Have firms kept their WFH commitments to customer service reps?

21 June 2021

Various digital tools can help simplify a customer service rep’s ability to work from home, perhaps permanently. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The past year has been nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to a bona fide new working culture, with even contact center customer service representatives (CSRs) being allowed to work from home, en masse, for the first time ever.

Traditionally a sector that had to be rooted in a physical location for its costs and efficiency savings, the customer service segment made a major migration to ‘work from home’ over the last year or so – adoption of remote contact center solutions saw a noticeable uptick in recent quarters, and the easier accessibility of automated solutions such as chatbots and automated IVR devices have enabled businesses to stay connected with customers even during off-work hours.

Nonetheless, it is still estimated that only about half (52%) of customer service reps are partaking in a work from home arrangement of some sort, a vastly lower number when contrasted with other formerly office-centric positions, such as the sales and marketing department, finance, IT, and human resources, which have all made the transition to remote or hybrid working more permanent that CSRs.

One reason for this is that like the sales team, CSRs often prefer the office themselves, for reasons such as it is easier to communicate within the team, it can be faster to deal with client issues when sitting together, and it can be easier to manage their environment – issues such as internet connectivity, poor bandwidth resulting in spotty call quality, lowering success call rates, can be avoided or the accountability for such has to be borne by the organization, instead of the individual.

But many in the customer service line might appreciate the option to work from home or from a remote space as well. For one thing, CSRs are often the lowest-paid team in many organizations. Being allowed to work remotely can allow them to save on many extraneous costs, such as travel time and commutes, costs of meals and daycare, to name a handful. It is believed that even part-time remote working could greatly benefit a contact center CSR’s bottom line.

For another thing, contact center reps are often held to more stringent productivity data measurements than pretty much any other department. That is one of the reasons contact center technology is constantly in flux, especially in the era of data analysis, with newer tech solutions often touting new means of tracing CSR productivity, including quality scores, customer sentiment analysis, AHT (average handle time per contact type), as well as productivity scores like sales quotas, tickets closed, and conversion rates.

But with most remote contact center solutions now coming equipped with in-depth, real-time data analytics tools and metrics, it appears the job of tracking productivity can be done just as efficiently – if not more so – by these remote solutions than by being in the office.

Providing flexible or hybrid work from home deals could also make customer service positions more attractive, than the sort of entry-level employment they are seen as currently. But this overlooks the critical nature of adequate customer care, particularly in the aftermath of a global crisis. A NICE inContact CX webinar entitled Megatrends for 2021 highlighted that, “80% of consumers said they will stay loyal to the brands that provided good customer experience during the pandemic.”

While many organizations have already implemented some work-from-home strategies, some for a longer duration beyond the present emergency period, customer service reps sadly still seem neglected in that area. But supplying remote working options to CSRs could have the added advantage of creating a more positive environment for contact center agents to excel, and help drive business prosperity to boot.