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Remote Management in Virtual Call Centers

The first question that often surfaces when companies are considering a virtual or at-home contact center is; how do we manage a workforce we cannot see? How do we manage this environment to maintain control?

Effective remote management in virtual call centers starts with the Science of Selection employed during at-home agent recruitment and is developed and reinforced with the training process. When all aspects of the virtual contact center are conducted in a virtual setting, the nature of “remote” working is already ingrained in the culture your organization is developing for its at-home workforce.

Despite Marissa Mayer’s mandate that Yahoo! workers must now come to the office to work, between 20 and 30 million workers telecommute at least one day per week. Teleworking is not new, and is increasing given the adoption of tools that enable mobility and productivity from anywhere at any time. Many geographically dispersed project teams may never meet face-to-face, but use collaboration tools and conference calls to keep projects on track and complete work that delivers on business objectives. The same is true for your at-home contact center. Remote management in virtual call centers uses these tools and more to establish an “office” setting for its agents. The combination of phone calls for daily briefings, ad hoc instant messaging and online discussion forums can often result in managers spending more time communicating with agents than if they were on the floor with them in a physical contact center. The innovative technology developed to facilitate the at-home call center combined with innovative work processes will serve to develop and sustain optimal productivity.

Three Vectors of Influence

Once your virtual call center is operational, ongoing management will revolve around three vectors of influence.

An employee of a virtual contact center doesn’t want to feel isolated or alone. With Expert Q&A forums and chat rooms they can interact with their colleagues, ask and answer questions, as well as interact with their managers.

Just as in a physical setting, employees who are natural mentors and predisposed to be helpful will emerge. Reinforcing this behavior with leadership training for top performers can help to ensure that your at-home workforce will continuously learn and improve, even when a manager is not present.

One of the benefits of coaching at-home agents is that much of the sensitive personal topics are illuminated. It’s no longer on the agenda to discuss personal hygiene, dress or too much gossip. Instead, managers can focus on creating a feedback loop that allows them to help the agent improve and also receive feedback from the agent to ensure understanding and for identifying areas that could be improved.

Not Just More Time but More Valuable Exchanges
In answer to the question that kicked off this post, remote management is not so different from managing a physical contact center. The tools may look a bit different and the “hallway” conversations may be a little less casual, but the truth is that managers will actually have nearly the same visibility with an at-home contact center as they do with a physical one.

Due to the participation in the discussion forums and the record of questions and answers, you will also find that your at-home team is helping to create a knowledge sharing portal that accelerates your time and effort to onboard new agents and serves as a supplemental training center to help agents continuously learn and evolve as the nature of customer interactions changes over time.

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