Managing the Challenges of Remote Call Operations through Workforce Optimization Tools
11 Sep, 2012By: Barry Knack
Contact center management is undergoing a transformative shift due to remote stations and the challenges faced in ensuring remote staff members follow procedures and operate productively. Without physical proximity to these agents, managers who do not use technology tools must operate on faith that remote agents are completing their tasks, engaging properly with callers, and possess the right in-depth knowledge of the offered products and services. Remote agents also need to be given a measure of protection from irate callers, which can be challenging for central management.
In traditional contact center setups, managers often simply monitor agents through direct observation. This allows them to judge the tone and general knowledge of the agents, but doesn’t offer any company-wide metrics that can be reviewed for training purposes. This on-site approach, of course, does not apply to the at-home agent model, so management needs to look at other solutions that can enable them to monitor and coach agents regardless of their geographic distance.
Workforce optimization (WFO) platforms are tools that can approximate the in-person method of contact center monitoring, with the added benefit of activity data capture through technology. Several components of WFO suites need to work together to provide management with the best tools necessary for agent and end-consumer satisfaction.
A key component for advanced WFO suites is screen capture, which can be reviewed by managers to see how quickly agents are handling calls and also responding to inquiries. Screen capture data provides a clear record of every call transaction, which is vital for dispute resolution. It’s also an essential training tool, where remote managers can spot inefficient processes or mistakes and correct them quickly.
No WFO suite is complete without full recording of every interaction. Digital storage capacity continues to grow as costs fall, enabling 100 percent recording to become viable for nearly any call center environment. Recording of remote agents and frequent review of their interactions ensures agents maintain a desired level of professional conduct. Recording can pick up background sounds, such as television noise or screaming neighbors, and gives management an opportunity to correct problems before customers’ experiences are negatively impacted. Voice recordings review can be done in tandem with screen capture to give managers a “being there” experience when reviewing agent performance.
Interaction recording is not only in place to identify agents in non-adherence, it also provides them some protection against abusive callers. It can vindicate agents who have performed all of the right steps but are still the subject of caller complaints. Recording processes should be established with rules for handling inappropriate callers to give remote agents the most protection without causing the firm to lose business.
Customer data security compliance is a real concern for contact centers that utilize remote agents. If the agents are handling sensitive customer information, then proper controls need to be in place. Installing cameras in the agent’s home is not viable, so managers need to deploy other solutions that are effective but don’t undermine trust in the agents. A WFO suite can allay these concerns and enable businesses to gain the efficiencies of remote workers with reduced concern about security. Regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Gramm- Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), and European Union Data Protection Directive, demand certain accountability standards that cannot be met without some technology assistance. WFO suites use multi-tiered security with screen capture and remote monitoring tools to keep track of agent actions. It’s important for the firm to encrypt the voice stream and the screen video capture to prevent, for example, transfer of customer financial account data. In tandem, an automatic blackout feature should be running so agents are not able to see or record customer personal data after it is entered. Such measures give agents clues that their actions are being reviewed, which in turn give them reason to pause and carefully consider if they should engage in illicit behavior.
WFO suites give management a set of tools to properly manage remote agents’ actions, speaking voice, and overall efficiency. The ROI from using remote call centers can be significant, and the need for WFO platforms will continue to grow as the workforce becomes more mobile and contact center management needs effective solutions to monitor performance, security, and satisfaction.