14 Apr Gain Ground Managing Hybrid Contact Centers
- Effectively support a diverse workforce in the hybrid contact center
- Don’t lose human connection as offices begin to open up
- Be aware of intersectionality to maintain a diverse talent pool
- Gen Z benefits from more direct input
- Offer tools that give in-the-moment guidance
- Offer at-home work options with paid sick leave
- Promote an atmosphere of inclusivity in hybrid contact centers
- Worker’s equipment vs. consistency of results
- Ask your workers about their preferences on remote work
- Identify methods of connecting all workers with each other
- Enable workers to contribute to build a greater sense of teamwork
- Measure performance equitably
The Value of Authenticity and Connection
The pandemic has been an equalizer of sorts, causing many to share their personal lives and struggles by default. From children interrupting live meetings, pets ruining video takes to just awkward at work from home moments people got to see their coworkers on a more personal level. Don’t lose this human connection as offices begin to open up. Instead, gain ground managing hybrid contact centers.
According to the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index Survey, during the pandemic: “people who interacted with their coworkers more closely than before not only experienced stronger work relationships, but also reported higher productivity and better overall wellbeing.”
Workers of Color and Gen Z Workers
The Microsoft research also found the feeling of connection was less for US workers of color. Even when in-office work was the norm people of color felt a disconnect. It is even more important without the in-person connection to ensure your BIPOC workers are seen and heard. Awareness of intersectionality is helpful to maintaining a diverse talent pool. Call upon these workers to give their feedback and contribute to online meetings. Present them with advancement opportunities keeping balanced inclusion in your teams and maintaining your skilled talent.
Another group that was shown to be lost in the shuffle of remote work is Gen Z. The Microsoft report revealed this group was more likely to feel isolated, struggle with making a quality home work environment and feel less connected with work. As the newest members of the workforce, members of Gen Z benefit from more direct input.
It’s difficult to work successfully in a vacuum. For many, being a customer service agent is their first job. These new workers benefit from greater support. As the PriceWaterhouse survey from November and December 2020 indicates, those with fewer years on the job, want to be in the office more with less remote days. These workers also feel less productive while working remotely. Offer tools that give in the moment guidance to help novice agents know when they are performing well and when/how they need to adjust.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on women with almost 3 million women exiting the workforce in the US and BIPOC women being the hardest hit. Lack of childcare options and students unable to go to school have put pressure on mothers who couldn’t manage both full time work and full time at home care. Offering at-home work options with paid sick leave and more equitable pay so these workers can afford childcare will attract effective female talent.
For successful team building and management, fostering an atmosphere of inclusivity across all members is key.
A year of pandemic effects has changed the contact center, likely permanently, to a hybrid model. It’s no longer rare to work from home. Independent contractors are no longer the forgotten children of the working world. They’re recognized as the valuable and sizable part of the workforce that they’ve become. Being a manager in this paradigm is hard! You don’t just manage people, you manage money. Balancing workers’ needs with the financial burdens of on-boarding, replacing and maintaining them. You must shift to adapt to be successful managing hybrid contact centers.
Remote is the New Normal
Not only was remote work necessary, it has made many workers not want to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. Work from home has proven to be not just doable, but for some, more cost effective with better life balance.
There are multiple statistics out there. Microsoft research from March 2021 states that 73% of workers worldwide want to have flexible work options even post-pandemic. Price Waterhouse Coopers US remote work survey found almost all office personnel surveyed want to do at least some work from home after the pandemic, though the amount varied widely. Another survey from November 2020 by Jones Lang LaSalle showed workers want to continue to do 2 days a week from home. Another survey by Stanford University had 61% responding they want to continue to do remote work.
Have you asked your workers about their preferences on remote work going forward? As restrictions ease, it is important to consider worker needs and expectations. Keeping your well-trained people is cost effective. Keeping them happy can improve your KPIs.
Widening the Talent Net
Another thing work from home has shown is that you can access talent from anywhere. The talent pool is now an ocean. As a manager you are no longer limited to your local area to fill seats.
Peter Bendor-Samuel states in his Forbes article that the contact center world had viewed their remote workforce as ‘supplemental’ prior to COVID-19. The pandemic accelerated the evolution of work from home and proved to be primarily positive with equal to improved results.
However, there is the issue of independent contractors vs. employees. Legislation passed in California limiting companies from classifying workers as independent contractors contrasts sharply with other states like New Jersey who fined Uber $649 million. Customer service agents could be subject to chaotic new state or national legislation. As it is, the CARES ACT includes new reporting criteria for gig workers reporting income as low as $600 for tax year 2022 on 1099-K vs. the current bar of $20,000. This means that workers who were earning too little to have to 1099-K’s weren’t reporting the income and thus weren’t paying taxes – will now have additional expenses on top of agents paying for their own equipment and training
Consider if the differences between their experiences and that of employed agents causes friction, attrition and thereby expense. There are many costs to replacing your skilled, productive agents beyond equipment and training. Time is a major cost whether your agent is an employee or a contractor as. If there is large inequity between what one agent and another receives for the same job, what is the incentive for the worker who gets less to stay? Is it worth risking your NPS and CSAT?
The Management Balancing Act of the Hybrid Workforce
Salesforce, Zendesk and Kustomer offer effective tools for integrated customer service management. They connect agents with customers, however, challenges for remote workers/teams include being isolated from other teams and workers. Innovation benefits from wider input. Maintaining connection for both your in-house and WFH workers is key to foster solidarity and an atmosphere that supports great work.
Just as many companies are considering reduction of their office space footprint as a cost saving measure, investment in other areas are vital for healthy hybrid contact centers in the future.
It is necessary for those working outside the office to have access to comparable tools and equipment as that of in-house workers. This benefits both your workers and your business. It is easier to measure performance when the tools are equitable. It also supports more consistent execution.
For agents who want flexibility it’s finding ways to split their time between in-office and at home. Identify methods of connecting those in office to those working remotely. Enable all of your workers to contribute and build a greater sense of teamwork, both of which reduce attrition. Harnessing technology to create a more even experience no matter where your workforce resides is helpful.
The pandemic accelerated the rise of hybrid contact centers. It’s no longer the distant future, it is now. The tools exist to help you create an effective plan to manage it.
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