We’ve spoken to a number of EvaluAgent customers over the last few weeks. We’ve asked them all the same, how they managed the move to remote working, how are their teams remaining motivated and engaged and how are they maintaining service quality throughout this period of uncertainty and unrest.
The customers we've spoken to all have different industries, set ups and unique pressures affecting their business. Check out stories including How Ubisoft support Agents and Players through team engagement and How CQC embraced team engagement to support their remote working team.
Here, we have answers from the Director of a large UK Outsourcer. They were keen to chat with us and share their experience of the last few months, but would prefer to remain anonymous.
How many agents do you have working remotely?
Approximately 300 colleagues have working from home capability. Although due to the nature of our business and the systems we require, our contact centre and admin functions are still primarily onsite.
How ready were you to be able to move employees remotely?
Business Continuity Plans had been developed for a number of scenarios across Customer Services but the likelihood of a Global Pandemic was low in the priority order. This meant remote access for call centre agents was not identified as a requirement and wasn’t fully planned for. Work Area Recovery (WAR) sites are in the plans for issues relating to denial of access to sites and separation of duties. Unfortunately the WAR sites are not available during a Pandemic and therefore the need for social distancing in the office decreased our working capacity below the available workforce. It gave us a good problem to have… more people, less space.
Some critical tasks were identified that could be managed remotely through our systems and simply needed an increase in remote access licences and equipment. These tasks related to financial account management, fraud monitoring and all support activities that did not require access to the proprietary client network. This freed up space in the sites for customer service activities.
Regular communication is vital for all teams. In such a fast-moving environment as we found ourselves in mid-March there was an immediate need for Leadership communications to acknowledge the situation, show virtual visibility and put in place the organisational structure of governance for Command.
The Crisis Management teams were stood up who provide a temporary structure for escalation, issues capture, incident management, engagement and communication. This ensures client, colleague and community communications/engagement as necessary.
Any feedback you’ve had from your team about working away from the office? How are they managing the move to remote working?
There are varying degrees of readiness for remote working depending on your level of experience and therefore your normal coping mechanisms. No-one has ever had to work under the UK lockdown restrictions before and therefore I don’t think anyone was ‘ready’ for this.
There are a spectrum of responses to the lockdown and remote working. Many colleagues were extremely grateful to be removed from the inherent risk of working in an office space due to their vulnerability status.
There is a weird mix of Leadership levels that exist for remote access at this time i.e. UK Government, Company Head Office, Company Line Management, Union Management, Community led and Social Media Led. Each of these may have differing levels of control and influence over your life and this directly influences how you feel managed.
Access to remote working tools and social media contact has helped the teams greatly. For younger colleagues this just meant picking their phones up – but for older colleagues this meant learning a new skill and quickly enabling their technological needs.
We use Skype and Circuit (by Unify) for remote meetings but I’m aware of several groups set up for social reasons across various social platforms.
I set up a social group with my team and shared some NSFW content to ensure they understood the channel was a safe place to connect without the need to worry about company oversight. This meant that concerns and opinions can be shared openly.
I've maintained 1:1's in the diary despite the crisis to make sure my team get the support they need from me. It's a way to bring a sense of order and focus on maintaining BAU. I've also increased my contact by Skype chat so people feel visually connected and engaged.
Can you share 1 or 2 challenges you’ve faced around keeping the team motivated and engaged?
- Motivation is pretty simple in a crisis. Provide roles and responsibilities for everyone and ensure they understand they are vital to the mission. As the crisis lessens and we move to a ‘restricted’ but calm status quo the need to motivate will increase. At this time, I will bring the team together to plan for the ‘post-pandemic’ recovery and again provide roles and timelines for tasks to achieve readiness for the next phase. And repeat until we are back to whatever we are going to call normal again.
- Many people had holidays planned and wanted to cancel them as flights/hotels were cancelled. We have ensured that people take their planned leave to help them relax away from the crisis. This can initially cause a sense of guilt to be away from it but once the out of office is on the wave of relief is palpable. Feedback is universally that a) it was well needed b) it wasn’t as much fun as going on a proper holiday c) people found new things to do d) no box-set went un-watched.
There will be further challenges ahead as the wider impact of the disease reaches the organisation. Plans for this are difficult to write down but it is important we’re ready.
How is EvaluAgent part of your remote working toolkit?
QA/Coaching/Performance Management was sub-critical at first, but this changed as we moved into longer term lockdown.
As our agents are primarily still office based, EvaluAgent isn't being used as a remote tool. Instead, it is continuing to provide the constant support and feedback to agents, whilst driving communication between agents and team managers. Given the industry we work in and the types of roles we have in the team, quality of service is still vitally important.
Looking to the future, post Pandemic, we will need to recruit to drive a speedy recovery and the EvaluAgent tool increases our street to seat efficacy through onboarding.
If you could give advice to another business about working remote, either around engaging your team or maintaining service quality... what would it be?
In this particular situation my tips would be to set up clear communication channels for;
- - regular but informal work contact,
- - a structure for formal contact/updates,
- - a mechanism to share non-work related feelings/opinions/concerns.
Social media works well here but people need to be comfortable and teams can be made up of very different individuals so some moderation is required.
Quality and Customer Experience
Appreciate the need for Quality monitoring under the circumstances you find yourself.
Understand that Quality Assurance and Customer Experience may not be achievable in the same way as before due to new pressures. This is counter-intuitive to how customer service professionals typically operate – but managing customer expectations, keeping them informed of service standards and working tirelessly to regain the capacity to deliver quality and service standards are acceptable strategies.
Software such as EvaluAgent supports getting employees delivering those quality standards, by monitoring performance and encouraging positive action to get things back on track.
In a BAU remote environment I don’t see a difference in processes required. Whatever process used to oversee or review in the workplace can be achieved remotely. Businesses just need to enable the available tools and colleagues need to appreciate the new ways of working. The customer interaction will be the same.
In quantum mechanics the observation of the interaction can change the interaction itself. Luckily, we don’t have to worry too much about quantum mechanics, so my advice would be to keep it simple.
Some great ideas to keep the team engaged from this UK Outsourcer. A mixture of remote and office based customer support agents can be a challenge in itself. Maintaining those channels of communication, from NSFW content to important business updates, is vital.