work from home

In 2020, we saw many businesses move their workforce to remote or virtual environments for health concerns. For many call centers, that meant moving their on-premises agents to remote. As business managers look to the future of work, let’s consider the pros and cons of both.

Why On-Premises?

On-premises is the traditional approach to running a contact center. It allows for ease of training of new agents or retraining current agents. Face-to-face coaching provides more support for struggling agents. Onsite representatives can work more closely with their supervisors and other staff, such as the warehouse or marketing teams. Breakroom conversations may turn to recent challenges with a service or product providing an impromptu brainstorming session.

But the downsides can be prohibitive as well! There’s the overhead associated with maintaining onsite staff: building rental, utilities, janitorial, and so on. Other drawbacks include noise-level in a busy call center make it difficult for your agents to hear the customer on the phone, or provide distractions in the background. Health concerns such as the spreading of viruses — even during the summer months — can cause an increase in sick time utilization and reduce agent availability and, ultimately, profits.

On-premises contact centers are best for operations that are more complex and need more supervision and oversight. At Speed Answer, we’ve found there is no replacement for our training offered face-to-face, especially when working in ecommerce. Agents need a chance to touch and feel the product, ask questions, interact with their colleagues, and build rapport with management.

Why Virtual?

Virtual is excellent for a rapidly growing business. There’s no need to pay for more office space and all that goes into it. Agents working from home do not have to worry if it’s safe to report to duty if they have a low-grade fever. If call volume drops, at-home agents can be released for a period and called back when needed. There’s no long commute or issues with finding parking or forgetting to pack a lunch. Plus, you can expand your search for talent beyond the driving distance of your location!

The challenges of the virtual work environment might not make this option for every contact center. Can your agents separate themselves from the noise and distraction of the household? Will your business provide equipment for your agents? What happens to your contact center equipment when your agents terminate employment? How are productivity and quality managed?

Even the most seasoned employees cannot control everything in a home environment, from delivery people ringing the doorbell to the sound of police sirens driving by. But it does provide many perks for employees. Employees may enjoy the flexibility of monitoring older children in their home, the ability to cook lunch in their kitchen, saving time and money on commuting, or even having the option to work while traveling to visit family.

A remote contact center is best for simple contact needs or providing access to a highly flexible workforce. Or a mix of both on-premises and virtual might be the right recipe for your business.

Proof of Concept

Before making a commitment, considering running a proof of concept with select team members. First, you’ll need to engage with your IT team to review your operation’s infrastructure needs and identify resources. Next, determine how workers will be managed and any special considerations such as dedicated office space in their home environment, established internet connection, past performance, experience, etc. And lastly, identify what methods will be used in coaching and regular check-in meetings.

Before you jump all in, try a small proof of concept with trusted team members. Keep in mind that working from home is not for everyone, so don’t be surprised if an employee does not wish to participate. Which direction should you take your contact center? Virtual, onsite, or a mixture of both depend on your business needs and access to resources and your workforce’s desire to explore new working options.