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Your BPO call center must have gone remote. But how do you actually stay remote?

Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash
Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash

Since the COVID outbreak, the Internet has been inundated with tips and guidelines about how to shift your BPO workflow to WFH without losing your mind in the process.

Now things have settled (more or less). We have come to terms with the new normal, and some of us have even grown to like it: for example, 27% of outsourcing companies in India, the BPO capital of the world, aim to switch to WFH permanently.

As a BPO professional, you must have loved seeing your OpEx, like office leases and utility costs, reduced (a FlexJobs study states that 77% of companies allowing remote work reduced their operating costs). You also save yourself a lot of stress knowing your staff doesn’t have to commute to work and risk getting infected. Besides, you ensure your employees’ safety even during graveyard shifts, since they don’t have to go to work during the wee hours of the day.

There are of course a lot of other benefits. But there have also been challenges, which you might know all too well (but if you want a recap, read this piece on how the call center persevered through the outbreak). Those of us who made it through came out stronger, more adaptive and eager to maintain pre-covid efficiency or even surpass it. 

So now the question is: in this relatively stable reality, how do you make sure your WFH model works like a clock – so that in the end, you won’t even have to go back to how things were?

I believe the key is developing a comprehensive WFH policy. Your policy should include all the necessary guidelines your staff can refer to at all times. This way, you can streamline your activities and make sure your team (no matter how large) is on the same page. Here are the main areas it should encompass: 

Technical issues

When a new employee joins your remote team, you have to make sure they have adequate equipment. Provide your staff with laptops, software and headphone sets. If you can’t, conduct hardware compatibility tests, as well as ensure your team has a stable internet connection. 

To detect potential issues remotely, encourage them to install and run a system diagnostics module. In your policy, make sure your team has a way of knowing when exactly you will be testing their equipment so they can prepare. 

Besides, it’s obvious your team should have access to the knowledge base, CRM, ticketing system, etc. By now, you must have moved to the cloud, so make sure your staff gets comprehensive instructions on how to use it, how to back up data manually (just in case), and whom to contact if they have a problem.

Security

A lot has been said about the importance of proper security measures already. I’ll just add that your policy should contain an explicit description of the measures your teams need to comply with.

A good idea to minimize cyber attacks would be to set up a notification or a pop-up that would appear on the screens of your team before they log in and log off. This notification could show a security checklist with all the things they should do to make sure they’re safe online. 

Onboarding and training

New hires should have access to online learning divided into modules as well as online assessments. This way, they will be able to complete them at their own pace. 

Virtual courses will be great for the staff that have just started working remotely and aren’t familiar with the process. Specify in your policy where they should look for such courses. 

Make sure to include an FAQ section and list contact details of someone they can reach out to if they have additional questions.

Work schedules and KPIs

To gain your team’s trust, you need to be transparent about everything – especially when it comes to work shifts. Specify how long in advance your staff will get their schedules, if there is any flexibility, if there are options to work overtime and compensation, and so on. Don’t forget to include a section regarding breaks.

You should also set any KPIs you need achieving, for example, numbers of tickets that need to be solved. That way, your team will have clear and tangible metrics.

Communication channels

It’s not like your staff is a few steps away from the supervisor anymore. So, how will your teams communicate? 

There should be particular channels to:

  • Schedule work shifts in advance

  • Discuss and assess tasks (perhaps something different than tons of emails: Slack or Trello might be good options)

  • Conduct coaching sessions and 1:1 meetings to evaluate performance and boost employee morale (seeing another human beings on Zoom sessions would be nice)

  • Address and solve your staff’s queries of any kind (think about this: if your employee needs a sick leave, do they know who to turn to? Do they know how and where to get in touch with the person?)

Performance evaluation

You sure need monitoring software tools to track agent performance. You need to monitor calls to prevent fraudulent or malicious activity. There is a lot of stuff you have to keep an eye on if you want your business to be up and running. 

Of course, it implies installing tracking software on your employees’ laptops. If they use company hardware, that’s one thing. But if they work using their own devices, the risk of being watched after hours might cause serious privacy concerns. You have to develop clear guidelines on how exactly you use software to monitor activity and performance and – most importantly – stick to it. 

Handling spikes of demand

Your agents need to be prepared for influxes of demand. Make sure they know how to prioritize tasks and what channels and requests they should focus on. 

In that respect, it might be useful to describe the role of automation in your workflow: for example, what functions your ICR has or in what cases your staff can redirect callers to the company’s website chatbot. 

We don’t know for sure when the pandemic will end. What we do know is that to make it through, we have to adapt. I believe your WFH model works as long as your WFH policy works for everyone involved. So go ahead and make the necessary changes to future proof your BPO against existing and potential challenges.

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