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How do you keep home-working agents engaged?

The days when we worked massively in offices from 9 to 5 are over. Hybrid work is here to stay. But how do you keep home-working agents engaged?

Door Renée Müller

8.1 min read

1 December 2021

Engaging home-working agents

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Dressing up in your best suit, driving in traffic jams to the office and working from 9 to 5 have been declining in popularity for years. The pandemic is speeding things up a little and forcing companies to function as a hybrid organization. One half of the week you work at home and the other half at the office, which makes you enormously flexible.

But such a hybrid work model can feel chaotic, as agents must have two workstations and must keep track of where they ‘should’ be when. Keeping agents working from home engaged is therefore one of the biggest challenges in the hybrid work model.

In 2020, we would just send our agents home quickly without a long-term plan. Today, we see that some are back in the office but others are still working at home or a combination of the two. The hybrid working model is here to stay as enjoying working from home is number 2 on the list of factors for a high Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).

Many contact centres are looking for help in exploring this new territory and are looking for a strategy to keep working at home agents engaged.

Involving agents: facts & figures

This involvement is important. Research shows that involved agents:

  • 5 times more likely to stay than leave within a year
  • 4 times more likely to stay than unsatisfied colleagues
  • 16x more likely to recommend the company to friends
  • 3x more likely to feel they can solve problems well

Employee engagement can have a major impact on your bottom line and customer loyalty. Looking for a way to get your home-working agents more engaged? Then start with the six employee engagement pillars below.

6 pillars for engaged employees

Pillar 1: corporate culture

A good company culture is crucial for agent engagement – no matter what business model you have – because for many people it is the reason they wanted to work for a company in the first place. Even before corona, contact centres struggled to establish a strong and consistent culture due to staff turnover.

So you can imagine that it will be even harder to establish a strong company culture with home workers.

A strong company culture has a number of elements: purpose, ownership, group feeling and recognition.

How can you incorporate these elements into your engagement strategy?

Goal

People want to be part of something larger than themselves. Therefore, it is important that you help them connect to the impact of their work.

It is also important to allow agents to grow into other roles within the contact centre. You can encourage a growth culture by having regular open discussions about future plans and interests. Also make sure you offer training to accommodate this.

Weekly or monthly training to improve hard and soft skills and lessons on career growth will give your agents the feeling that they are moving forward and growing. This may seem difficult with agents working from home, but we have video calls and they go a long way.

  • Hard skills, also called learnable skills, can range from technical competence in products/services to learning how to code.
  • Soft skills can range from leadership training, communication techniques, time management and empathy training. Soft skills relate to how you deal with people, solve problems and manage time.

From the agent’s perspective, career opportunities in the contact centre may be limited, but they do not have to be. It is important that managers have conversations with agents about leadership positions or promotions, salary increases or an in-house career change.

If agents know that their manager is investing in their growth and wants them to stay, they become more engaged.

This kind of thing also shows that your management team is interested in its employees, even if they don’t speak to each other every day. When you invest time and energy in your agents, you show them you care. J.W. Marriott once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and your company will take care of itself.”

Ownership

When you give agents ownership and autonomy, they feel empowered to actively and enthusiastically engage in their work. You can promote ownership by:

  • Involving employees in setting goals
  • Giving agents access to dashboards with data that is important to them
  • Delegate authority and not just work
  • Encouraging agents to solve their own problems
  • Recognizing agents who go the extra mile

Group spirit

A group feel can be anything from sending birthday wishes, in-house skills training or virtual meetups. Whatever you do, make sure you actively make your employees feel connected and cared for.

Celebrate the wins!

If you don’t create any kind of excitement, working in a contact centre can quickly feel mundane and boring. So celebrate your wins!

With agents working from home, a tool like wallboards can be useful to give recognition. You can display them on an agent’s desktop and on screens in the office.

Thuiswerkende agents

Pillar 2: setting goals and following them

In a hybrid work field, if you do not set clear goals, it is easy for agents to drift away. After all, they have no physical supervisor to constantly remind them of a task.

Setting goals with rewards makes working in a contact centre more positive. Whether your agents work from home or in the office, individual dashboards with real-time data give them a sense of confidence and satisfaction.

In addition to personal goals, company goals are also important, they give agents a sense of belonging. Give your agents access to corporate KPIs and you will find that they feel embraced by your company.

Pijler 3: a reward and recognition program

According to an ICMI study, rewards and recognition are the most important factor for agent satisfaction.

There are many ways to get your employees more engaged. In a hybrid work environment, it makes sense to have an automated strategy that consistently reaches both your office and home-based agents.

The use ofgamification can help with this. There are companies that give their agents virtual coins when they earn a 100 on the quality score. The coins won can be exchanged by agents for rewards in the marketplace. Some ideas of rewards are:

  • Additional paid leave (days or hours)
  • Subscription to a streaming service for three months
  • 30 minutes mentoring of the CEO
  • Company gifts
  • Tickets for the cinema
  • Seasonal products (barbecue, cool box, or kayak)
  • Game consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation
  • Giftcards
  • Toys or stuffed animals for children

Pillar 4: Employee feedback

Agents want to be heard. Even if it’s a simple request, like a new flavour of tea or making the effort to ask about a weekend: as long as they can tell their story.

Send out regular employee surveys and do something with the feedback you get, because that’s how morale increases. Also make sure your supervisors have the tools to send out these surveys within their team. Not sure what surveys to send out? Here are some ideas:

  • Job satisfaction survey
  • Inquiry into the involvement of agents
  • Mental health survey
  • Manager evaluation survey
  • Psychographic survey
  • Survey after an event

Each survey gives you insight into certain areas for improvement. In a hybrid working environment, it can be difficult to identify all problems immediately, and by conducting regular surveys, things come to light that you would otherwise miss.

Pillar 5: teambuilding activities

Teambuilding activities are a good way to keep the morale high among your home working agents. Above all, don’t organise endless meetings with boring presentations, but be creative.

Split up into new groups each week so your agents meet different people and don’t end up in a bubble. Hold these meetings with a combination of agents who work from home and agents who are in the office. Some ideas:

  • First Recall Mission: Ask a quick question that needs an immediate answer in order to get to know each other better
  • Murder mystery: Divide your agents into small teams and give them clues to solve a murder mystery. Give a small prize to the team that wins
  • Virtual Happy Hour: send each employee a small drinks package and hold a virtual drink on Friday afternoon. You can accompany this with a virtual pub quiz

Thuiswerkende agents

Pillar 6: Consistent communication

An important key to employee satisfaction is consistent internal communication. Creating trust can seem impossible when everyone is saying different things and following contradictory processes. You need to ensure that the same message is spread across all platforms so that your agents trust the leadership and feel safe in their work environment.

Here are some things you can do to keep communications consistent:

  • Regular one-to-one conversations
  • Pursuing an open-door policy
    • Plan so that every day a manager is physically in the office to meet people who come to the office
    • Set times for MS teams-meetings when agents can reach managers
  • Managers can make a schedule to speak to each person individually
  • Communicate big picture goals regularly and share updates on smaller goals regularly
  • Teach new employees the industry and company jargon and ensure proper onboarding
  • Send company-wide announcements to everyone in the company

Motivating agents working from home: start with the basics

Applying these key engagement pillars can lead to improved employee morale, lower turnover, better performance, and greater customer satisfaction.

Hybrid work is not going away anytime soon. Agents love the flexibility and comfort it provides. But like everything else, it comes with its own unique challenges when trying to keep your employees engaged in their jobs. If you’re not sure where to start, the six pillars listed above are a good place to start.

Good luck!

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