Contact Center Home Agent Deployment Tips and Techniques
Agents typically work in shifts in a contact center and are physically present in the building to accept interactions. With the restrictions currently placed on gatherings and to promote employee health, many contact centers are moving to allowing / requiring agents to work from home.
Deployment of work from home during the crisis will have future ramifications when the situation returns to a new normal. Temporarily deploying agents to work from home creates several challenges that must be overcome in order to effectively process the interaction.
Some of the challenges are:
- Acceptable Place to Work
- Home internet bandwidth / computer
- Connectivity to the corporate network
- Software Deployment and Information Security
- Delivery of voice to an agent
- Delivery of digital interactions
- Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance
We’ll cover each of these challenges with potential techniques to overcome or minimize them.
Acceptable Place to Work
Agents are typically working in a controlled environment, with only the other agents talking as background noise. Home-bound agents need a quiet space in their residence to shield noise from TV, radio, children, pets, personal phone calls, etc., and adequate furniture that allows them to focus on their work.
Does the agent only have dining chairs or barstools to sit in while working? An inadequate workspace could cause potential legal or physical issues in the future.
Home Internet Bandwidth / Computer
Fiber, DSL, and cable internet access provide the most dependable connectivity to the internet for a home worker. If an agent’s home has only satellite or cellular internet connectivity, the customer experience will be severely degraded to the point of being unacceptable.
Depending on whether your agents currently use laptops or not, this can be an issue. If an agent must use their own computer, corporate applications may need to be installed in order to access the VPN and CRM applications.
An acceptable anti-virus application must also be installed. Also, many agents have multiple monitors and beefy workstations at their desk to support the myriad of applications open simultaneously. The performance of a home computer may not match this capability.
The simplest approach to resolving these issues requires a bit of planning; ensuring agents have upgraded internet access to a minimum corporate standard and an issued laptop meeting corporate performance standards are the most common resolutions to these two problems.
Connectivity to the Corporate Network
Most corporations have remote access technology already in place. This can take the form of VPN access or a virtual desktop application, such as Citrix©. The type of voice delivery to the agent usually dictates which type of connection is required. VOIP usually does not provide acceptable quality when using virtual desktops, so a VPN connection will be required to provide adequate bandwidth.
A screen sharing application such as VNC, a unified communications tool, a remote support application, or a web meeting tool can be used for remote deployment of applications and support of those applications by either the supervisor or IT resources.
Software Deployment and Information Security
If virtual desktop technology is used, it typically has all the corporate software deployed and is ready for the agent to access. When a VPN is used from an agent-owned computer, additional safeguards and software must be put in place. This includes anti-virus applications, VPN software, and contact center software. Performance requirements will vary with the type of applications that the agent must access.
Since the agents will be performing the same types of work that would be performed in an office setting, additional items may be required. This includes items, such as: a primary monitor, a lockable file cabinet, paper shredder, cabinet, surge protector and / or back-up battery power.
Inadequate information security can be the biggest risk by far and the most challenging to resolve. This is because remote agents must have access to the same company information provided to on-site agents; many companies do not allow the most critical and sensitive company information to be accessed remotely.
Providing that access to a home agent can increase the risk of sensitive data breaches. Agents working from home are more likely to browse the internet and download malware that could compromise company systems. The question of integrity and trust is paramount.
Delivery of Voice to an Agent
There are multiple ways of delivering the voice path of a call to an agent. These include:
Voice over IP, mobile phone, landline, WebRTC, and others. Each of these methods have their own benefits and drawbacks. Voice over IP requires a stable high-speed internet connection and VPN connectivity to the corporate VPN. This method is very unreliable when using a virtual desktop connection.
Mobile phones or landlines require the contact center infrastructure to connect the inbound voice call via the PSTN to the agent’s device. These connections are typically “nailed-up” so that subsequent calls are then bridged into the existing connection, instead of dialing each call out to the agent.
WebRTC is used to connect the voice path over a connection using a browser. This is supported by very few platforms and typically requires additional licensing at the session border controller. The method of delivery of the voice path to the agent depends highly on the supported methods within the contact center infrastructure.
Delivery of Digital Interactions
Digital interactions can include email, chat, tasks, faxes, and outbound preview calls. These are delivered to the agent desktop and handled by the agent with no other external resources required.
However, some digital interactions can result in an outbound call to the client, which then requires the delivery of voice to the agent, so that calls don’t appear to be coming from a mobile phone or landline.
Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance
With the inability to monitor and track your agents in person, many managers feel as if their agents are more willing to take inappropriate breaks or increase their downtime. While not as crucial, there is a possibility that remote agents will feel disconnected from the team, potentially resulting in a reduced sense of community or connection to the office.
Firms should leverage current quality assurance tools to listen and rate agent’s interactions. This can be a major consideration in the method(s) chosen to deliver the voice and digital interactions to the agent. While the agents can’t physically check-in to the building, they can use a unified communications platform to communicate with supervisors and other agents.
Existing real-time monitoring tools may require updates to their views to ensure that the work from home agents are shown.
Planning – and Outside Assistance – is Essential
With the social distancing in effect today, a home-bound agent may become more the norm, than the exception. With proper planning and executing the customer experience can be held at the normal standards for your contact center. And oftentimes, outside perspective and assistance can be a huge asset to get the right elements in place.
At PTP, we’ve helped many companies achieve operational excellence through our experience with workforce management and optimization.
Our Help at No Cost During the Crisis
In a similar outreach for contact centers struggling to keep up with call volumes during this crisis, we are offering – at no cost – our services to help organizations customize their IVRs to better handle their inbound customer inquiries.
Get additional details here for how we can help set up your IVR. We are happy to help in whatever way possible.