Seven Capabilities You Must Have With Home Agents
Last year, the contact center consulting experts at Eventus Solutions Group published a series of three whitepapers on Home Agents. The first provided an overview of Home Agents while the second and third drilled into the operations and technology aspects of deploying home agents. One of the topics we cover in the first paper is home agent contact center implementation considerations.
Despite the allure of the home agent model, employers shouldn’t underestimate the commitment required to be successful. The operation is dramatically different from brick and mortar. Consider the employee applicant pool as an example. When hiring for a brick and mortar operation, the employer is generally confined to the radius people are reasonably willing to commute to work. This fact limits the applicant pool a business can expect to attract.
However, if an employer virtualizes their operation processes entirely, such that they can hire from anywhere, the applicant pool explodes. National exposure to home agent employment opportunities can attract thousands of applicants per day, which can present challenges to pre-existing application and communication processes. How does a company interact with a thousand or more new applicants daily? How long before the application ages out? How does a company build that database of applicants into a longer-term asset? How do you automate the qualification process, so applicants self-select out if they are not the best fit?
Home agent contact center implementations fail when businesses don’t recognize the level of process change involved and the required investment to make the model work. Ironically, it’s often a bigger challenge for companies with a history of successful brick and mortar operations.
The best way to approach home agent contact center implementation is to treat it as if you are launching an entirely new offshore operation. Every tool, technology and operational process you have in place will need to be reassessed.
Technology will make or break the success of your home agent operation. In some cases, traditional brick and mortar tools can still do the job, but they have to play nicely with the new virtual technology in the mix. Every interaction with remote agents occurs on personal equipment over public Internet, so desktop PC and connectivity security must be given top priority. You will also need to consider the best methods for monitoring, evaluating, motivating and communicating with these remote employees. After all, the better support and tools you give your agents, the better support they give your customers.
Properly implemented, tools such as Automatic Call Distribution, Workforce Management and Time Keeping Systems will allow you to closely monitor work habits and optimize work schedules based upon availability, skill set and need.
Communication between support staff, managers and teammates is vital to the success of the home agent operation. Tools such as chat rooms, conference bridging and screen sharing motivate your agents, keep them productive and supply them with the information they need to satisfy your customers.
As with any customer service operation, the home agent contact center requires a solid practice of performance monitoring and coaching. The challenge is that the coach and the home agent can be hundreds of miles apart. Quality assurance will rely upon virtualization technology, so managers have instant access to each agent’s voice and screen recordings without negatively impacting the agent’s Internet bandwidth.
The technical support team’s job is to minimize the amount of time home agents spend troubleshooting their own environment so they can focus on delivering top quality customer service.
To partition and secure the home agent environment, desktop systems typically incorporate Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology, virtualization products and virus blockers. The continuous evolution of operating systems, hardware and software (even the phasing out of the desktop PC itself) make it virtually impossible to impose any kind of “standard” in the home office setup.
Your agent connections must be securely encrypted and all transactions carefully logged for potential forensic analysis. Voice over IP (VoIP) has become the gold standard, but ISP throughput issues continue to impact voice quality. Strict processes and heavy monitoring can minimize the problem.
When necessary, some operations use voice biometric technology to routinely listen to calls and verify the employee voice print matches what the employer has on record. Some employers even require that cameras be mounted on home agent PCs, so the employer can visually verify the agent at any time.
To Learn More
If you would like to learn more about Home Agents, be sure to download our 3-part home agent whitepaper series. The first provided an overview of Home Agents ,the second delves into the operational aspects of setting up a home agent program, and the third drills into the technology aspects of deploying home agents.
It can be hard to fathom a life without customer service in it. Before remote desktop support, live chat and other contact center solutions, there were complex phone trees and outsourced call centers and before that there were buggy IVR systems and telephone switchboards connecting you to the store you purchased the product from.
The past few decades have seen the business world sway multiple times between call center outsourcing and internal call center operations.