Are remote call center agents a part of your future plans?
Depending on your industry, the shift to remote environments might be a boon or a bust for your business. But no matter what, you’re looking to optimize for what works and solve for what doesn’t.
In a short time, businesses that rely on call center agents found their teams dispersed across remote home offices. All indications suggest that not only is this a temporary reality, but (in all likelihood) a long-term sea change to adapt to.
If you’re grappling with what the future looks like for remote-first teams (whether transitioning your existing call center or onboarding a BPO partner for the first time), this article details the benefits, trends, and challenges you’ll face in 2022 and beyond.
General Benefits of Remote Work Models
Like any well-run business, it’s imperative for leaders to find the silver lining amidst transition — the move from in-house to partial- and fully-remote teams is no exception.
By being proactive — and highlighting the benefits of remote work — leaders have been able to refine processes and technologies to supercharge their output. This has created improvements to team efficiency, bottom-line revenue, and agent morale.
Here are some of the more obvious benefits:
60% of employers identified cost savings as an early benefit of remote work growth. With lower expenditures in rent, utilities, taxes, and cleaning & maintenance services, businesses re-allocated funds to growth-specific costs, such as hiring and technology.
Many productivity studies were launched early in 2020, sparked by the remote shift, so preliminary results run the spectrum of outcomes:
- A Stanford study of 16,000 workers saw a productivity increase of 16%
- 77% of remote workers showed increased productivity, per ConnectSolutions; either doing more work in less time (30%) or doing more work in the same time (24%).
- However, as reported by Aternity, remote work has resulted in a 14% drop in productivity, per their research.
As a leader, you need to focus on your KPIs to determine the true impact of remote work. This is the only way to know if your WFH teams are a benefit or a barrier.
Larger Talent Pools
“The widening of the talent pool [due to the acceleration of remote work] is both an opportunity and a challenge,” said John Hill, chairman and CEO of The Energists, a recruiting firm in the energy industry. “Instead of only choosing from the top talent that lives nearby, you can access top talent from all over the world.”
He adds that the pain point potentially results in a flood of applicants for each role, which can slow your hiring process and actually make it more difficult to find top talent.
But if you’re able to manage the increase of candidate volume, your business will have access to a much deeper pool of talent.
What’s more? Keeping your top talent becomes easier in a remote world, with 74% of employees reporting that they would leave their current job in favor of a remote one.
Call Center Trends for Remote Work in 2022
Agents Are Calling Their Shot
Remote work has quickly become a preference (and often requisite) for call center agents. Many call center leaders have experienced this, watching agents walk away from positions that aren’t exclusively remote.
If given the choice between WFH or in-office work, 68% of employees would opt to remain remote.
And because of this reality, agents now enjoy far more career flexibility from the comfort of their home offices, as more employers are seeking top talent across a worker-friendly job market.
The Rise of Hub & Spoke in Call Centers
In response to the remote agent trend, leaders are embracing a “hub and spoke” call center model. This model allows for agents to work comfortably from home but within a proximal distance for occasional in-person visits.
Your HQ or “hub” feeds the decentralized “spokes” of your at-home agents, with in-person visits typically narrowed around ongoing training or remedial supervision for under-performing team members.
Call center leaders use hub-and-spoke to reinforce key performance goals and elevate remote performance while still supporting the remote flexibility most agents prefer.
The Shift to Remote-First Models
With new business structures in place, call centers are planning for a future where work is “remote-first.”
Many call centers are starting by reducing their physical office space, turning cubicles that were once filled with agents into storage areas, where agent workstations are boxed and ready to ship.
BPO Support In Office For Special Circumstances
It may feel like your entire business operation has gone remote, especially for agents and call center leaders. But, the truth is, there’s a strong trend growing that aims to keep key call center operations centralized.
Look for essential support functions to remain in office, particularly:
- In cases of compliance or security, where clients insist on in-office controls.
- Across training environments, where hands-on training may be preferred.
- Where access to physical items is critical to the agents’ job, like technical support for physical products and equipment.
Biggest Remote Work Challenges in 2022
We’ve covered the remote-work benefits and trends that call center leaders can expect in 2022.
But what about the challenges?
It’s important for call center leaders to proactively solve for the emerging challenges that exist (and will persist) in the future. Here’s a few:
It’s essential that your technologies and processes help maintain a sense of team and community. Consider LMS or gamification platforms to help raise morale around ongoing remote training and work.
Call center agents serve as your first line brand ambassadors. If brand connectivity is a key goal for your business and/or clients, make sure your training reflects that. All KPI success (whether brand loyalty or AHT) starts with your training protocols.
Call Center Security
There are several controls that inherently exist in a brick and mortar environment that vanish once agents switch to a home office. Recreating these controls through technology is critical to maintaining security in remote call center.
Most organizations are aware of the need to maintain PCI compliance, and many utilize technologies that can temporarily remove the agent from the conversation while the user provides sensitive information like a credit card or social security number.
But many businesses are still slow to implement systems that provide the security that employee key cards and clean desk protocols offer. Those who understand the importance of finding a substitute for controlled access and physical sightlines have started using remote monitoring technologies that provide a view of the physical desk and the area behind the screen in the home offices and even use biometrics to ensure the right agent is sitting at the workstation.
There are dozens of innovative solutions for better remote security, and it’s important to consider their value sooner rather than later. Your clients and your internal security teams will demand it.
Next Steps to Prepare for the Future of Remote Work
If you’re looking to leverage the benefits of outsourcing remote work, capitalize on emerging trends, and avoid common pitfalls—then you should consider partnering with an expert outsourcing consultant with direct remote call center experience.
Outsource Consultants delivers unique perspectives and countless real-world use cases of helping organizations leverage talented, end-to-end outsource call center providers.
Ready to see what expert BPO services can do for your business? Contact us today for a no-cost, risk-free consultation.