Making a Success of Contact Centre Home-working

Mark Walton, Sensee

While there aren’t many official rules that businesses must adhere to during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, there is plenty of helpful advice.

On 11th March, for example, The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development issued a factsheet to help businesses support their operations and workforce  In a section entitled “Develop flexible resourcing plans” the CIPD recommends developing “strategies to maximise the amount of home working to prevent the spread of infection”.

For many management roles, transitioning to home-based working will be as simple as ensuring managers have a reliable computer and phone.  For contact centre operations, however, switching to homeworking – and doing so with scalability and cost-efficiency – is a lot more complex.

As a home-based contact centre operator with 15 years experience, we believe that operational effectiveness in homeworking calls for a very different operational mindset: from recruiting the right homeworkers, to adapting a virtual mindset when it comes to training, management, scheduling, security, communication and technology. 

However, these are not skills that can be learnt overnight. And, if used as a short-term measure, contact centres won’t have the luxury of trialling concepts and refining their model over time.  Possible routes forward include: Working with an experienced outsourcer that uses a home-based model, considering the use of a 3rd party homeworking technology ecosystem, and seeking the advice of a homeworking consultant.

Whichever homeworking option you choose, here are six things to consider:

  1. Communications: Pay attention to all aspects of communication. Not just company announcements but communication within teams, and real time support for advisors that may be experiencing difficulties (using virtual technologies, instant messaging etc.)
  2. Team Managers: Don’t ignore the crucial role they play in providing support and guidance. If possible, use technology to enable and deploy a system of virtual floorwalkers.
  3. Technology: Ensure that your homeworking technology ecosystem provides a complete 360 degree view of operations with full visibility, control, engagement, and of course information security.
  4. Technology Support: If homeworkers are using company equipment (computers, phones), ensure you can support this equipment effectively.
  5. Appropriate Office Space: Ensure homeworkers can work from a suitable office in the home. Working and making calls from the living room with kids playing in the background, or dogs barking, just isn’t acceptable!
  6. Scheduling: Add greater flexibility into your planning schedules – such as split shifts and micro-shifts. This will enable homeworkers to fit work in around their other daily priorities (such as taking the kids to school or caring for a relative) while helping your organisation better match resources to daily peaks and troughs.
  7. Security: Consider adding extra security measures – such as restricting homeworker access to certain customer data. Also ensure you are not breaching your obligations under FCA, GDPR and other regulations.  And ensure company equipment is adequately insured for home use.

As a response to the current Coronavirus issue, homeworking can deliver a more dispersed workforce with a lower single point of failure, and hence a lower risk of cross infection.  This will enable your contact centre to operate as normal even if other business functions need to close down.

By Mark Walton