Call Center Conundrum: The Future is Flexibility
By: Matt McConnell
With the rise of virtual agents, split shifts provide an opportunity to improve both the agent and end-customer experience.
COVID-19 has served as the inflection point for call center innovation. Centers pivoted to remote work models to alleviate safety concerns while ensuring continuity in a time of chaos. As operations continue to accelerate, intelligent technology must be leveraged to deliver continued cost savings and productivity gains to keep up with increasing demands and expectations.
All signs point to a new age of innovation in the call center, which rewards flexibility and an openness to change.
Sustainable Cost Savings
Flexibility in contact centers not only allows for better employee experiences; it also delivers value to the bottom line by downsizing physical call centers. As a result, the only overheads are salary, and all software and hardware equipment essentials agents need to work from home. The average annual cost to physically house a call center agent is approximately $8,300 per agent in the United States. If a 200-person contact center decided to move only half of its agents to home offices, they would see $830,000 in annual real estate cost savings.
Unlocking the Power of Intelligent Assistants
While ongoing productivity can be a concern for call centers — the shift to remote working lends itself to more innovative ways to manage people and offer help. Companies turn to different technologies to virtually assist agents to maximize productivity and even engagement after losing the ability to connect face to face and spot a stressful situation visibly.
Intelligent assistants provide new opportunities for contact centers to optimize operations. The technology processes all the center data that’s constantly changing and then directs agents throughout the day. With intelligent assistants notifying agents when to take breaks, begin training, or return to call handling, managers, coaches, and supervisors have more freedom to do what people to best — connect with agents, offer empathy and ultimately, develop and coach agents.
Flexibility to Expand Agent Training and Coaching
For the companies that embrace change, one consideration is the need to revise onboarding, training processes, and improve agent engagement virtually due to the remote nature of call centers. According to Gartner, nearly 75% of customer service leaders expect to expand work from home programs post-pandemic, so this is a trend we’ll likely see more of in the near future.
To account for a lack of in-person guidance and development, intelligent assistants can help mirror in-person experiences in a remote environment by leading and hosting ongoing trainings for agents. This method also allows time for virtual one-on-one coaching to ensure agents are continuously developing within the roles and armed with the necessary tools to stay engaged, be efficient, and deliver an optimal customer experience.
Transitioning to a predominantly virtual working environment also means managers must invest more time and energy into training that is frequent and intentional. Now managing a fully remote workforce, this task can seem daunting and nearly impossible — especially when managing large teams while juggling other responsibilities. Through the use of intelligent assistants, identifying small pockets of downtime within agent schedules ensures training is not only flexible but persistent.
The Advent of Split Shifts
With the rise of virtual agents, split shifts provide an opportunity to improve both the agent and end-customer experience. Instead of a routine 9 to 5 work schedule, split shifts allow agents to have the option to break up their workday. This flexibility gives agents the freedom to take care of needs throughout the day while curbing burnout.
Before the pivot to remote work, commutes prevented the wide-spread adoption of this work style. Now, accepting a split shift offer is much more appealing. There is more incentive for agents to add or adjust shifts without having to factor in travel time.
As with many working environments right now, call centers are facing some interesting times. The immediate future presents a golden opportunity for rapid change and innovation. While the cost savings and productivity gains are evident, it’s only for those companies that successfully break the mold and embrace flexible operations.
Originally published at https://www.rtinsights.com