Agent Experience, Contact Center, Leadership & Agent Management

Agents Face New Challenges Amid Pandemic

In a previous article, we reported on Shep Hyken’s opening keynote at our virtual roundtable event Customer Contact Now. At this event, customer contact leaders, vendors, and experts came together to discuss the state of customer support and how leaders can help their agents succeed.

Source: Tyler Olson / shutterstock

Throughout the event, COVID-19 was mentioned repeatedly, and for good reason: It has completely reshaped almost every aspect of our lives across the globe! For agents, the new challenge now becomes remote work. Customer contact centers are usually close-knit cubicles in an office building, but due to social distancing guidelines, these office environments are unsustainable.

Now your agents are working remotely, which means customer contact leaders were forced to shift gears quickly. In the breakout workshop, Phil Bennett, Customer Service Operations Manager at Empire Today, discussed the various ways remote work has impacted agents and leaders alike.

Bennett says that call center employers never really explored how to manage remote work, but this new arrangement has presented interesting opportunities, as well as challenges.

The Pros and Cons

According to Bennett, when workers are remote, you’re removing a majority of the real estate cost associated with owning a physical location. Not only does this help improve the bottom line, but your agents may also be a lot happier. Bennett says remote work allows for happier agents because they don’t have to commute, they can smoke cigarettes without disturbing other workers, and they don’t have to worry about HR cracking down on the dress code.

However, whenever there are pros, there are always cons. Bennett raised some interesting questions to attendees about how they handle some of the cons; these questions included:

  • How do you determine whether to store everything in the Cloud or onto a VPN?
  • How do you support agents?
  • What happens if they have an issue with technology?
  • How do you keep agents connected?
  • How do you ensure your agents’ home technology is up to par?
  • How do you maintain customer privacy/security?
  • How do you maintain the current culture?
  • How do you show agents you appreciate them virtually?

Some of the attendees shared their unique insights into what their organizations are doing to meet these challenges. It seems most attendees had more issues with agent engagement, but the solutions that were offered may help keep these workers engaged.

Actionable Advice from Your Peers

Showing agent appreciation seemed to be one of the biggest challenges, mostly because of the cost associated with delivering a tangible item to an agent’s home. One attendee shared that their company had given workers Grubhub electronic gift cards to show its appreciation, and another said their company sends out $5 Starbucks electronic gift cards to random agents just for showing up for the day.

These low-cost deliverables are a great way to show your agents you appreciate their hard work. Bennet also suggests having your team participate in Customer Service Week, which takes place annually in October, so there’s still plenty of time to plan ahead!

Customer Service Week is a great way to boost morale, motivation, and teamwork; reward frontline reps; raise companywide awareness of the importance of customer service; thank other departments for their support; and remind customers of your commitment to customer service.

Some attendees said they do this at their organization, and the results are great! The company shares their weekly events on social media, and the agents will engage with these posts to show them to their friends and family. The agents also appreciate that you’re showing them how much you appreciate them. It becomes one big circle of gratitude!

While the pandemic may be temporary, setting your agents up for success is vital no matter what’s going on in the world. If you’re interested in joining the discussion, click here to register for our October event.