In just the last few days, the way we work as a nation has had to shift dramatically. Before this week, I hadn’t even heard of social distancing. But now, schools closing, large events canceled, and entire companies moving to remote work, everyone has felt the effects of COVID-19 (even those who just need to find some toilet paper actually in stock).
For many companies, the rapid move to remote work came as a surprise – as most disasters do. A global pandemic is just one way that an unexpected incident can change how we’re required to live and work. Whether your main office has a fire, a water main breaks and everything floods, or maybe there’s a data breach. These are the times where a call center business continuity plan enters the picture.
What’s a business continuity plan? This is your think-ahead strategy. This is when you take into account worst-case scenarios and imagine how your team (and company) will respond to maintain normalcy and business functions. How will your team respond to an unexpected change? What tools and procedures do you have in place to continue to support your employees?
As a manager, you may not have the responsibility of drafting your company’s continuity plan, but you are the voice for your team. You’re the advocate for your agents and customers as you move your call center to remote work. It’s a better time than any to prepare your agents and your call center for the unexpected.
Make Sure you have Up-to-Date Technology
Technology will be vital for the continuation of your business in times of change. Without it, your company would likely have to halt all productivity until things return to normal. We are blessed to be in an age where software gives us more tools of communication and management than we sometimes know how to handle.
Is your contact center well outfitted?
To accommodate consumers’ growing expectations and provide 24/7 omnichannel customer support, CustomerThink forecasts that as many as 70% of contact centers will move to the cloud in the next 12-24 months. To stay on top of things, don’t be left behind.
If your call center depends on onsite servers and infrastructure, it’s easy to get stuck when unexpected changes arise. Be prepared to move to the cloud and digitally transforming your team. Plus, digital transformation doesn’t only help you when you need to move your team to remote work by surprise.
Digital transformation in your call center also benefits your customers and service level. Legacy contact center systems make it hard to keep up with customer expectations as they evolve. Many of them don’t offer the same advanced analytics and automation features that newer cloud-based solutions do.
Whereas, with cloud platforms in your contact center, when your team is mandated to work from home, your customers can still reach you. Your system will still have automations and self-service tools, and your team will still be able to communicate with each other as they would in office.
Part of a call center business continuity plan includes creating a path to maintain operations as a company. Moving your contact center to the cloud guarantees a swift and easy transition to keep customers cared for and employees up to speed without delay.
Prepare for Remote Work
When it comes to our current situation with COVID-19, social distancing and flattening the curve has required countless companies to move their workforce to a remote work plan. The option of remote work is essential to figure out with any call center business continuity plan, whether it’s a natural or national emergency that puts the plan into action.
Moving your contact center to the cloud is the first step in making sure your team is ready for fully remote work.
But, as a manager, do you feel prepared to manage and care for your team when you aren’t with them face-to-face?
To set your continuity plan up for success, have a work from home model in place so your team can function well as a remote team.
Set Your Standards and Policies Ahead of Time
Take some time to draft your team’s standards and policies around remote work before moving all employees to remote work. It can be nerve-wracking to move to remote work if your team has never done so before. How will you make sure your agents are actually at home working? How will you set the same standards for performance when you can’t watch them come to work in the morning?
Your agents may feel anxious about distractions or how they should communicate to you that they’re getting work done. Remote work requires a lot of transparency, trust, and proactive communication. In Trello’s guide How to Embrace Remote Work, they combat the myth that remote workers are “slackers.”
Any worker, even in the office of your call center, can slack off if managers don’t properly communicate goals and expectations. Your efforts as a manager don’t need to change. Make sure that each week and each day, your agents know the goals they’re responsible for, the deadlines they need to meet, and know to provide regular status updates. Trello says that teams that reward results will attract and retain people that will be productive anywhere.
Need somewhere to start? Try setting basic standards with your agents to ensure that your team is on the same page with remote work.
Here are a few:
- Sign into phones, communication software, and other systems as applicable.
- Have a daily stand-up via video conference or through posting on a dashboard to discuss the items you want to accomplish today. And, to make sure that everyone’s up and online.
- Check in with your team again when you’re ending your workday so they know you’re signing off for the day.
- Keep your calendar updated so your colleagues know when you’re in meetings, at lunch, or even when you need to take a break for a stretch.
- Practice good video conferencing etiquette by participating in meetings with your camera on. Being able to see one another’s facial expressions and reactions can dramatically change how you talk with each other, and helps to avoid miscommunications all around. Your teammates want to see your face!
Ensure Your Agents have the Equipment and Resources They Need to Succeed
Even if your contact center has transitioned to the cloud, and you have a plan for your team to move fully remote, your larger call center business continuity plan needs to loop in additional technology and resources. How do you maintain the same levels of communication outside of the office as you would inside? How do you set up and maintain a healthy culture when everyone’s dispersed?
Have the right software:
You need to make sure you have communication, collaboration, and project management tools to guide your team from a distance. Invest in implementing task tracking tools like Asana or Monday. Find a video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting to easily schedule video communication to continue to collaborate as a team. Be sure to communicate regularly through email, Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Keep track of equipment gaps:
Keep an updated list of the equipment your agents have (and what they need) to maintain success outside of the office. Do they have a good internet connection at home? If not, have hotspots or WiFi cards on hand to give out when remote work begins. Does their laptop work well? Is their phone line steady? Work with your IT team to make sure you have what your team will need to succeed.
Provide some guidelines:
Working from home can be tough emotionally and mentally. You can feel isolated, like you’re stuck in a cave, unable to really unplug and rest at the end of the day. It’s easy to distract yourself from work and use the time to get chores done, instead. Encourage agents to practice some of HubSpot’s Productivity Tips: Set boundaries for the start and end of your day, set up a home office space that’s separate from the areas in your house where you rest, plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time, and keep communication with your team constant.
Give your agents flexibility:
Be willing to offer some flexibility to your agents. Maybe their home is not a naturally productive space. There may be children or pets around asking for attention or interrupting phone calls. Give your agents grace to take breaks to breathe when needed to keep them happy and productive.
Set up Drill Days to Put Your Plan to the Test
Sometimes you don’t have a choice — you’re thrown into emergency mode right away. But, to be best prepared to put your call center business continuity plan into action, you’ll want to first put it to the test.
Set up drill days with your team, like you would with a fire drill to test the consistency and preparedness of your plan. Test out your technology, your automations and call routing software. Check on your agent’s work from home conditions so you know how to support them in the future. And give your team a taste of what this adjustment would look like in their lives.
Change is rarely expected. So, being ready for those worst-case scenarios will set your team up for success and continued productivity even when life’s hiccups happen.
When something like a global pandemic strikes, life feels very stressful. Put your agents first by making their work less stressful through some of these easy changes in your call center.