A Guide to Call Centre Work From Home models
According to research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the highest-ever proportion of Australians one in three now work from home (WFH), at least some of the time and that number has, of course, skyrocketed with the outbreak of COVID.
The latest Contact Centre industry research in Australia revealed that in early 2021, 58% of Australian contact centre agents were working from home, up from 7% the previous year.
That is expected to be even higher when the results of the next survey are released.
AAMI has been using at-home call centre agents for some time now (well before COVID) and it’s had the thumbs up from employees.
There were also a couple of call centre outsourcers in Australia with their primary workforce ‘at-home’ and from all reports, it’s been working well for them and throughout COVID, let’s just say they’ve been very busy!
Pre COVID when working from home was still a choice, there were still some fears about not letting agents work from home but most of those fears were unfounded.
The key takeaway from the study – home agents were 13% more productive.
What the research says:
As part of the study, call centre employees who volunteered to work from home were randomly assigned to work from home or in the office for 9 months. The study revealed that:
- Homeworking led to a 13% performance increase, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment).
- Improved work satisfaction and less turnover, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell.
Due to the success of the experiment, they rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the experimental employees to re-select between the home or office.
Interestingly, over half of them switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%.
This highlights the benefits of learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH.
So is it easy for call centre agents to work from home?
Well, one thing is for sure, it’s a lot easier than it’s ever been thanks to advances in technology such as cloud contact centre technology.
But like most things in life, it’s not for everyone.
Many people are attracted to the concept, but the reality of working on your own all day and being isolated from a supportive team environment can sometimes lead to attrition.
Of course, many people also love it!
Make sure you adequately screen for someone’s propensity to work in isolation from a team setting and read our article on how to keep remote employees engaged.
6 Things to consider when implementing a call centre work from home model
To help you consider if the call centre work from home model is right for your business I’ve listed some key considerations below.
1. Shift times
Despite how much we would like customers to coordinate amongst themselves to ring a call centre in a nice orderly manner one after another, the reality is they don’t!
Over time, call centres typically experience very well defined peaks so it makes sense to have the most staff on at this time.
This limits a lot of the flexibility aspects, e.g. logging in and out when it suits when you are working from home for a call centre as call centres still need defined shifts filled.
If you are able to easily identify your peaks and troughs then you might be on a winner.
2. OH&S issues
You need to have a safe working environment.
You may need to provide this at your expense, with some organisations covering all or some of the costs.
A proper desk, chair, the right cabling etc are all mandatory items.
Noise can also be a big issue – a barking dog, screaming kids etc can all be a big no-no that for many companies, are a deal-breaker although since COVID most customers are used to hearing some background nice and have empathy for those working from home.
Outside of that, these days it requires nothing more than a good internet connection and an IP Phone using cloud contact centre technology.
Unfortunately, that means we are dependent on an efficient NBN but I might save my thoughts on that for another article ?
Just to be thorough, as well as having a stable broadband connection you’ll also need a computer and an IP Headset (although calls can also be routed to a mobile phone these days).
Cloud contact centre technology essentially provides exactly the same functionality as sitting at a contact centre workstation on your premises, just from the luxury of the employee’s home.
4. Learning & Development
With a good Knowledge Management System, you can stay across what’s happening easily and providing amazing service to your customers.
Knowledge Management Systems ensure agents are armed with the right information at the right time with proven benefits in compliance, the accuracy of the information, reduced average handling time, reduce speed to competency and so on.
Live coaching between an agent and a Team Leader can also be done over the phone using whisper technology (via the cloud contact centre technology) and you can still transfer calls etc as you would sitting in the office.
Performance reviews, one on one meetings etc can be done over Skype, Zoom or other online tools.
This is one of the tough ones, working on your own can be pretty lonely and one of the challenges with working remotely is losing that sense of team.
When most contact centre agents are asked what is the best part of their job the answer normally involves their teammates/work colleagues so removing that component can have a flow-on effect.
It’s common for work from home agents to still be required to spend either part of the week/month in the office just to maintain a sense of belonging.
Whilst the overseas study suggest a 13% to 22% improvement, closer to home there doesn’t appear to be a lot of data to support the productivity benefits although with COVID forcing most contact centre agents to work from home at least some of the time, some local data won’t be too far away.
What is clear is that whilst working from home is mandatory for some of us, there will be a time when things return to relative normality.
But with businesses now used to a remote workforce, there is no doubt for many, there won’t be a return to the ‘good old days’ when all agents were in one location.
Huge cost savings in buildings and infrastructure and a more agile workforce may just be too attractive…
- Read: Tips on how to manage COVID19 in the contact centre
- Read: 7 Tips for keeping remote employees engaged
- Learn: Discover all the upcoming industry events like conferences, webinars, training courses and more
- Search: A list of industry suppliers providing services to the contact centre and CX industry in Australia