Could flexible working help you retain agents – and improve the customer experience?

Contact centres often struggle to retain the best talent. Whether it’s the pressures of the contact centre, or the lure of a new role in a smart new centre, contact centres replace 26% of their agents each year. The UK average for staff turnover is 15%.

Effects on employee engagement

Research by CIPD found a positive link between flexible working arrangements and employee engagement. They hypothesise that this is partly connected to the perception that by giving employees greater freedom, employees felt obliged to repay the favour with greater commitment. Another effect of flexible working is that employees spend less time commuting, and have more time for managing their personal life, which in turn means they are more focused at work, and less preoccupied with life admin tasks like organising car insurance, or booking a dentist appointment.

Employee retention

In Aviva’s Working Lives report (2017) they reported that 63% of employees were more likely to stay with an employer that offered flexible working.

As more companies offer flexible working, it will only become harder to compete with those that do. Increasingly, organisations that are unable to offer flexible working will struggle to recruit – or may have to settle for less experienced contact centre agents.

Poor retention rates aren’t just a problem for HR. Recruiting is expensive, and high employee attrition rates also come with a disruption to operations and a loss of institutional knowledge – a problem that can be exacerbated by a reliance on legacy systems that few employees understand. Losing one agent can cause a cascade of issues.

Employee recruitment

In the same report from Aviva, they found that 54% of employees want flexible working to be a feature of a new job, while 36% cited it as a deal-breaker.

A better customer experience?

Happy agents help happy customers. It’s a simple equation. Any steps you can take to improve life for your agents will have a trickle-down effect. If agents are content, focused, engaged and supported, they are better able to respond professionally – particularly when faced with disgruntled customers.

As we outlined above, offering flexible working arrangements is good for improving the work/life balance, which helps employees focus on their work.

Contact centre environment vs home

Another positive aspect of working from home is that agents can operate from a quieter, more relaxed environment, free of the usual workplace distractions (such as complaining colleagues, jammed printers, meetings and gossip). The quieter surrounding of a home office isn’t just good for employees; customers will also appreciate less background noise.

Of course, there is a flipside to this. While some employees will use flexible working to the benefit of the company, there will be others who struggle to self-manage their time, and may be more distracted in the home environment.

The use of flexible working arrangements should always be monitored, and all employees should be treated as individuals, who may need more or less support to make home working suitable for them (and effective for the company).

Connectivity

For all the benefits of flexible working, there may be some challenging hurdles for contact centres to overcome before this is even an option.

For starters, how can employees carry out their duties remotely? Can agents sign in to your applications and operate as part of your in-house team seamlessly?

Modern contact centre solutions are increasingly offering mobility as a standard feature. Our own Unified Communications service includes mobility tools to help your agents remain effective from any location.

Security

How do you manage security when your team is distributed? How do you control access and prevent data loss – or tampering – if your agents can work unseen?

Again, this really comes down to the nature of your business, as well as the nature of the contact centre exchanges. If most of your inbound calls are tech support or billing queries, it may be that agents only have limited access to data, and that every attempt to access data is recorded. If payments are taken by agents, then it’s essential that the method used for taking payments does not expose payment information to agents.

Is flexible working something that could ever work for your contact centre? Or are you already giving agents the freedom to work from home?

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