression – the path to retention
Make sure your call center agents know specifically what the steps are to progress in their jobs. This gives them incentive to focus on achieving their goals. Heather says, “If you don’t have a formalized career progression program, you need one for remote working. It’s monotonous, repetitive, you never get out of your pajamas, you’re always in the same cycle. In my career progression programs, it’s very clear. If you’re here for six months and you meet these expectations, you’re eligible for a lead training program. And that gives people hope, and it helps with retention.”
Compensation plans should offer incentive rewards targeting behaviors where you’re seeking improvement, based not only on productivity metrics, but also QA and utilization scores.
A Future Vision for Call Centers
In response to a question at the end of the webinar about what might happen to call center remote operations when things are back to normal, Heather says:
“I’ve always thought this is where we’d be going. We’ve been building technology around remote call centers for a long time. Now that we’re seeing how effectively it can be done, I certainly think that this will change the landscape. I genuinely think that a lot of call centers won’t go back into the office.”
The uncertainty and difficulty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has forced all industries to get creative in order to remain competitive. Call centers are no exception. We admire the commitment of our call center customers to maintain business continuity and keep their agents employed.
Work from home call center operations are discovering new ways of managing productivity and driving profits. Hiring remote agents expands the talent pool and geographic options. And, working at home offers flexibility and opportunity for modern employees, especially Millennials and Gen Z.