How To Make Work From Home A Success At Your Call Center

How To Make Work From Home A Success At Your Call Center

16 . June . 2020

More and more businesses have mandated that their employees work from home (WFH) in the ongoing effort to minimize the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The concept of Work From Home is increasingly being adopted by businesses around the world.

Among many benefits of using WFH, one is that it allows a business to continue processing work when office building becomes inaccessible for the staff.

The call centre industry is one of the industries that are known to account for the mass employment of fresh graduates from the universities or polytechnics. Irrespective of the course you have studied, you can easily fit into the call centre setting if you are determined and hard working. The fact that the job description varies makes it difficult to restrict the recruitment of a call centre agent to a particular field of study.

If you need to have your designated staff work from home in the most effective way, ZRG team is here to help with our experience, knowledge and solutions.

We have gathered and put together useful tips that can be used for working remotely, possibly for an extended period of time during a DR condition or due to change in business strategy.

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The Emergency Response Team (ERT) – Need Of Today

The Emergency Response Team (ERT) – Need Of Today

11 . June . 2020

A robust business continuity plan can take months, even years, to construct and today in these pandemic crisis there is a need for ERT more than ever.

If your business already has an emergency and continuity plan, you should familiarize yourself with it and become an active member of the planning process.

This is a quick and tactical guide to crafting an emergency response team.

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Tips for Effective Reporting of Your Contact Center Activity

Tips for Effective Reporting of Your Contact Center Activity

9 . June . 2020

Effective contact center reporting requires an ongoing communication process

Reporting contact center activity to senior level management and others in the organization can seem a daunting task. The wide variety of activities in a typical center, the reality of senior management not having the time to pour over detailed reports, and the fact that summary reports often gloss over important information, all contribute to the challenge. Consequently, many diligently prepared reports either go unread or, worse, are misunderstood.

Clearly, good communication doesn’t happen just because detailed information is available. Any manager buried in system reports yet struggling to convey basic realities can testify to that fact. As with budgets, the process you establish to communicate ongoing contact center activity is as important as the information itself. The following steps can help you identify and prepare meaningful reports and ensure that they are understood.

1. Determine Your Objectives

What are the objectives for the reports? In other words, what should other managers know about the contact center or the information it has acquired, and why? To find the answers, assemble a team for a working discussion. A cross-section of managers from across the organization, contact center managers, supervisors and agents should be involved. General areas of concern usually include:

•Customer satisfaction and sentiment analysis
•Quality measurements
•Contributions to other business units
•Access alternatives and workload trends
•Costs and revenues
•Queue reports (such as service level and abandonment)
•Resource utilization and requirements (e.g., staffing and scheduling needs)

From these major categories, important measurements will emerge. It’s often useful to preface this exercise with a question like, “If we could wave a magic wand, what would we really want to know about our contact center?” At this stage, don’t be concerned about whether or not you have the reports to support the objectives you identify. Your objectives — not the reports you happen to have — should drive this process.

2. Identify Supporting Information

List the possible reporting alternatives under each of the objectives you identified in the first step. Include information from systems, databases, surveys, other departments and external information.

The challenge now becomes one of selection. Stephanie Winston, author of the classic book, The Organized Executive, advises that a report should not simply collect facts, but serve as a judgment tool for management. To pare down the lists, Winston suggests asking a variety of questions: Is the report really necessary? What questions does it answer? Which reports would you dispense with if you had to pay for them? Could several reports be combined? Will you act on the information to affect change?

3. Put the Information in a User-Friendly Format

Once you have a list of desired reports, the next step is to compile them into a simple, understandable format. This often means creating graphs of the information. For example, simple line charts can illustrate trends that would otherwise appear as hard-to-decipher numbers. Reports that rely on graphs may take more pages, but a 10-page report consisting primarily of graphs is often quicker to read and easier to comprehend than two pages of detailed numbers in rows and columns. Look for data that can be combined or contrasted to provide a more complete story.

4. Clarify Information that could be Misleading

As any seasoned contact center manager has learned, you can make reports show whatever you want. For example, you can prop up service level by overflowing calls to other groups, changing distribution priorities, or taking messages for later callbacks. Or you can provide overall reports or select timeframes that combine data and conceal problematic intervals. Clearly, simply providing a high-level report on service level or quality can be misleading. The reader needs more information.

5. Annotate Exceptions

There will be points that are clearly out of the norm. Don’t leave your audience guessing. Explain deviations, both what happened and why. Why did wait times go through the roof in early February? A simple footnote can provide the answer: “Power outage in Northeast; workload 40 percent higher than normal.”

6. Augment Reports with Practical Experiences

Giving recipients a report to read on what happens on Monday mornings versus bringing them into the center to observe what happens is the difference between night and day. You need to do both. Teaching key contact center dynamics to managers outside the center is necessary to create a clear understanding of how cross-functional decisions and actions link with the center’s overall effectiveness. And contact center executives need a solid understanding of the concerns, challenges and objectives in other areas of the organization. This mutual understanding forms a strong and essential foundation for effective reporting and communication.

7. Organize an Ongoing Forum for Discussing and Acting one the Information

Presenting data in a clear, concise and actionable format is a start. But reports must be followed with a forum for discussing and acting on the information. This becomes the primary opportunity to turn information into sound business decisions. If there’s one overall message, it’s this: Effective reporting is an ongoing communication process. It’s not an end result.

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Disaster Recovery in the Contact Center

Disaster Recovery in the Contact Center

5 . June . 2020

Disaster does not have to come to an enterprise or contact center in the form of a major natural disaster worthy of news coverage. Disaster in the workplace can come in the form of heavy rains, a power outage, loss of potable water or a backhoe digging up telecom fiber across the street. Anything that renders employees incapable of working is a disaster and responsible organizations should plan for such an event.

This article has been put together by the research team at ZRG International. Find out more about ZRG towards the end.

An enterprise or contact center that spends the time and energy to create a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plan is very wise to do so and should plan for different contingencies that could happen, rate their impact and then rate their likelihood and build a plan around those elements that are both highly impacting to an organization and also fairly likely.

Whatever the expected incident, an organization should understand what to do if employees cannot access their office workstations or if the contact center loses electricity.

It would be best to develop a very functional plan that is more step by step – regardless of the disaster, what is to happen first, second, third after the disaster is over. Things like checking on employees, checking for fire or other situations that would cause an evacuation. If the building is safe to occupy and employees are safe and well, then a quick triage of production systems may be next: phone systems, call routing applications, CRM systems and so on. A validation that dial tone exists, electricity is on or else UPS systems or backup generators are engaged would be next and so on.

A few things to consider as you approach your plan:

If production systems need to be repaired or replaced, is there a protocol during a disaster to purchase them? Equipment and application vendors should be documented so they can easily be contacted and appropriate service levels should exist to get new equipment dispatched to get systems back online.

Approval processes for purchasing equipment should be in place when normal processes cannot be engaged. It should be known who in the organization can purchase what dollar amounts without approval if the CFO cannot be reached and purchase orders cannot be signed etc.

Getting computer systems and telephones back online quickly is critical to the organization’s continuity as they are typically the life blood of the organization’s revenue stream in taking sales orders, servicing customers and retaining customer loyalty etc. and should be prioritized over back-office systems such as billing systems, accounting systems, HR systems and so on, but those back-office systems should also be documented in the plan, just at a lower priority.

Volumes have been written on disaster recovery/business continuity, templates exist for purchase to create such plans and experts on the topic will provide much more value than the simple ideas you’ll see here, but the point is to assign an owner to create the plan, gather the information and publish something, even if it’s not perfect in its initial draft – it is certainly better than having nothing in place.

Without an owner, it will never get written. Remember when everyone owns it, no one owns it and it simply will not get done. This may be an opportunity to hire an outside consulting firm that specialize in this. Even though the price tag may look high at first, think of the cost of not having a plan or the salary dollars associated with many employees in the organization taking a stab at it over months and months.

Now we will focus in on a few best practices to ensure continuity in the event of a disaster, big or small.

First let’s start with the telecommunications component. Many organizations have voice T-1s or multiple T-1s running into their contact center or office environment. One thing your telecom provider can help you investigate is whether the building you inhabit has multiple fiber entrance points into the building. While certainly less common, it is fortunate when two local access providers (usually the incumbent telco or local exchange carrier (LEC) and a newer entrant into the dial tone market, the competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) ) both run feeds into the same building at differing points.

This stroke of luck allows an organization to use both local providers for the last mile on their T-1 circuits ideally running back to two unique long distance carriers in two different markets where their equipment resides. This dual redundancy allows for one local access provider and even one long distance provider, to completely lose service without severely impacting your organization. Any contact center would prefer to be down to half capacity rather than being 100% out of commission. This redundancy happens at the telecommunications infrastructure layer, but there are others to think about as well.

If your organization does not use voice T-1s but instead is using Voice over IP (VoIP), an organization can similarly protect against a single point of failure at the network level by securing two internet connections or access points into multiple managed service providers handing their IP telephony needs.

Using different protocols can be a great point of disaster recovery. An organization could have voice T-1s and TDM signaled phones behind a legacy PBX as their primary mode of communications to the world and as a backup have VoIP hard phones or software based phones activated with current credentials that could be deployed should they lose their voice T-1s or even lose their PBX system due to card failure, power supply failure and so on.

Implementing the VoIP solution by having employees log into their softphone or plugging their VoIP hard phone into a data wall jack, they can begin taking calls as if nothing ever happened. Of course this assumes the contact center solution is still online at the premise, or better yet is a fully managed, multi-tenant SaaS solution. Then you are sure to be able to use this method of back up since all of the auto attendant, call routing, screen pops etc. are handled in the cloud and not on premise.

Another form of redundancy is sending agents home to begin taking or making calls. Ideally the organizations has already identified which employees have a robust home PC and high speed internet connection with appropriate VPN access to the network, or have roving lap top computers ready to dispatch to employees who can work from home, should facilities become unavailable in the traditional contact center.

Home agents have the ability to leave the impacted building or area of disaster and go to higher ground, or areas not impacted by the power outage etc. With the proper contact center solution that is easily ready to facilitate home agents, the organization can be back up and running in a very short time, with very little additional money spent.

Some or all of these methods can be deployed to ensure a better ability to keep agents on the phone in order to take orders or service customers.

Each organization should evaluate their unique situation to decide which business continuity plans are most appropriate for the kind of business being conducted. Our advice is to make a plan and spend the money now, before a disaster situation occurs and it’s too late.

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Agent Motivation and Retention

Agent Motivation and Retention

4 . June . 2020

In a recent employee survey conducted by Manpower, they discovered that 84% of respondents plan to seek employment elsewhere in 2011. Two of the main reasons for leaving were lack of satisfaction with their direct manager and with the company culture. As the economy begins to loosen, and we see a rise in jobs, how do we retain our best employees? What can we do to motivate people to stay?

Considering the answers to the above-mentioned survey, it’s clear that a company’s culture is a strong consideration in any employee retention strategy.

An organization's culture does not necessarily reflect the espoused list of values developed at an offsite meeting by the executive team and framed on the wall in the lobby. These are ideals. The culture we “claim” (vision, mission, values), may not be the true culture of the organization. It’s the organization’s DNA.
In reality, what management pays attention to and rewards is often the strongest indicator of the organization's culture. This is often quite different than the values it verbalizes or the ideals it strives for. Culture comprises the deeply rooted, but often unconscious, beliefs, values and norms shared by the members of the organization.

This means that employee engagement is crucial to the organization’s success.

What most organizations fail to realize is the impact of employee satisfaction on their customers. The Corporate Leadership Council conducted a study in which they discovered that those employees who are most committed perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization. Additionally, for every 1% increase in employee satisfaction, an organization gains a 2% increase in customer satisfaction. The ramifications of this are huge to a company looking to grow in today’s market.

This is not to say companies don’t try. They just don’t know what to target. Many call centers try the carrot-and-stick approach (bonuses, contests, pizza parties, et al) and those don’t work very well.

Motivation is intrinsic. As Stephen Covey eloquently puts it, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

For example, children in a small town were given points for every book they checked out of the local library during the summer vacation. The points could be redeemed for a free pizza, in an attempt to encourage reading. The children in the program did indeed read more books than other children. But after the program ended, when reading no longer paid off in pizza, those children read far fewer books than others. Their own intrinsic desire to read books had been subsumed by the extrinsic reward, and when the pizza went away, so did the motivation.

Another example: Heart patients who’ve had double or quadruple bypass operations face a very simple choice: They must stop eating unhealthy food, smoking, drinking and working too much or they die.

Death is the ultimate negative motivation, carrying the greatest penalty for non-compliance. Yet, two years after the operation, only 10% of these heart patients managed to stick to their new habits. This is pretty strong evidence that negative motivation does not work.

One doctor, Dean Ornish, created a program where heart patients were instead taught to appreciate life (rather than fear death). They practiced yoga, meditated, received counseling, maintained a healthy diet, all aimed at making them enjoy life more. The result: 2 years later, 70% of the patients maintained their new lifestyles.

Motivation must come from within and be fostered by management in order to achieve success. Some ways to accomplish this:

• Create a framework from which to create, develop and maintain your culture strategy

• Survey your employees-what do THEY think about the culture here?

• Lead by example

• Ensure trust through honesty, availability, consistency, fairness and clear direction

• Give purpose and respect to each employee

• Capitalize on employee development opportunities

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