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Work at Home Agents a Necessity for Challenging Times

Mar 24, 2020
Work at Home Agents a Necessity for Challenging Times

by: Bob Brittan, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

During challenging times when employees cannot or should not report to work at the corporate office, it is important for companies to still maintain good customer relations with a transparent method of communication and operational continuity. This can be an active website with up-to-the-minute notices about opening and closing hours, FAQ sheets, or even chatbots, that keep the customer informed and businesses operating. 

Work at-home or remote agents have become a viable and even desirable alternative for both employees and their employers. Not including freelancers, entrepreneurs, or business owners, remote workers grew over 44% in the last five years according to Global Workplace Analytics. Aside from having an available off-site agent resource, a recent study by Stanford University highlighted the reasons given for the new popularity in work from home. Among a few of those cited were improved productivity and employee retention, better work-life balance, reduction in stress and reduced costs for both employers and workers.

Keep Customers Connected

In times of uncertainty, being able to continue working from just about anywhere there is an internet service helps companies keep connected to their employees, business partners and vendors. The at-home agent is often the unsung hero behind business continuity, seamlessly connected to the chaotic outside world.

Many organizations that rely on at-home agents have adopted the practice years ago after living through business disruptions caused by weather related issues, acts of nature, disaster recovery and other calamities. Early adopters utilizing at-home or virtual agents include reservation agents, airlines, insurance companies, travels agencies, credit card, and cruise lines.

Cloud-based Infrastructure

At-home agents require the same business tools to get the job done as in-house teams. A primary need is a telephone system to collect and re-distribute customer calls and requests. This can be a premise-based system or a cloud-based solution that many businesses are migrating to because of lower costs and added flexibility. 

Managing the attendance of at home agents using software tools such as the Community WFM Automated Schedule Attendance Monitor (ASAM) becomes even more important because supervisors will not be able to see who is actually at their workstation in the contact center. ASAM is integrated with the phone system and the agent mobile app and provides an automated and streamlined communication approach to track agent arrival and attendance. The Attendance Monitor in ASAM allows supervisors to view agents as they arrive by specific time intervals. The Arrival Detail Console provides a dashboard of an agent’s status including expected arrival time, check in status, and late for shift while also streamlining the process of managing exceptions.

A reliable and robust scheduling tool for agents, wherever they may be located, is very important. Cloud hosted workforce management solutions that support browser-based WFM and contact center applications will allow management as well as all agents to ensure adequate contact coverage. Companies will typically provide personal computing equipment and other basic tools required to ensure success with the at-home job, and with a sufficient amount of internet speed the home agent is ready to take customer calls.

Other critical applications to get the job done will include some type of CRM and help desk software to provide agents with necessary (and up-to-date) customer information and resolution procedures. Many companies also use various other tools to evaluate agents and customer satisfaction such as call recording, analytics and customer survey applications.

Emergence of Mobile Apps

Using a workforce management solution that supports mobile applications can help guarantee that management can send up to the minute alerts, scheduling changes and updates as business needs change during the day. An agent mobile application can also be used as an additional communication tool for agents that are working remotely and allow them to keep in touch with other remote agents as well as the in-house staff.

Community WFM software offers a feature-rich agent interface designed to deliver key information and communication to all agents whether they are on site, at home, or on-the-go. Through the Community WFM agent portal, all agents can use the tool to manage their schedules, shift bidding, review adherence, and receive and respond to all related communication.

  • Weekly or monthly schedule views
  • Receive notifications for event reminders and schedule changes
  • Receive and accept overtime offers
  • Agent adherence reporting
  • Manage communication preferences

Business Critical Necessity – Remote Agent Strategy

Community WFM software has always supported work at home agents. Using a browser-based workforce management solution can also monitor remote agent performance as well as intraday events that can affect service level and ultimately the ability to deliver a good customer experience. Management now has the ability to reassign agents – no matter where they are located, offer overtime or undertime, and keep them informed of important up-to-the-minute business needs or changes. In times of uncertainty and chaos having a remote agent workforce strategy becomes a critical business necessity for operational continuity. 

Business photo created by nensuria

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