In just a few short years, working remotely has gone from something largely reserved for special situations to an expectation for positions that reasonably allow for it. Before 2020, many employers were wary, citing concerns about eroding camaraderie and dwindling productivity as barriers to a work-from-home policy. However, after taking the remote work model for a mandated test drive, many employers – including outsource call centers – have embraced the idea as a permanent option.
While the data certainly seems to indicate that fears of evaporating productivity in an at-home working environment were unfounded, maintaining employee engagement tends to take some effort. So how do you keep your remote contact center agents engaged? Here are a few must-haves:
Provide Virtual Communication Channels
In an office environment, staff communication and collaboration often occur by simply leaning over to ask a coworker. These quick Q&A sessions may feel informal, but they often serve as a critical vehicle for ongoing training and growth. While they can’t be perfectly replicated in a remote world, technology can certainly provide a viable substitute.
One simple way to revitalize discussion and team building is the use of chatting apps. Instant messaging has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life, so dropping it into a professional environment requires little training. Most chat software allows for not only one-on-one communication between employees but also collaborative groups based on department or topic, or team-building ones surrounding personal interests.
For a heightened level of communication, video conferencing is a staple of any remote working environment. When used effectively, it can provide an experience that rivals – or even surpasses – that of an in-person meeting. In addition to providing the ability to see and hear each other, video conferencing also offers screen-sharing capabilities that allow users to walk through digital processes, review training materials, or collaborate in real-time. 98 percent of respondents to a study performed by Lifesize showed that video meetings helped with relationship-building both inside and outside of the company.
Implement Gamification Systems
Anyone who’s ever taken a quick evening walk to “hit their steps” or took a few moments to practice French after their Duolingo app reminded them they were in danger of losing their streak knows that gamification can be highly effective. Adding a little incentive, even something as minor as the congratulatory vibration of a smartwatch, can have a major impact on results.
Gamification has been used in team settings to enhance training programs for a long time now. A recent study showed that 80 percent of U.S. workers believe that game-based learning is more engaging than alternatives, and adding gamification features to training programs increased employee engagement by 60%. Adding some healthy competition and fun to your onboarding processes can remove monotony and improve employee relationships – all while improving effectiveness and information retention.
In any relationship, including between employee and company, showing appreciation is important. Letting someone know that you value their hard work and dedication is an affirmation to them that they’re on the right track. Unfortunately, when agents are working remotely it can be more difficult to provide on-the-fly accolades.
One way to encourage supervisors to continue to praise their employees and check KPIs may be to provide a monthly stipend for virtual rewards. Budgets like these allow management to recognize employees who go above and beyond in meeting goals or handling tough inquiries while demonstrating high ethics. The prizes can be anything from gift cards to lists of items on ecommerce websites that staff can choose from.
Remote-only call center agents do not have to forego benefits that their in-person counterparts can enjoy. In fact, many companies have offered incentives like home office equipment stipends and subsidized broadband. If your staff is used to company lunches, offering a food delivery or coffee gift card may be a way to keep engagement high during meetings as well. Additionally, if your building offers spaces like a gym or recreation area, waiving costs for at-home agents could be a huge bonus.
Additionally, if virtual employees ever come into the office, this is your chance to roll out the red carpet. Attending events such as company-wide meetings or training sessions can even be seen as a treat when given the opportunity. Specifically, providing snacks or catered meals during these visits is a great way to build morale while letting people get to know each other. Another option is to send a small care package home with each employee as a token of appreciation for their hard work.
Last but certainly not least, getting feedback from employees on what is and isn’t working can help shape your plan. Some remote agents may be motivated by camaraderie, while others find purpose in the pursuit of victory. Checking in with each team member using employee satisfaction surveys or pulse surveys will help you cater to each staff member’s strengths and drive.
Additionally, setting up Q&A sessions with executives helps to bridge the gap between the closeness agents who previously worked in office feel now that they no longer see coworkers in person. This allows staff to check in with and get to know chief personnel. An open and honest dialogue helps employees feel more certain about the contact center’s direction and those they answer to as a department.
When feedback comes in or questions are answered, be flexible. Receiving a negative response can be disheartening, but it also allows the organization to grow. Just as remote agents are dedicated to the company, so should the company be dedicated to them.
Remote Agent Engagement Can Be a Reality
Keeping remote employees engaged may be new territory for companies that were traditionally in-office, but it certainly isn’t impossible. By utilizing these four tips to boost morale, your company will have set in place the building blocks for a better work environment.
If you’re looking for an outsource call center partner that knows how to keep its remote employees engaged, we can help. Start the conversation by requesting your no-obligation call center cost proposal to help navigate the world of outsourcing options.