Allowing agents to work flexibly can be good for them and good for the bottom line, provided your systems and processes are sound, writes Daniel Harding, Director – Australia Operations, MaxContact
Looking to keep a lid on the wages bill by upping the number of temporary and casual agents in your contact centre?
A more flexible workforce can be a powerful asset, one that allows you to expand your hours of operation cost effectively and scale up and down rapidly, in response to fluctuating activity levels.
That’s the upside.
The downside? Using temporary and casual agents can fragment your team and degrade the quality of the service it delivers, if you don’t put measures in place to ensure the arrangement works in the interest of both parties.
Here are five ways to get your flexible workforce firing on all cylinders this year.
Deploy a user-friendly software platform
Some contact centre platforms are user friendly and intuitive. After a modicum of instruction, users can navigate their interfaces and track down the information they need without missing a beat. Other solutions, less so. Agents who work the phone or other communication channels upwards of 30 hours a week will, in time, find their way around even the most arcane of systems but for occasional users it can take a whole lot longer – and result in clunkier customer service and few enquiry resolutions in the interim. That’s why it can pay to invest in modern, well supported contact centre software that new hires can get to grips with quickly and easily.
Provide comprehensive training
There’s no two ways about it – training is expensive. It can be tempting to cut corners and costs by giving temporary and occasional agents an abridged version of your usual induction and education program but it’s likely to prove a false economy in the long run. Agents who are not familiar with your platform, products and processes won’t present a professional image and could damage your brand by providing customers with incorrect information. Or they may overload senior agents and team leaders with escalated enquiries; leaving customers on extended hold, waiting for someone who knows what they’re doing. Factor training and refresher courses for part-timers into the cost of running your contact centre and you’ll find it’s an investment that pays for itself many times over.
Listen to Daniel speak with Steve Nuttall in early 2020 about working through the pandemic
Invest in your knowledge management system
Contact centre enquiries can be something of a lucky dip. Many are run-of-the-mill and then there’s the occasional poser that can stump all but the most singular of agents. For everything in between, it helps to have a repository of information which can be referred to easily when a customer asks an unusual question. A knowledge management system is a useful resource for all agents and an indispensable one for temps and part-timers whose cumulative experience of resolving out-of-the-ordinary issues will be less than that of their full-time colleagues.
Roster experienced agents alongside flexible workers
Even with excellent training and a comprehensive knowledge management system, there will still be a proportion of interactions that have to be escalated to someone with the expertise to resolve them and the authority to make decisions. Rostering an agent who can do so alongside temporary and part time hires will ensure the latter aren’t left high and dry when curly questions pop up.
Make part-timers feel like part of the team
Temporary and casual workers might not be on the full-time crew but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel like they’re part of it. Companies that make flexible working a success in their contact centres know this and foster a culture that’s welcoming and inclusive. Including part-timers in regular communications, offering them the opportunity to attend staff meetings and inviting them to social events will reinforce the message that their services are valued even though they’re ‘only’ part time.
Making flexibility work in your favour
A flexible contact centre workforce has the potential to deliver a range of benefits for your business. Putting systems and processes in place that support your temporary and part time workers will help you to make the most of the model.
By Daniel Harding
Director - Australia Operations
This article was prepared by a guest blogger and reprinted with permission and thus the opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fifth Quadrant.