Call center supervisors have dramatically changed how they manage their agents in response to the surge in remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more organizations implement permanent work-from-home strategies for their call center agents, supervisors must have tools in place to support remote management. In particular, digital tools such as video conferencing, team collaboration tools and workforce management (WFM) software can help supervisors effectively lead their remote agents.
How has call center management changed?
In the 2010s, speech analytics software and automation reshaped call center management with its ability to detect customer frustration and point managers to struggling agents.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic demanded further transformation as supervisors addressed new concerns. Suddenly, agents worked at home with school-age children during the day and, more broadly, pandemic-related worker shortages left call centers understaffed.
In response, supervisors added flexible hours for personal, company and client needs, and split shifts for employees who could work in the morning and evening but had to help kids with virtual classes during the day.
Challenges in managing remote agents
The abrupt shift from a traditional office environment to a work-from-home strategy created obstacles for call center supervisors, such as the following:
- Evaluation. In-person evaluations became impossible as pandemic restrictions physically separated supervisors from their agents.
- Problem resolution. Supervisors, who used to be down the hall or around the corner from agents, lost the ability to provide face-to-face guidance.
- Collaboration. Supervisors and agents struggled to perform collaborative tasks that were simple to do in person, such as track communications, add other team members into their discussions, jointly view documents or track associated documents.
- Scheduling. Organizations that once posted schedules on office whiteboards or paper had to adopt new, remote-friendly
Tools to help manage remote call center agents
Call center managers can overcome remote work challenges with the following tools:
- Agent analytics programs. Although many supervisors lost the ability to observe agents in person amid the pandemic, analytics programs offer more performance data than human observation, along with data to enhance coaching sessions.
- Video conferencing. One-on-one video calls between supervisors and agents can engage users more than standard voice calls, as they capture facial expressions and body language in addition to speech. Also, video conferencing can enhance team meetings and agent training programs.
- Team collaboration tools. Team workspaces enable call center supervisors and agents to participate in chats, segment topics of interest or concern and interact with people outside the call center. For example, product managers may want to include key agents in discussions about new upgrades based on input from customer discussions.
- Workforce management applications. Managers cannot post schedules on office whiteboards in a remote work setting. However, WFM software can help remote supervisors schedule based on demand and enable remote agents to view their schedules and easily trade shifts from home.
- Cloud software. Cloud-based applications can equip remote agents with tools to do their jobs from home. Cloud systems can also simplify growth and change based on customer demands. Large, customized and complex call centers with on-premises platforms can also benefit from cloud apps.
Remote work strategies offer increased flexibility for workers and reduced real estate costs for organizations. While the remote work model challenges call center management, digital tools such as agent analytics, video conferencing, collaboration tools, WFM applications and cloud software provide a viable strategy.