While your agents are busy putting customers’ fears and concerns at ease, how are your managers supporting these agents in their transition to telecommuting brought on by the coronavirus pandemic?
Not every agent may be used to working from home, so make sure your managers are offering the support these workers need, and fortunately, one expert is sharing her best practices for doing just that.
Eva Majercsik is the chief people officer for Genesys—a global customer experience and contact center solutions provider—and in a recent HR Daily Advisor article, she shares her best practices for managing agents who may be new to remote work.
Provide Support, Check-in, and Listen to Agents
“A quick ‘how are you feeling?’ goes a long way,” Majercsik says. “Ensure your team knows what mental health resources are available and how to access them.”
She adds that managers must check back occasionally to monitor status, but they need to be careful not to do it so frequently that agents feel smothered or untrusted. “Find out if setting up regular check-ins would be of interest,” she adds.
Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate
“Employees are isolated but also bombarded with information from all angles,” Majercsik says. “Managers should guide employees with clear communication and make sure no one feels he or she is getting overlapping or contradictory instructions or assignments. Leaders who provide consistent, regular guidance and training will develop stronger team members.”
Help Agents Strike the Right Balance
With so many working from home, flexibility has taken on a whole new meaning. “Some people may be forced to establish a completely new work schedule to allow for child care. Other employees feel compelled to be available at all times as a show of dedication,” she says.
“Managers need to remind agents—not only with words but also with actions—to log off,” Majercsik advises. “And, they should ensure these workers are indeed taking time off.”
“With many people opting for ‘staycations’ this year, there is a strong temptation to check e-mails and internal forums throughout the day, which prevents agents from fully disconnecting,” she adds. The pandemic has caused a ton of stress for your customers and your agents alike. Time to recharge is more important than ever. To prevent burnout, it is vital that agents completely disconnect from work when taking time off.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Things Up!
“It’s a good idea to combine e-mails, phone messages, and video calls to reduce an agent’s sense of isolation from the team,” Majercsik says. “But being on nonstop videoconferences is exhausting, so reassure your team it is acceptable to turn the camera off sometimes.”
“Encourage agents to take walks during meeting calls and to try not to schedule meetings back to back,” she advices. “It’s also important to set aside time to have fun with your team and allow them to connect on topics beyond work.” With less ad-hoc and individual interactions, technology-enabled approaches like gamification can help to create a common space for contact center employees to celebrate achievements and nurture a cohesive team culture.
Embrace Interruptions as Part of the New Normal
“Working from home while managing other aspects of everyday life can be a major challenge,” says Majercsik. “Encourage agents to roll with the punches. If a child pops into a video meeting to say hi or the cat wants some screen time or the delivery guy knocks loudly on the door, just go with it!”
“We’re all human, and we’re all BBC Dad now,” she adds. “Letting colleagues see those aspects of your life can create a stronger bond between team members.”
“But as a manager of a contact center, if you hear an agent has consistent family interruptions, you could consider offering to help the agent find a quieter workspace,” Majercsik suggests. For example, some contact center operators in the Philippines temporarily relocated agents to hotels to ensure social distancing, with some even housing family members in adjacent rooms.
Empathy Is Key
According to Majercsik, managers must be empathetic to team members’ situations. “It’s important to find out each agent’s situation and interact accordingly, swapping similar stories if possible, while lending an ear to those whose situation may be in total opposition to your own.”
She also says that the fact is, not everyone has adapted to our new remote working challenges in the same way. This is why empathy is so important. “Each person is on an individual journey that’s influenced by the current environment and the culture in which he or she lives and works,” Majercsik adds.
“We experience different levels of comfort and familiarity—and these can change throughout the weeks as we go through emotional ups and downs,” Majercsik says. “Showing a little empathy and trust now will be rewarded with employee appreciation in the long term.”