For many people around the world, the holiday season means buying a lot of gifts for loved ones. Online shopping has been growing in popularity for years, but brick-and-mortar establishments still generate the most sales. During the 2019 holiday season, e-commerce retailers generated $135.35 billion. While that may sound like a lot of money, it only accounts for 13.2% of the season’s sales.
Increasing online sales usually creates more consumer calls directed at call centers. Since shoppers can’t ask in-person sales representatives questions, they rely on call centers to solve their problems.
Not surprisingly, industry experts believe that the 2020 shopping season will look as atypical as the rest of the year. Changes in employment and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced 42% of the U.S. labor force into full-time remote positions.
More likely than not, at least some of your call center’s staff members currently work remotely. Start preparing your remote holiday call center now so you can keep up with the influx of requests coming during November, December, and January.
Hire Staff That Can Work Independently for Your Remote Holiday Call Center
Most call centers hire seasonal staff during the holidays. This year, look for applicants with experience working independently without constant oversight from managers. With that said, many call center employees find that they can focus better when they know that managers can monitor their work remotely.
Offer Training for Remote Employees
Remote workers might need slightly different training than those working from your call center. Take advantage of video conference tools, call monitoring, and group webinars to improve at-home training. You might not like remote training, but you can make it more effective by adopting the right tools.
Embrace Technology That Helps Remote Workers Meet Goals
Technology will play a big role in the success of your remote holiday call center. Look for tools that will make remote agents – and your entire call center – more efficient.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR helps ensure that incoming calls get directed to the right call center agents. When customers place calls to a company’s service number, IVR prompts them to choose an option that addresses their issue. For example, someone calling to ask about when a delivery will arrive might press “2” to get routed to someone in the shipping department.
IVR can make your remote holiday call center by making sure you don’t waste your agents’ time. Instead of taking time to transfer calls to the right person, an automated system does the job for them.
Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
ACD software can also improve call agent efficiency by putting incoming calls in a queue. As soon as an agent can take a call, the next person in the queue gets directed to that agent. The software can work just as well for remote employees as those answering incoming calls at your call center.
Call Recording and Monitoring
Call recording and monitoring software can help your call center in at least two ways. You can use them to improve the level of service that customers get and use recordings to train call agents.
Let your agents know that you record calls. (You should also consider adding a disclaimer that tells customers their calls could be recorded.) Knowing that managers can review conversations motivates agents to do their best on every call. Plus, you can use positive and negative examples as training tools.
Live monitoring adds even more oversight to conversations. You might even want to combine monitoring with whisper coaching to make agents more successful.
Chat Bots and Email
Chat bots and email communications tend to take less time than verbal conversations. You can respond to popular questions instantly by pasting in the correct answer. For example, if a lot of people ask the chat bot how they can recover their password, your call holiday call center agent can paste in the instructions within seconds.
Email can benefit your call center in a similar way. In some cases, agents find that they can answer several emails at the same time.
The more automation you add to chat bots and emails, the more efficient your employees become during the holidays.
Incentivize Remote Holiday Call Center Employees to Keep Them Motivated
Responding to dozens of calls an hour can wear on a person quickly. Maintaining morale becomes even more difficult during a time when many of your staff members are dealing with the realization that they cannot gather with loved ones this holiday season. The holiday season already creates a tremendous amount of stress. Many people will experience even more stress this year.
Offer your remote workers incentives to help them stay motivated. Strong motivators include:
- Gift cards.
- Bonuses for reaching goals.
- More flexible schedules that give agents some breathing room in their days.
You should also take proactive steps that will help prevent stress. Do all of your agents have the right equipment at home? Better headsets and ergonomic chairs could help them work from home without feeling frustrated.
Use Collaboration Tools so Agents Can Work Together
Remote work can make some people feel lonely and out of touch with their colleagues. You can’t magically cure loneliness, but you can give your remote agents tools that make it easier for them to collaborate with their coworkers. In return, you will get happier employees who do better jobs reaching their KPIs.
Some tools to consider include:
- Project management tools that let teams work on different aspects of a project and share feedback with each other.
- Chat tools that let individuals communicate with agents about work-related topics or just to catch up with the people they miss.
- Video conference tools that let people see each so they feel like a part of the group (an hour or so each week can achieve wonders).
From a management perspective, a CRM stands out as one of the most important tools you can give your remote holiday call center agents. CRMs collect information about clients so agents don’t enter conversations without any knowledge. A CRM can also track KPIs that help managers identify which agents are struggling to meet their goals while working remotely.
Listen to Feedback From Your Customers
Tracking metrics can tell you a lot about how well call center agents solve problems for customers. You can’t know how customers really feel, though, until you request and pay attention to their feedback. When you analyze the customer’s experience, you gain new insight into your agents’ effectiveness.
Options for collecting feedback include:
- Surveys that they can complete over the phone or online.
- Monitoring social media accounts to see what customers say about their experiences.
- Setting up a Google Alert that lets you know when someone mentions your business.
The holidays always create stress. The 2020 holiday season looks like it will test people much more than others, especially when some people work remotely and don’t have close contact with their colleagues. Some individuals work better on their own. Others struggle to excel outside of a collaborative environment.
Make sure your agents feel as comfortable as possible as they work through the holiday season. You can reduce some of the stress your remote holiday call center agents experience by using the features that come with Call Tools. Contact Call Tools to learn more about how the platform can make your call center and remote employees more successful during this unprecedented holiday season.