Little known ways to handle common call center challenges

by Rumzz Bajwa
Call Center Challenges

Even before the pandemic, remote work has been a standard set-up for most call center workers worldwide. Call center companies, most specifically, are able to hire remote workers thanks to the proliferation of online collaborative software and tools. 

With the COVID-19 still looming around, it’s more likely that remote work will become part of the new norm and post-pandemic world. While it does offer convenience and comfort for some employees, managing remote employees could prove to be another challenge for the team leaders.  

Fortunately, managers can find a way around this problem.

This article covers

Common call center challenges and how to overcome them

In this article, we’ll talk about the most common call center challenges that managers face while handling a remote team. We will also offer tips on managing remote call center teams.

1. Gaps in communication

Communication is key not only to a successful company but also to a healthy workplace environment. Unfortunately, one of the things that get thrown out of the window with remote work is communication. 

While working physically at an office allows you to easily go up to your colleagues or call them to your office, with remote work, you’ll have to find an efficient way to reach them. While emails would be a good option, this traditional method may be too formal, and many may feel uncomfortable using it for casual catch-ups or reminders. 

Lack of effective communication presents a lot of potential problems for a team. For one, it could cause misunderstandings between managers and staff or between two team members. Assignments could get mixed up, which could lead to mistakes and conflicts. 

In addition, poor communication can leave some of the employees feeling isolated. Not only will this affect their performance, but it can also decrease efficiency and team productivity

How to overcome the challenge

1. Embrace collaboration tools

With all the problems that poor communication poses, managers must find a way to foster open communication that team members can be comfortable with. Fortunately, online communication tools like Slack are specially designed to help remote workers communicate and collaborate. 

One of the most common features of collaboration tools is instant messaging. It allows real-time communication between team members. For the team’s new members, this instant messaging feature makes it easier for them to ask for help from their colleagues. They can also send files, pictures, and other important documents to their managers or other people involved in a project using these tools. 

2. Regularly conduct video conferencing meetings 

Even if you don’t see your team physically, it doesn’t mean that you can’t connect with them somehow. Conducting regular video conferencing meetings will help you and your agents communicate with each other face-to-face despite the distance. It will also allow you to keep them informed of the latest updates about the company and make announcements if there are any. 

Regular video conferencing meetings can help with employee engagement. It lets your team meet and get to know each other on a deeper level. Plus, putting a name on the face is a great way to strengthen the connection between your team members. 

3. Conduct one-on-one meetings

You may not realize it, but constant one-on-one meetings with your team members can benefit the team. For one, it allows you to check-in with each of your team members – what they’re doing, how they’re coping, and whether or not there’s something you can do to help them. Conversations like this can profoundly affect your agents’ mental health, especially when they’re feeling lonely and isolated. 

Some agents may also prefer one-on-one meetings because it gives them a chance to hear feedback about their performance and address concerns in private if they have any. 

4. Ask for feedback

Open communication is a two-way process, which means that you, as a manager, may be able to ask for feedback from the team members. It could be something about your way of running the team or how the management runs the company as a whole. Asking for feedback also allows you to spot problems early on and create solutions around them, so it doesn’t cause problems later on. 

There are many ways to ask for feedback from your employees – one is asking them for one during your one-on-one conversation. However, some of the team members may be uncomfortable having this talk directly. In that case, it would be better to send out surveys that your team members can fill out anonymously. This is the best way to know if an agent has any negative experience to share or daily challenges. 

Aside from your personal improvement, asking for feedback also lets your team know that you value their opinions, boosting morale. Once the issue has been dealt with, the agents may feel lighter and more productive. 

2. Monitoring and maintaining productivity

Do you know how much work each of your team members handles and accomplishes each day? For some, the answer to the question may not be crystal clear. Remote work doesn’t give you the luxury of walking towards your subordinate’s cubicle and asking for progress. Therefore, the most common among all the call center challenges is monitoring the agent’s productivity.

While most telemarketers are motivated self-starters, you cannot deny that some remote workers could take advantage of lesser supervision. This ultimately affects the amount and quality of work they complete daily.

How to overcome the challenge

1. Establish KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that managers can use to track their employee’s progress. It could be the number of cold calls they complete in a day, call handling time, sales per agent, etc. 

Ideally, the KPIs you use for your remote employees should be the same as those you use for in-house employees. These will also help set clear expectations in place, regardless of your team’s work setup. 

2. Use remote agent management tools

If the company is handling remote teams, call center analytics can be a great way to track the team’s performance. Basically, the analytics will show customer satisfaction. If it’s declining, you can use this information to identify the problem and work towards fixing it.

You can also look at your agent’s call logs to see the number of calls they took and the length of the interaction. From there, you can evaluate their performance and compare it to the company’s standards. If there’s an area that needs improvement, you can focus their training on improving their efficiency. 

Quality assurance (QA) systems are great tools to monitor team and individual performance. You can set up metrics and mechanisms that let you collect data on each of the team members. With the tool, you can keep track of what everyone is doing, and it helps you spot strengths and weaknesses that you can work on to improve your team’s efficiency. 

QA systems also allow you to pick random calls your agent handles and listen to them so you can analyze their performance. With the information the tool provides, it will be easier for you to give feedback to your team and share improvement tips. 

Here are 10 ways to improve your call center quality assurance.

3. Maintaining employee morale

Boosting your employee’s morale is vital to keep their productivity levels high. However, in the remote setup, workers don’t interact as often with their managers or get recognized for something as often as they would in a typical office situation. As a result, they could feel isolated and lose a sense of their purpose in the company. This makes it harder for managers to keep them engaged and accountable for their work. 

Getting together and bonding with your co-workers could help with the feelings of isolation team members may be feeling. But then again, with a remote set-up where everyone could be living in different time zones, making this strategy is difficult to accomplish.  

How to overcome the challenge

1. Instill a sense of purpose 

As mentioned, call center agents working remotely often lose a sense of their purpose in the company because of low morale. As a manager, you can help your employee find meaning behind their work again through constant communication.

Every now and then, check in with your team to see how they’re doing. Continually monitor their performance and provide feedback as much as possible. Meet with them as a team and set goals. During this time, you can also communicate what is expected of them, so they know what they need to do to achieve success. 

2. Recognize hard work

Recognition is always a good motivation, regardless of the work setup. But with remote teams, this simple appreciation gesture can go a long way in reminding them that their hard work never goes unnoticed and that they’re highly appreciated for it. 

With your analytics and QA systems in place, you should be able to pinpoint the team member with most the most calls and hours put in. Never miss the chance to recognize the hard work your team puts in. Even a simple message appreciating their effort and outlining their impact on the company can instantly boost their morale. 

3. Show that you care

Get to know your team members a little bit more by knowing their birthdays. Sometimes, with remote work, special celebrations like this could get overlooked, and for workers, days like this could feel just like a regular workday. 

On birthdays, don’t forget to greet your team members personally and through your group chat. If you can, host a virtual celebration and have them take the day off to celebrate. Chances are, they’ve been working day in and out the whole year, and they could use this day to rest and just slow down. 

This may be a simple gesture, but seeing their managers and team care for them can give the much-needed morale boost. 

4. Encourage the team to take breaks

It’s tough to tell if your employees are taking a break or having lunch with the remote work set-up. But the best thing you can do as a manager is to remind them to take regular breaks. Not only will this boost morale, but it will also keep productivity high. 

Introduce a system that lets everyone in the team know when one member is taking a break. This allows the person to disconnect from the team for a few minutes and actually take a breather. 

For instance, if they’re planning on taking a break, they could change their status from available to away. They could also shoot a group message informing them that they will be unavailable within a specific time frame. Once they are rested, you’ll immediately see a boost in their productivity and engagement.

5. Prioritize learning and development

It’s common for remote workers to feel stagnant in their careers. They may feel hopeless and depressed, knowing that they may never get far because of the lack of opportunities. That said, their morale could suffer, and they may lose interest in their job altogether. 

Knowing that their employer values them and is willing to invest in their learning can give an instant morale boost. With that, you could create development and learning opportunities for them. You could find free courses or training programs for them or have them choose the classes they want to take. 

4. Training remote employees

Call center employees need constant training to provide better service to their clients. When training on-site employees, managers can easily walk the floor and observe how their agents handle customer issues and concerns – sometimes, even without the knowledge of both the employee and customers. 

Plus, with new hires, training could be vital as they start embracing a new role. Even if they did the same job before, not all companies are the same, and they would need to spend more time learning the ropes and get acclimated to a new working environment. 

With a remote call center team, things are different. You obviously can’t walk the floor and observe or personally attend to the training of new hires. If you want to listen in, you would have to inform the employee first, affecting their overall performance during the call. 

How to overcome this challenge

1. Create training modules

Training modules can be a helpful tool in training both existing and new agents. It can serve as the manual or guide they can refer to if they have questions and can’t contact you. You can outline the standard operating procedures for providing a great customer experience, how to fulfill customer expectations, and tips on handling demanding, angry customers.

2. Provide feedback

If you can, dedicate a few hours of training to help recruits get a hold of your team’s processes. At some point, you can act as the caller or customer, and they can get in the role and cater to your concerns. Based on your interaction, you can then provide feedback to them. (i.e., their strengths and weaknesses). 

While you continue to provide feedback and encourage them to do better, don’t forget to talk about their achievements and let them know that they’re doing a great job. 

5. Building the office culture

Company culture is one of the essential elements of attracting and retaining talents. Not only that, but a winning corporate culture can significantly impact employees’ engagement and productivity

It is easy to build an office culture with an on-site team. However, the case isn’t the same with a remote working setup. If you want to create a company culture that will attract talents and motivate employees, you’ll have to make a business plan and exert extra effort to succeed. 

How to overcome this challenge

1. Interact with the team according to how you want the company culture to be

Companies have different cultures – some are fun, while some can be uptight. Shaping the company culture will ultimately boil down to how the managers interact with their subordinates. 

For instance, if you want to foster open-communication company culture, your communication lines should be open to everybody. This could mean establishing an ‘open door’ policy where remote workers can communicate with everybody, including the CEO. Or, if you want a fun company culture, you can schedule frequent after-work virtual get-togethers just to socialize and get everybody to learn more about each other. 

Getting employees to connect and get to know each other will foster a sense of togetherness. That said, as they get close to each other, the collaboration will also get better. 

2. Set-up virtual support groups

Unlike in an office, you can’t casually talk about anything with your co-workers in the breakroom while working remotely. This could make call center agents feel lonely and disconnected from the rest of the company. This can lead to a bigger problem – agent attrition.

By setting up virtual support groups, however, everyone can have the chance to talk about any difficulty they’re experiencing. Others, in turn, others can listen or offer solutions. You can create a group solely dedicated to that or schedule group video calls so the team can meet. 

Knowing a group of people is willing to help can make call center agents feel supported, happier, and more engaged. 

The bottom line

There are many call center challenges associated with managing remote agents. Language barriers, time zones, and technical difficulties may even make it harder to communicate and collaborate with them. 

However, challenging doesn’t necessarily mean impossible. By identifying what challenges remote managers usually face in advance, you can work a solution around it.

Proper communication, team-building activities, recognition of hard work, and others can go a long way in ensuring that your team is engaged, motivated, and productive. 

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