How to Support and Engage Your Remote Call Center Agents

Contact Center | 7 minute read

Now, more than ever, your call center agents need your support.

According to remote work strategist Laurel Farrer, it typically takes six to 12 weeks for a smooth transition from on-site to remote work — that’s under normal circumstances.

But the pandemic has forced a transition to remote working virtually overnight. And for many customer support departments, that has been whilst under a relentless onslaught of customer inquiries.

If you think you can wing it for a couple more weeks, think again. Some of the best advice we’ve read has come from the folks at TaxJar, who suggest “Treating the temporary remote work situation less like a field trip and more like what it truly is – the future of work.”
'Treat the temporary remote work situation less like a field trip and more like what it truly is – the future of work!' says @TaxJar #remotework #cctr #management Click To Tweet
It’s never been more important for call center managers to support their agents. Here are our top tips for engaging your call center agents and keeping agent morale high, so that you and your team can go (virtually) unimpeded for as long as you need to.

1. Improve your communication with remote employees

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few weeks, it’s the importance of communicating with your employees working at home.

We could give you the best tips in the world and they’d still be ineffective if your communication strategy is weak.

Employee relationships are important, and we believe they should always be a priority. When managing a team of remote call center agents, this is even more imperative. As a manager, you need to invest more time in this than you normally would.

Start by setting very clear expectations about communication, roles, and responsibilities, as this will prevent confusion later. And it will help any of your team stay connected with each other on a personal level.

Invest in chat and video conferencing software

One aspect of office communication that quickly gets lost when we go remote is the little conversations and comments we make to our neighbors and departmental colleagues. Chat apps are a great way to bring these back.

Employee relationships should always be a priority. But when you're managing a remote team, this is even more imperative. You need to invest more time than normal. #remotework #cctr #management Click To Tweet

Encourage employees to get creative with their groups and channels, and find ways to integrate them into your processes, so that your team gets used to using it day-to-day. There are even lots of great little games and polls you can run to keep everyone engaged.

Schedule more check-ins 

The human element of face-to-face meetings is hard to replicate even with video. But don’t underestimate the importance of those little 5-10 minute chats; they’re essential to your company culture — and for keeping remote teams engaged.

We have a daily informal morning coffee chat and we have been practicing ‘dropping in’ to each other for short video calls and other informal meetings, to try and recreate the open office environment.

As a manager, you should know that most employees won’t speak up about a problem until it is already too late. In a real office, you can spot the signs and be proactive in handling it.

But when you’re managing remote teams, you don’t have those social cues.

Frequently checking in with questions such as, “Are you feeling connected?” or “How can I help you achieve your goals this week?”, and, “Is there anything that you’re struggling with this week?” can help to start that conversation, so your remote workers never feel alone.

2. Do more things together as a remote team

Team building exercises and social opportunities are an integral part of forming a great company culture. Office snacks, coffee breaks, lunch walks with colleagues, and Friday drinks at the bar are as much a part of your company as your logo.

In fact, a study by The Wall Street Journal suggested that “a sense of belonging” could be the differentiator for success for companies.

Your remote call center agents have lost that community. But there are lots of ways you can bring some of that ‘togetherness’ back to your remote employees.

Play some virtual games together

If the thought of your employees playing games during work horrifies you, I’ve got (bad) news for you…

One way of engaging remote teams is by playing games together. Many teams thrive off healthy competition, there are plenty of ways to bring some gamification back into the virtual workplace.
Team building exercises and social opportunities are an integral part of forming a great company culture. In fact, the 'sense of belonging' it creates could be the differentiator for success for your business. #remotework #cctr #management Click To Tweet
But we also mean actual games. Fun games. There are plenty to choose from or you could try creating your own virtual trivia game. At Fonolo, we’ve been rounding off our week with some games over Zoom (and some cold beverages, of course!).

Exercise with your remote team

One thing we all need to do a little more during quarantine is exercise. There are countless studies that show exercise improves productivity and reduces depression.

We’ve been missing our weekly Monday yoga sessions, so we decided to start them back up again — and had the biggest turnout to date!

If your agents are missing the gym and need a more intense workout, sign up for some of the many virtual training sessions out there, from the PTs and coaches that are twiddling their (muscular) thumbs as much as the rest of us.

Create a virtual lunchroom to eat with your colleagues

There’s a lot of good work that shows the benefits and importance of eating with other people. And even those of us who squirrel it down at our desks go out to lunch occasionally.

One of the most powerful things you can do to boost team morale, support your virtual workforce, and keep remote agents engaged is to open a virtual ‘lunchroom’.

This could be as simple as a Slack channel called #lunch, where your team can announce when they’re taking lunch and if anyone wants to join them for a chat. Or you could use apps like Houseparty or Jamm so that employees can drop in and out on each other informally, or arrange virtual lunch breaks together.

To encourage employees to join, you could even subsidize their virtual team lunches. Last week, everyone at Fonolo received a mystery box packed with snacks and treats, which we all unboxed together.

Simple, but fun, and a great chance for everyone to relax without their work hats on (which often get stuck on your head when working from home).

3. Make sure your team has virtually everything they need

This is good advice for any manager; now more than ever, your call center team needs to know that you appreciate how hard they’re working.

Yes, financial and benefit incentives are important, but often just covering the basics can make all the difference.

Most people don’t have a home office set-up. Your team may be working on kitchen tables, bar stools, sofas, and beds. Yes, you made sure that they have the tech they need to work — but did you check if their environment was helping them be productive too?
Getting the right equipment to your remote team is essential if you want them to feel good about their workspace, and be productive in it. Your team will do a much better job if they enjoy being in their workspace. #remotework #cctr… Click To Tweet
Getting the right equipment to your remote team is essential if you want them to feel good about their workspace, and be productive in it. Your team will do a much better job if they enjoy their workspace.

Set aside a budget for home offices, and remember to offer your employees the assistance, as they may be too shy or nervous to ask for it without prompting.

They may still miss the free coffee and ping-pong table, but at least they won’t be crippling themselves hunched over their laptop in bed.

Supporting Your Remote Contact Center Team in a Crisis is Essential

Whatever changes you’ve made in your call center to cope with the crisis, moving your team remote probably posed the biggest challenge — but you did it.

Now they’re set up, it’s important to make sure that your agents stay engaged, and that you support your employees whatever way you can — physical and mental — throughout the crisis.

Only then will they be fully equipped to ensure that your contact center can navigate the crisis too.

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