January 25, 2022
By Pavel Jiřík in Blog
Two years have passed since the start of the global pandemic completely changed our traditional way of work. Some people consider remote work a wonderful invention, and they can't even imagine going back to the office. Others can't wait to get through the company's office doors again. Whatever their opinion on remote work is, almost everyone agrees that it is here to stay. Based on a Gallup study, 61% of remote workers expect to be working hybrid for the next year and beyond, while 27% hope they will work entirely from home.
However, the shift to remote work wasn't nearly as easy for call centers. One, they had far more calls to deal with - it's estimated that contact centers saw an increase of 300% more than usual during the early stages of the pandemic.
Secondly, COVID-19 forced almost 90% of global contact center agents to work virtually from home due to social distancing mandates. Call center managers had to make sure agents had the right tools, equipment, and environment to work from home. Was that all? No. In 2022, you might need to deal with even more issues associated with remote work.
No worries though, we're here to help you out. Here are six challenges your call center is likely to face in 2022, along with our suggestions for dealing with them.
The 6 Biggest Remote Work Challenges for Call Centers in 2022
Ensuring On-Premises Security
Even though it should be obvious, let's start with the building’s security. With lockdown restrictions coming and going, your call center building might be empty for most of the week. But if nobody is at the office, then the risk of having "uninvited guests" showing up increases significantly.
But the real challenge is in securing your employees’ devices they use to work from home. Their home security will be nowhere close to your company’s building security standards, making their devices more prone to be stolen by unwelcomed guests or a flatmate who turns out to be a thief.
Therefore, it is essential to continuously educate and remind your remote employees about the importance of putting (locking) their unattended work devices into a safe place to prevent any potential theft as much as possible.
During the first wave of the pandemic, call centers had so many things happening all at once. When rushing to move everything from the office to employees’ homes, many did not think about securing agents’ devices or working on remote cybersecurity practices. Sadly, this was a mistake.
A recent Tenable study found that 74% of organizations attribute recent business-impacting cyberattacks to remote work tech vulnerabilities. And the cost of an attack can be staggering. According to a study by IBM, the business costs of a data breach rose to $4.24 million in 2021, which is the highest average total cost in the 17-year history of this report.
Even more concerning is that your contact center computers and servers contain a great deal of sensitive information about your customers. Names, phone numbers, ID numbers, and even financial information is stored there. These are all data that cyber criminals would be eager to get their hands on. When your remote agents are using their personal devices or (worse) public wifi points to access your database, launching a successful attack on them becomes child's play.
If most of your agents work remotely, then they must adopt a few cybersecurity habits to protect their devices from cybercriminals. Here are a few essential tips that could help to greatly increase your organization's overall security.
- Make sure your agents don't use the same password across different accounts and platforms. The best tip here is to use a password manager to generate unique passwords for every platform that your agents use.
- Using a VPN service for working remotely can go a long way to protecting all information stored on agents’ devices or online platforms.
- It's a good idea to provide your agents with dedicated laptops or tablets for work purposes with a firewall, antivirus, and VPN already installed.
Visible Drop in Productivity
One of the biggest challenges associated with remote work is the lack of direct supervision. Several organizations have successfully migrated their workforce to remote work, and some have even reported increased productivity. Others, meanwhile, have noticed that some agents are tempted to "bend the rules" a bit when working from home. How to spot if your agents are feeling a bit too relaxed in home-office mode?
- They are not responding to emails, phone calls, or messages on communication platforms during work time or are answering much later.
- The number of calls they answer during the day is much lower than when in the office.
- Customers complain they can't reach out to an agent or their case hasn’t been answered for a long time.
- They keep missing deadlines or monthly goals.
If such a situation happens once or twice and the agent in question explains the reasons, then there's no need to worry. But if you notice that some of your agents are regularly absent during meetings or their performance has visibly dropped when working remotely, you should reach out to them and ask if they have a problem affecting their work.
In most cases, simply knowing that their performance is being monitored and that there will be regular check-ins from superiors is enough to discourage employees from taking advantage of the home-office situation.
Fraudsters Calling Up
Fraud in call centers is no laughing matter. In addition to an increase in cybercrime in call centers in general, a rise in fraudulent calls during the COVID-19 pandemic means businesses and consumers alike must stay alert. Scammers are armed with sophisticated tools that help them bombard call centers with phishing calls more easily than ever before. Moreover, they know how to manipulate agents into giving them the information they want. That’s why protecting your company and your agents from such attacks is now more important than ever.
Remote agents, in particular, might have a harder time with spotting a con artist as they won’t have a supervisor nearby who they can ask for assistance, making them more vulnerable to social engineering. But the good news is that there are a few ways for an agent to find out whether they are talking with a client or an imposter. For example, if the caller cannot answer security questions asked by the agent and then tries to make excuses, there's a good chance it's a scammer.
Using passive voice biometrics identification for all calls can be helpful here as well. In the same way that everyone has unique fingerprints and retinas, they have unique voice patterns as well. This allows voice biometric technology to identify a person immediately just by listening to them speak. And because this identification process takes place in the background of the conversation, there's little chance a scammer will notice it and end the call. This gives the agent more time to alert their superiors about a suspicious call.
Lack Of Motivation
Customer support was always one of the industries in which keeping employees motivated and engaged at their work was a challenge. But remote work, in some cases, only makes matters worse. As agents can no longer meet their coworkers as often as they used to, they have far fewer opportunities for having random chats or asking another team member for help. They might also lose sight of their overall goals and focus only on completing their daily tasks.
This lack of motivation will then be clearly visible in the level of customer service the agents provide, and poor results at work will only make them even more apathetic. So, as a manager, what can you do to increase your agents' engagement and camaraderie when they are working alone? Gamification may be a great way to make their daily tasks a bit more fun by adding contests and other competitive elements designed to make work feel more like play.
A GrowthEngineering study shows that 85% of employees are more engaged when gamification is applied to their work environment. What's more, 90% of survey respondents believe that gamified learning solutions are effective.
How can you use gamification in your call center? For example, with call center bingo. Put those sales goals or KPIs that need a boost on a bingo grid. If agents or teams achieve one of the smaller goals, they will earn a smaller prize like a free lunch. But there should be a far better reward waiting for them if they get a bingo, such as a paid day off.
To improve teamwork, you could assign agents into pairs or small teams of people with different skill and experience levels. Encourage them to work together towards a common goal and reward the best teams at the end of the competition period. This will help less experienced agents learn how to close their cases more effectively, but not only that. By encouraging them to work together, you will also strengthen the bonds between your agents. This will make it easier for them to work together effectively in the future, once they return to the office.
Verifying an Agent’s Identity
Remote work comes with the benefit that agents can answer calls and do their daily tasks from any place they wish. Their home, park, or a local cafe - their choice. This convenience comes with a risk though. Namely, an unauthorized person might read an agent's work email or answer a call from a customer. And we aren’t even talking about hackers here. A flatmate who is tempted to "pull a prank" or a child who accidentally opens a calling platform can cause just as much damage as a fraudster, if not more.
Keeping all work-related apps and programs locked with a strong password is one way to ensure that no one besides your agents has access to customers’ data. But how to make sure that the person answering a call or joining a meeting is that agent, though? Passive voice biometrics can also shine here as one of the quickest and most secure methods for verifying an agent's identity.
When your agent answers a call, theirs and the caller's voices will be compared against stored voiceprints in the database to check that both parties on the line are who they claim to be. And as passive voice biometrics can identify agents even if they switch the devices they use to make calls, it can help tremendously in preventing fraudsters, "funny" flatmates, or children from taking over calls.
This voice verification method can also be used to restrict access to your contact center's online conference calls so that only those who pass a background check can participate. This will give you peace of mind when discussing sensitive information that no one except your employees can join the meeting.
Remote work has both fantastic benefits and a lot of drawbacks too. Your remote agents can have far more flexibility when it comes to where, when, and how they work, which in turn will improve their motivation and job satisfaction. But to make your remote call center work both effectively and securely, you'll need to tackle a couple of challenges.
Keeping track of your agents' work performance and training them on handling fraudsters is vital, as is securing your call center's main office from intruders. But with the right approach and the right technology on your side, you and your agents can keep offering the best customer support possible even when working from home, and enjoy the benefits of remote work at the same time.