The pandemic brought with it one of the biggest changes to working that most of us will see across our careers – the shift to hybrid work. Driven by workers – who generally prefer this ‘best-of-both-worlds’ model – the more flexible structure is here to stay. Interesting to note, too, is that Australia’s leading the way when it comes to hybrid work. In a 2022 report by global tech provider Adaptavist, results show 34% of Australian workers blend work from home (WFH) with office-based work, placing us ahead of the UK, the US and Canada. The report also finds that while employees want more choice and control over their work lives, hybrid and remote work comes at a cost, primarily in the form of isolation, loneliness and increased workloads.
For contact centres, hybrid work has become the norm accelerated by cloud-based CX technology, which enables customer contact representatives to do the same work from anywhere. It looks different depending on the business, but in general, the hybrid environment for contact centres manifests as employees working a certain number of days per week from the office – the rest from home; some companies even embracing a remote-first approach.
As an early-adopter of cloud-based customer contact technology, we are, at TSA, advocates of a hybrid framework. The advantages for employees are undeniable, and that only stands to benefit everyone – customers and company alike. But, it’s not to say there aren’t challenges, and in this article we explore the best-practice solutions for success.
Benefits vs challenges – laying them out
From a business perspective, a hybrid framework offers an array of potential advantages to CX Companies: heightened productivity, expanded access to a broader spectrum of jobseekers, reduced disruptions, and enhanced coverage across varying geographical regions and time zones. On the flip side, however, there may be hurdles concerning internal communication, knowledge accessibility, and employee engagement, as well as challenges with onboarding and training effectively.
A contact centre leader in a hybrid work environment has the responsibility of ensuring that customer service representatives possess essential customer knowledge and the tools to deliver exceptional service, regardless of where they’re located.
And so, here are five key ways we, at TSA, work to optimise the advantages of hybrid work and mitigate challenges.
1. Knowledge on demand
Cloud-based technology has enabled CX companies to get comfortable with remote working. But, considering the shift to hybrid is still relatively new, the challenge to deliver parity of service and efficiency in a WFH environment lingers.
Crucial to addressing that parity, is having a comprehensive knowledge management solution – a single platform that unifies all of the policies, processes and product information a frontline worker needs to be able to do their job.
An effective knowledge management solution needs to be searchable; it needs to be easy to update; and it needs to provide confirmation that content is current so employees can be confident about the service they’re offering.
Just as it’s important that remote workers have clear targets and goals, they need the tools to be able to meet them. A comprehensive knowledge base is crucial, not only for delivering fantastic customer service but for delivering it consistently.
2. Collaboration and communication
A hybrid working environment may inadvertently create feelings of isolation and detachment among teams, particularly when they operate from diverse locations and time zones. It’s imperative to nurture a culture of collaboration and communication spanning frontline workers, supervisors, and managers.
When customers expect immediate answers and solutions, those providing customer service need to feel supported by team leaders when required, and in real-time. While there’s plenty of CX self-service and helpdesk technologies on the customer side, we recognised a need for a similar cloud-based technology to help contact centre employees. In response, we created Support Cell.
Support Cell provides real-time support to frontline contact centre employees, giving them direct access to a team of specialists who can offer support with customer-specific queries and provide live coaching, all in real time.
At the same time, Support Cell also collects comprehensive analytics, pooling data into one knowledge base so both remote and on-site workers can attain superior levels of customer service without constant managerial support.
Support Cell gives contact centres a unique way to adapt to the world of remote work, while increasing customer satisfaction. You can read more about Support Cell here.
3. Staying engaged
The consequences of employee disengagement extend beyond increased turnover, it can also negatively influence customer experience. Maintaining high engagement levels should be one of the highest priorities for contact centre leaders.
A Forrester Research report reveals that elevated employee engagement is linked to remarkable productivity gains of 18% and a substantial 81% reduction in absenteeism rates. Meanwhile, a similar study from Gallup reported that only 36% of employees feel engaged in their workplace, and 15% say they’re actively disengaged.
Engagement thrives when employees are given opportunities to contribute meaningful perspectives; when they’re able to be part of the conversation – whether that be in relation to team engagement, or their own work-related goals. When someone plays a role in the discussion, they’re more invested in working towards the agreed outcome.
To foster an environment where employees feel empowered to share involves creating channels for communication where and how employees like to engage – whether that be an individual discussion or a collaborative brainstorming session. Showing, too, that ideas and solutions are not only listened to but followed up on or implemented affirms every voice is important.
4. Ongoing learning and progression
A LinkedIn study unveils that one of the prevailing factors for an employee leaving a job is a perceived deficiency in opportunities for learning and advancement. The research highlights that individuals who do encounter substantial learning prospects within their work environment are not only 21% more inclined to experience confidence in their tasks, but also 21% more likely to find contentment in their job. The study also reveals a substantial 47% reduction in the likelihood of experiencing work-related stress among those who benefit from meaningful learning experiences at their workplaces.
With this knowledge in mind, contact centre leaders should consider expanding the types of learning programs available to employees. Formal in-person programs are, of course, useful; but a hybrid working arrangement also invites on-demand and ‘bite-sized’ learning opportunities in different formats. For example: short ‘how-to’ videos resonate with YouTube watchers, and give employees an opportunity to learn a new process or skill during a quiet moment; whereas an audio recording might be a preferred format for an avid podcast listener.
5. Rethinking onboarding
With teams not meeting as often in-person, the onboarding process for contact centres becomes significantly more complex. New employees need to be able to get up to speed quickly, knowing where to go to find information and who to go to for support.
Assigning a mentor to ease overwhelm can not only help a new hire become familiar with company processes, but also fast-tracks an employee’s understanding of company culture and their confidence to become an active participant. Also ensuring onboarding materials are ordered so information is delivered step-by-step, avoids overload. And finally, don’t assume prior knowledge around communication channels – contact centres, generally, use a variety of internal tools. Ensuring a new hire understands the way each is used within the organisation is important, so that they’re confident to communicate, which is key to feeling part of the team.
In conclusion, employee experience has to be top priority when it comes to adapting to hybrid work. Empower frontline staff to operate efficiently, attain essential knowledge, and foster professional growth within your establishment and, in return, they’ll enhance the quality of your customer experience, creating a mutually beneficial cycle of elevation.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX consultancy and contact centre services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.