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Why Onboarding Remote Contact Center Agents Has to Be Practically Perfect

Today, most job candidates who can perform their jobs remotely want to perform those jobs remotely.

This extends to contact center agents, of course: you will attract more of them to your positions if you offer remote work. But once hired, you also will have to onboard and train them remotely.

That can be problematic, as onboarding that is done poorly, in general, can result in team members being twice as likely to look for another position.

Do it correctly, in a way that trains the agent well in the technology and the customer-facing aspects of the position, and both of you will be happy.

Agent retention also increases.

The chances of your new agent sticking around for a long while significantly increase: research has found that onboarding done right can improve new-hire retention by 82 percent. Their productivity can also rise by more than 70 percent.

Do it poorly and…

…You risk losing the agent to another position. And quickly so.

Not to scare anyone, but onboarding a remote contact center agent can be the “make or break” point for their overall success with you. Keep them just a short while, and you’ll have to replace them, taking on all the costs once again associated with that task.

You don’t want that: WE don’t want that to happen to you.

We’ve discussed this very topic a couple of times in the past several months at our Contact Center Executive Forums (CCEFs).

So, we’ve learned a thing or two because our recruiters and CCEF panelists have seen a thing or two.

Let’s dig in:

Some practically perfect contact-center-agent-onboarding tips

Let your new hires know exactly what’s expected of them.

This can feel like a no-duh: “Of course, we tell them what we expect!”

But expectations when working remotely can be different from when working in a contact center.

For example, one of our panelists at last year’s CCEF mentioned her operations client discovered that remote agents thought it would be OK to get up and answer a doorbell at home, or run to the fridge for a snack, just because it would be quick to do so. (And they’re at home.)

The panelist had to let new hires know they were expected to stay at their workstations just as they would if they were at the contact center in person: they needed to be at their stations at all times except for regular/approved break times.

  • Your remote new hires will have questions they’ll want to ask that you never before thought they could ask, and they’ll be shy about asking them during remote onboarding/training sessions.

It’s best to create a “knowledge base” document beforehand and present it to the new hire before their first onboarding session.

Here’s why this is important: A new hire/trainee can quickly raise a hand during an on-site onboarding session to ask a question. While a trainee can raise a hand during a Zoom call, the trainer may not see it; it may not get answered.

Trainees with questions might remember to ask them later, but they also may not.

(Your knowledge base document will constantly grow and change because each “batch” of new hires will surprise/delight you with questions you never thought they’d ask.)

In addition, encourage trainers to ask much more frequently than if training were in person if attendees have any questions; trainees may forget the questions they wanted to ask if there’s too much time between when they have the question and when they can ask it.

  • Create interactive, “real-life” training exercises.

After all, your agents will interact with customers in real life. They’ll need practice. Provide them with as “real-life” training opportunities as possible.

Plus, many people truly “learn by doing.” Help the “doers” among your new hires learn well!

  • Provide clear metrics that matter.

In other words, don’t enforce metrics that don’t impact the bottom line or customer satisfaction.

They also should be measurable and sustainable.

Such KPIs could include revenue (sales and or collections), agent engagement with customers, agent effectiveness, customer satisfaction, agent productivity, etc.

You may want to forgo stringently enforcing some KPIs. For example, customers may still be very touchy, angry/upset, etc., due to the pandemic.

Therefore, your agents may need to spend extra time with them, calming them, commiserating with them, helping them, etc.

Could a more extended “time with each client” metric be lengthened?

  • Team your new hires with longer-term agents.

Let your new hires know they can go to these experienced colleagues at any time, with any “silly” questions, with no judgment at all.

  • Understand that onboarding may take longer than a few days.

This could be especially true of agents who never worked in a contact center before.

As the technology used by remote contact center agents evolves, all agents may find they need to learn new tech tools and strategies. Customers may become more or less “tense” as the coronavirus ebbs and flows.

You’ll undoubtedly notice that even your long-term remote call center agents will be “onboarding” regularly as the weeks and months move along.

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