The “new normal” – remote contact center agents

2 Jul 2020 | Blog

Tracking the shift in remote contact center agents during COVID-19.

Until very recently, only 13% of contact center agents worked remotely on a permanent basis. Now, in an environment shaped by the coronavirus pandemic, that number is rapidly growing.

In its latest report, “The Inner Circle Guide to Contact Center Remote Working Solutions,” Contact Babel surveyed US contact centers about the challenges they’re facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those challenges was the issue of changing workforce conditions — specifically, the need to use remote working solutions to avoid a disruption in customer support operations. Let’s take a look at how US contact centers are responding to the unique demands of the current climate.

Remote Work Before COVID-19: Survey Results From 2019

Before the coronavirus outbreak, fewer than half of US contact centers allowed agents to work from home. Of the contact centers surveyed in 2019, 43% allowed at least some of their agents to work from home, while 57% either had made the firm decision to not offer remote work options at all, were in the process of evaluating remote work, or hadn’t made any moves one way or the other.

Prior to the pandemic, the biggest benefits to homeworking were perceived to be improved staffing flexibility and ability to handle unexpected call volumes.

Virtualizing multiple contact centers allows agents to move easily from one virtual location to another — and that allows for increased staffing flexibility. And because homeworking gives call centers a large pool of agents to draw from, as needed, it can be a major advantage in handling call spikes.

Agents aren’t calling in sick because of the coronavirus.

Only 1 in 10 contact centers surveyed were seeing absence rates of over 25%, suggesting that absence due to illness or lack of childcare doesn’t seem to be a problem for most of those surveyed. Of course, these findings vary regionally, with areas that are considered hot spots for the virus being more heavily impacted by agent absences.

Not surprisingly, the number of remote agents has risen dramatically.

Prior to the outbreak at the end of 2019, only 14% of survey respondents’ agents had been homeworkers. By mid-April, that number had jumped to 71%, with larger companies most embracing this change. However, this means more complexity in managing that same workforce. Therefore the use of your workforce has to stay efficient, even with this new communication barrier that consists of agents working from home. A managing application solution that precisely flows on a company’s WFM-software has, therefore, become a must for a lot of contact centers all around the world during these COVID-19 pandemic times.

There has been a jump in the use of cloud-based contact center solutions.

The increase in remote working is supported by an uptake in cloud-based contact center solutions. And during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a jump in the use of cloud, especially in mid-sized and large contact center operations to support remote working and business continuity. Therefore a cloud-based application like Komyunity can be the perfect solution to manage the now dramatically risen number of remote agents.