On 30 June, the government announced new flexible working legislation and tPoint held its customer contact home working summit, hosted by Plantronics. Here is a summary of the 10 key success factors (KSF) that came out from the various speakers at the Summit.
Nicola Collister, CEO Custerian talked about home working implementation and made the point that many home working initiatives have withered on the vine, because they were just that… initiatives. She said, its essential to connect this to a clear and compelling “why” in the core businesses strategy. That’s what she did at Shop Direct one of the UK’s largest implementations. David Williams, Director, Carpeo noted that Home working has delivered three key benefits to them, which would apply to any contact centre operation. It helps them reach more talent, reduces cost and enhances peak service (brings flexibility and reduces idle time) and introduces an effective disaster recovery solution.
Home working is a big change in working and a difficult concept for command and control managers to get their heads round. Bob Crichton, Owner, HOP Associates discussed that successful flexible working requires both cultural and technological change. And this doesn’t happen by accident. It needs proactive management and much broader changes to culture. In the summit, David dispelled some myths by showing a video of some of Carpeo’s home workers. Normal people, who you would be pleased to work for you. Nicola engaged many of the senor management at Shop Direct to go and visit home workers so that they could see for themselves exactly how it worked.
Organisations will always worry more about security for home workers (you can’t see or touch them). Nicola pointed out that the establishment of a business bank account for a self-employed home worker was a great way to ensure additional checks were carried out. She pointed out internally that in reality, the home worker checks were more extensive than those for normal workers. This, alongside regular security and fraud checks, ensure that fraud rates are lower in home workers than many existing estates. Andy Griffin, CEO tPoint Solutions, pointed out that using secure virtual technology like tPoint, where data doesn’t get stored locally, access is controlled by role and full visibility of all data changes and log-in’s also helps allay fears. Some organisations have installed webcam’s so they can observe home workers at all times.
Katy Forsyth, CEO Red recruitment, talked about the different challenges around hiring home workers rather than centre staff. Computer skills are rarely tested in contact centre hiring, but with an older and different demographic (average age 38 home worker vs. 25 contact center), Katy recommended this was carried out.
David pointed out that at Carpeo, home working has given flexibility and significant reduction in idle time. There are two key criteria David uses to predict whether home working will suit an individual: People that value flexibility and who are able to work independently. Many confirmed that productivity is greater for home workers, partly due to the lack of distraction, as well as for greater trust and self-motivation.
Katy noted that against normal center hiring, where the process can take 3 days, the process could often take significantly longer, resulting in much greater fall out of candidates. Home workers are more likely to be attracted to work with big established, attractive brands. She advocated utilising videos to bring the brand to life and engage the candidates, who, recruited remotely, were unlikely to get the same buzz and connection from the recruitment process. She held LV= up as a great example.
We discussed, the different management challenge required for team leaders, or performance facilitators to work virtually. Nicola explained that, at Shop Direct, the initial deployment was separate from the main operation. Later when hybrid teams were established it helped all understand how the model worked. David, explained that Carpeo home workers are treated exactly the same as contact centre based agent. Home workers have the ability to put your hand up for help (virtually) and escalate or warm transfer a call to a supervisor, just as any agent would in the centre. Having seamless links is essential. Virtual working requires a revisiting of training and performance management. However, these improved quality and training processes are equally applicable for internal use. At Carpeo, a single, improved performance management framework and approach is used for all agents.
The Carpeo experience of running home workers in hybrid teams has been that team leaders needed encouragement at first to use some of the tools to ensure home workers are included in briefings. Out of sight, out of mind is a danger. Extra effort is required to communicate and train virtually. Daily Briefings, in-day updates and across the desk discussion is all encouraged by virtual chat rooms, e-and live video learning and buzz sessions.
Plantronics walked us through their award winning initiative in smarter working. They have organised flexible working for both the office and virtual environment for the four key work activities of Communication, Collaboration, Contemplation and Concentration. Luis Lemus, Senior Manager Customer Experience, Plantronics explained, how it has led to tremendous absence, engagement and attrition levels. Colleagues in the London coffee areas regularly chat to colleagues in the German Office coffee area. Wireless Plantronics headsets have been linked to tPoint software and can automatically capture agent status and log off.
Bob noted that, technology, its cost and complexity, used to be a real barrier to home working. But with cloud technologies like tPoint, all home workers need is a decent PC, headset and broadband connection and a way to virtualise key applications. David emphasised this point, by pointing out that Carpeo provide an end to end managed service and can get home working up and running in 7 days, if clients have an urgent requirement. Clients then can start to innovate with workflows and treatments and all the Smart Contact capabilities that tPoint brings.