Most of the current literature on contact centre trends highlights the move to a work from home environment and it is likely to continue in some form as the world continues to face the pandemic and its impacts. Prior to COVID, work from home was a small proportion of the contact centre industry, with the majority of companies preferring on-site workforces both locally and overseas. For many of us, work from home is now core to our working lives and central to how our contact centre teams operate.
Working from home as Customer Experience Professionals
As COVID continues to impact contact centres around the world, countries such as Australia and New Zealand still need to plan for continuing, albeit infrequent, lockdowns and the increasing preference of employees to work from home. Recent studies of the Australian workforce show a preference to continue to work from home for at least part of the working week: Boston Consulting Group(1) found that up to 60 per cent of Australian workers want to continue to work remotely for two or three days a week. A global study from Atlassian revealed that nearly 7 in 10 Australian workers say their job satisfaction and work-life balance has improved since the shift to working from home.
Easy access to information for CX Staff
A work from home model has a number of impacts on the tools and resources necessary to manage and support a remote workforce. It has long been argued that Knowledge Management is essential to ensuring a consistent and accurate customer experience by providing agents with access to easy to understand, searchable and relevant information to resolve customer enquiries. Consistency and the use of one message (regardless of agent location) is key. In a work from home environment where face to face support is limited, access to information becomes even more critical in supporting our people and our customers.
Knowledge tools for CX Staff
However, according to Smaart Recruitments’ 2020/21 Contact Centre Best Practice Report (2) only 50% of companies surveyed indicated they have a knowledge tool to provide scripting and product knowledge to their agents.
The move to a work from home environment has placed increased emphasis on the need for knowledge tools. Being able to access the information required to support customers is a must for a work from home solution as it provides agents with the support they need to do their role effectively and efficiently.
What does a lack of knowledge management mean for companies and their agents?
Without effective knowledge tools your agents are dependent on their memory, messaging other team members or their supervisor for support or trawling through pdf documents to assist customers. This takes longer, is open to error and will lead to a poor customer service experience.
Increased complaints and call volumes
Without correct support agents may provide incorrect responses which result in rework, customer complaints and poor satisfaction outcomes. Poor service drives increased workload for your business as you deal with increased call backs and complex complaint management. Poor customer service experiences can impact your brand and increase churn.
Potential increase in agent attrition
It is well documented that agents who feel they are not supported in their role are more likely to leave an employer, resulting in higher attrition and recruitment costs. Difficulties in a remote location can further enhance dissatisfaction.
Inability to effectively manage change
It is difficult to manage change when you lack a knowledge tool. Without quick and easy access to new processes and information, online quizzes and support tools that underpin most knowledge tools, you will need to rely on online briefing sessions, sending out new processes or scripts and updating pdfs. Your ability to truly understand how agents have absorbed changes is limited as you have no way to track or measure whether or not they are using the right information nor if they understood it correctly.
Onboarding in a work from home scenario takes on a whole lot of new challenges and an effective knowledge tool that guides agents through transactions is often key to helping agents develop confidence and competency in their role. Without this, agents will again fall back on memory, support from their counterparts or spend time reading lengthy and poorly written pdfs. It takes longer to reach competency and drives a poor experience for both your agents and your customers.
So, what does this mean for your organisation?
If you are planning on moving to a hybrid model where staff spend some time in the office and the remainder working from home, you need to consider how you will support them and keep knowledge relevant and up to date. The key message is that you need to focus on your knowledge management strategy as it will underpin your success in supporting your agents to deliver effective and efficient customer conversations, regardless of where they are.
(1) The Expectation Gap in the Future of Work, Boston Consulting Group, December, 2020
(2) Smaart Recruitments’ 2020/21 Contact Centre Best Practice Report, 2021