Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3 Factors to Consider When Implementing a Virtual Call Center Program

By: Pamela La Gioia

After a post I made in December, 2013, asserting that Christmas is the perfect time to find home-based customer service work, I spoke with a call center manager, Sean Hawkins, to see if he agreed. He was able to give me some valuable insight from the business end of a call center.

Pamela: I’ve been telling my blog readers and website visitors that Christmas is a great time to look for home-based call center jobs. My reasoning: holiday shopping– especially online shopping–dramatically increases, creating an increased demand for customer service representatives. What’s your take?

Sean: Most often, you will see an increase in work from home customer service agents with businesses that are seasonal. This is true throughout the year whether it’s Christmas, Easter or the summer season.

With the holiday season already here, anyone implementing a work from home schedule is a few weeks behind. Ideally this process should have been mapped out in Q2 or Q3. I have a process I use that gets updated each year just after the holiday season has passed.

Pamela: What are some factors call centers need to think about when developing a work from home program?

Sean: In my opinion, there are three factors to consider when developing a work from home process:

First, you need great forecasting to determine your volume and head count. It goes without saying that you must staff accordingly. The best way to determine this is through your workforce management.

Second, you must factor in technology requirements. This can be done with the assistance of your IT team. It’s important to work with them to determine what is needed to ensure the customer experience is not impacted due to a lack of infrastructure. Will employees log into a VPN? What applications do they need to perform their jobs? Do your employees have the necessary bandwidth at home or, will the company need to provide it? All of these questions should answered.

Lastly, a training plan is needed. Most likely, there will be additional software (usually authentication related) that employees should be trained to use. They should also be trained on best practices when working from home. Related to this, you need to identify which agents you want working from home. What criteria will you use? Personally, I’d select agents who need little supervision, and have shown a high level of competency in their role.

Pamela: Thank you, Sean. Based on your feedback, I learned a couple of things. First, several departments within a company need to be involved when planning and implementing a teleworking program. Secondly, because of the advanced planning call centers do, it would be wise for job seekers to start approaching these companies long before the holidays hit.

Pamela La Gioia is the president of Telework Recruiting, a premier web site that helps professionals find teleworking employment. She has been researching and writing about telecommuting since the early 1990s. You can join her on Facebook or Twitter.

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

In 2011, his team was awarded the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

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