CRMXchange features a story written by SaviLinx Chief Operating Officer Kim Williams on our work-from-home BPO call center. SaviLinx has created a unique hybrid approach with a brick-and-mortar facility for training and touchpoints best website to buy clomid online coupled with a remote workforce. In this piece, Kim describes some of the guidelines we follow to build a successful program, including hiring, remote monitoring, technology choices, and connectivity options.
SaviLinx Executive Interview with Chief Operating Officer Kim Williams | Originally published by CRMXchange
How to Make Work from Home Work for Your Contact Center
It’s no surprise that contact centers are moving toward the work-from-home model. It’s the proverbial win-win situation: companies gain access to a broader talent pool while saving money on facilities, and employees love ditching their commutes and work wardrobes. We’ve had a lot of experience setting up and managing BPO contact centers, including brick-and-mortar and work-from-home programs, and while we and our customers are big fans, there are some guidelines we follow to help us achieve a successful program. From hiring the right talent to ongoing management, this is our insight into lessons learned.
At SaviLinx, about half of our employees work at our brick-and-mortar facility in Maine and about half work from home in Mississippi. There are many similarities to managing both workforces – we set plans and goals for each employee and monitor them closely, and use the same metrics for call quality and closure rates. We are proud of our very strong culture of support, where we emphasize growth for each employee and offer a caring and connected workplace. But there are some differences between the two.
Hire the right candidate: Not everyone has the skills or desire to work from home. Some miss the camaraderie and structure of an office environment; others have a hard time staying focused. We’ve found the most important factor in the success of a work-from-home program is hiring the right people. At SaviLinx, our interviewing process screens for candidates who are independent, self-motivated, and are able to work with little or no supervision. We also look for integrity: candidates must do the right thing, even when no one is looking over their shoulders. We’ve had luck with people who want work-life balance and flexibility, including stay-at-home parents and college students. We also find that retirees want to use their considerable life and work experience without committing to a high-pressure career in an office setting.
Monitor closely: Supervisors who monitor home-based employees also work from home, and we find that they have as much, if not more visibility into their team as in a traditional setting. We use the same ratio of supervisors to workers as we do in our brick-and-mortar setting, and monitor the same metrics. But it can be a bit challenging to deliver feedback via email or chat tools. With no body language or tone of voice, supervisors must hone their virtual coaching and listening skills. We have found an interesting generational divide that bodes well for the future of work-from-home: millennials are very comfortable communicating via text message and chat.
Use Technology: With cloud-based contact-center software and Internet access, it is relatively easy to set up a virtual agent with a laptop. We find the most important tool we use on an hourly basis is chat. There are plenty of options to choose from; just pick one that enables workers to virtually tap their supervisor on the shoulder, and vice versa. The one-to-one connection is vital when a supervisor monitoring a call needs to interject with advice or information, or when an employee needs an immediate answer to complete a call. Just like in a brick-and-mortar facility, we use a remote monitoring tool where we can listen in to employees’ calls. We know from the moment they log in what they are doing at any point in the day, and our supervisors closely monitor their activity.
Consider Hub-and-Spoke: Not all work-from-home positions have to be completely remote. As a matter of fact, we’ve had terrific success with a hybrid approach. We’ve set up a small brick-and-mortar office in a geographic hub where we can interview applicants, conduct training and quality monitoring, and have regular meetings. When an employee starts at SaviLinx, they work from our physical office using the exact same set up as our home-based workers. We train them and work by their side as they start to take calls. Once employees demonstrate they are ready to take calls independently, they can then transition to working from home. This approach makes a huge difference in our employees’ confidence levels and definitely boosts our overall retention. And when employees need additional training or support, it’s easy to call them back to the office for some in-person coaching. A small brick-and-mortar footprint can support a very large workforce.
Keep people connected: Another benefit of a hub-and-spoke system is that we can connect with our employees face-to-face. In addition to a daily virtual meeting for each team, we have a monthly in-office meeting where employees can spend time with their supervisors and each other while they participate in quality monitoring and training. We also can organize group gatherings – for example, we recently held a barbecue for our work-from-home employees based near our Hattiesburg, MS office. It was a great opportunity for them to connect and meet other members of the team, and for us to show our appreciation.
Keep Iterating: Our work-from-home program has changed a lot from when we started, and we know it will continue to change. We constantly capture data and insights, and try new ideas for improvement. You can’t “set it and forget it” – you will need to constantly tweak your work-from-home program to meet your goals and needs.
We are proud of bringing much-needed jobs to an economically distressed area with our work-from-home program, but more than that, we are delighted to have these resourceful and talented people on our team. Could we have made this happen in a brick-and-mortar facility? Maybe, but we know that our work-from-home program has given us a better, stronger, and more diverse team. We can’t wait to expand it even further.
Kim Williams is COO of SaviLinx, a BPO contact center headquartered in Brunswick, Maine with work-from-home agents in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi area. She has established brick-and-mortar and work-from-home contact centers in numerous industries and geographies, including Europe.