Work at Home – Flexibility in the Contact Center Space

Providing flexibility for a workforce is paramount to the long-term satisfaction of many employees in today’s job market. At InfoCision, we have an entire program that offers our contact center staff the option to work from the convenience of their home in a virtual call center environment.

Our staff involved in this unique program receive their initial training in a web-based environment and learn to make the same calls as our traditional agents, just from the comfort of their own homes. This provides an opportunity for people who may not be able to work outside the home otherwise. It also delivers other benefits, like not wasting time commuting back and forth to work, not having a dress code to follow, and saving money on gas and vehicle maintenance. 

Having a work at home program not only encourages employee satisfaction, but also ensures that we have the flexibility and capacity to meet staffing requirements, enabling us to provide excellent customer service and unparalleled ROI. 

 

Employer Benefits From the Ultimate Job Perk: Working at Home

Employees who yearn for job flexibility see working at home as the ultimate prize—and have been increasingly pushing their companies to provide the perk. Over the past decade, employers have actively started to respond. The share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2015 numbers are greater still for management and professional positions, 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The ability to work from anywhere has evolved along with technological advances—so much so that 68 percent of recent college graduates say that, among company policies, the ability to work remotely has “the most positive impact” on their interest in an employer, according to a FlexJobs survey.

The trend encompasses a wide swath of industries, from healthcare to technology. Here at InfoCision, we have seen firsthand the benefits of offering employees the Work-at-Home option. Thanks to cloud computing and widely available Internet broadband access, Communicators can now provide home-based services that are indistinguishable from services that originate in the contact center. Such findings have revolutionized the work place and are greatly improving work-life balance among millions of workers (3.2 million in 2014, according to The New York Times).

Reasons to consider adding Work-at-Home to your call center’s career options:

Dollars: By leveraging the Internet, businesses can reduce the costs of office space and multiple overhead charges. Employees who participate in Work-at-Home programs typically love it, which builds their company loyalty, thus lowering your attrition rates and costs.

Time: Commuting is draining on the spirit, the wallet and the clock. The average commuter spends nearly an hour a day just getting to and from the office—time that could be better used to close a deal or finish writing a story, among a multitude of other tasks. Time=money.

Morale: Job satisfaction increases with telecommuting. It should almost go without saying that having the flexibility to work from home (or anywhere)—in case you’re under the weather, a child is sick, the car’s in the shop, etc.—would improve employee morale; nevertheless, new research from the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management has made it official. In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers learned that workers who were given an increased sense of control over their work lives reported higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress.

Productivity: Only 7 percent of respondents to a FlexJob survey say the office is their location of choice if they need to be most productive at work tasks. The rest prefer to work remotely; their top reasons for this choice include fewer interruptions from co-workers and other distractions, like meetings and office politics. What’s more, research shows that at-home workers typically put in longer hours than their colleagues at the office.

Beware some telecommuting challenges

At-home workers have reported a sense of isolation, and they find communicating with colleagues more challenging—at least initially. Virtual connection technologies like Skype and Google Hangout help bridge the communication gap but, for others, nothing replaces chatting around the water cooler.

Keeping tabs on what co-workers are doing is also tricky, as is staying motivated to report on their own activities toward goals. This leads to another issue coming to the forefront: Telecommuters are being promoted at half the rate of their in-office colleagues, according to The New York Times article referenced above. This can be attributed to a lack of live interaction—a case of out of sight, out of mind—wherein managing employees and collaborating with the boss are inherently more difficult.

For some telecommuters, limited home resources are also a problem. After all, not every home setup includes a printer and fax machine, for example. Some people also simply work better in a structured environment; home can offer too many temptations to put work on pause.

Sometimes, the best telecommuting practice may simply be to offer employees options—a couple of days at home per week or month—when a deep focus on a work project is needed, a sore throat wants tending or the weather outside is frightful.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Study Finds “Agent Apathy” to Be the Root of Poor Customer Care

There’s nothing quite so disappointing as conversing with a customer care agent whose monotone voice makes it quite evident that he or she does not truly care about addressing your inquiry.  And, it’s no secret that this low-energy approach to quality of customer care will not win businesses increased customer retention or positive reviews.

In fact, a recent study from ICMI and Five9 revealed that “agent apathy” is the root cause of poor customer care levels. What’s more, in the same study 74 percent of contact center leaders confessed to feeling that they prevented their agents from providing the best experience possible.

While it’s honorable for these leaders to have acknowledged their faults, it is critical they they deduce exactly what is causing their agents to produce low levels of customer care and even more importantly, how to resolve this apathy epidemic.

For starters, workplace morale greatly affects the attitudes of contact center workers. With such high levels of daily stress thrust upon them each day in the form of hefty call queues and upset consumers, it’s no surprise that agents’ sometimes feel burnt out. However, contact center supervisors can work to create a more optimistic, team-oriented atmosphere to help agents’ feel more excited about their careers.

For example, supervisors must provide their employees with an appropriate balance between work and home life. This means staying sensitive to employees’ personal matters and understanding when agents need a break. You never want your employees’ to force their way through the work week, and offering suitable vacation allowance can certainly increase their satisfaction and performance.

In addition to work-life balance, the structure of your team is also important. Hiring managers must ensure that each new agent who enters the team is  cohesive with the rest of the workforce. More specifically, it’s important to take notice of your agents’ preferences and personalities in order to foster a group of workers who enjoy each other’s company and motivate each other to work hard and make progress.

Your contact center workplace culture will impact your agents’ quality of customer care—but it’s your choice, as the supervisor, as to whether that impact is negative or positive.

We want to hear your thoughts. Tell us how you keep your employees smiling in the comments section!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Happy Employees: The Underrated Business Key

A positive work environment filled with happy employees makes going to work every day a much more pleasant experience. But what some business owners may not know is that happy, more fulfilled workers are also more productive.

The proof is in the numbers: revenue for Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” increased by an average of 22.2 percent last year. So, how can companies create happy workers? Here are a few of the best ways:

Help with work-life balance

Providing employees with a work-life balance helps ease employee stress, particularly in a highly pressurized environment like the contact center. Communicators like to feel cared for by their employer, and when they do, businesses tend to see improved contact center ROI. Companies can help foster that feeling amongst their employees with benefits like:

  • Wellness programs
  • On-site childcare
  • On-site fitness centers

Reward excellence

Acknowledgement of a job well done is often an extremely meaningful experience for an employee. Offering rewards and recognition for employees who achieve at a high level not only makes that individual feel appreciated, but it also inspires other workers to step up their game.

Always keep the office door open

Employees find comfort knowing they can talk to their superiors about issues in the office or non-work-related issues. Open dialogue is critical to creating an atmosphere where workers feel comfortable speaking their minds. Honest, accurate feedback is always the best way to improve operations, but if employees don’t feel safe expressing opinions, making those improvements becomes much more difficult.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways businesses can help create a culture of happiness. As every company is different, the most important thing is not the specific approach a company takes but rather that it truly values employees. With a win-win for employers and employees, everyone is happy.

Work and Life: A True Balancing Act

It’s important to help employees find a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families

Last week, InfoCision held its annual Fall Festival, where employees bring their children, dressed in costumes, into work to collect candy at 22 stations we have set up around our corporate campus.  This is something we have been doing for several years now and the response from our employees has been great.  As I watched the children and their parents walking from station to station, collecting plenty of sweets along the way, I began to think about how proud I am to be part of a company that encourages work-life balance and what it means to our employees.

work-life-balanceHere at InfoCision, we have always tried to make sure that our employees have a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families.  There’s no question, career is important and requires prioritizing all aspects of life so the family doesn’t suffer.  That’s why we implemented a robust work-life balance initiative here at InfoCision.  The bottom line is, when our employees have family or health concerns, it can be difficult coming to work every day and being productive.  We realize this, and that is why InfoCision provides innovative amenities like on-site doctors’ offices and fitness centers.

Having amenities like these available to our employees helps relieve some of the stress that life often brings, and promotes greater “presenteeism.”  Think about how much time is wasted when an employee has to visit an off-site doctor.  Depending on the travel time, it could take an entire half-day to just get a standard check-up.  Our InfoWellness clinics are a convenient alternative to visiting a doctor, plus if the employee is a member of InfoCision’s insurance plans, it’s free!  During flu season, helping to keep everyone healthy is a priority.  Especially when you have over 4,400 employees, many of whom work in very close proximity to one another.  Each year our on-site clinics provide low-cost flu shots for our employees.  This past flu season we administered close to 1,000 flu shots to help ensure that our people stayed healthy.  Our InfoFitness center helps promote a healthy lifestyle for our employees and we even hold an annual “Weight Loss War,” which is our version of “The Biggest Loser.”  This year employees lost over 2,950 pounds – one and a half TONS!  Our InfoKids Early Learning Center has helped make the decision between working and staying home easier for our employees, and has helped us retain many of our best female employees.  Our working parents can feel a sense of comfort, knowing that their child is in the care of a certified professional at our corporate campus.

When you look at the big picture of things, yes, our amenities are great for our employees and we love being able to provide them.  With that in mind, it also allows our company to be proactive instead of reactive.  Our innovative programs have helped our company lower the cost of insurance premiums, emergency room visits and productivity issues.  When employees are happy and healthy, they’re going to be willing to work harder.  And our clients benefit from the great results our dedicated employees are able to produce.  That is a situation where everybody wins!