Home Office: the new normal for contact centers? An interview with Simply Contact
Call centers all over the world have moved their operators into home office during the pandemic. What was an immediate constraint then, now seems to be an opprortunity. Simply Contact is an outsourcing contact center in Ukraine with clients all over the world. The company employs 400 agents managing 15 million inbound and outbound calls a year.
Before the pandemic they were seated in several offices in different cities, now almost all of them are working from home. How did the company manage all these and how do they see the future of the industry, after the pandemic? Mariia Petrenko, Project Manager answered our questions.
– When have you moved your agents to Home Office? And how many of them?
We started moving our agents to remote work from 16 March – in the first round mostly those who were managing claims and emails. Call handling agents came a bit later, as it took some time to discuss security measures and other changes with the clients. By the end of March, 94% of our staff have been moved to home office and now they are working remotely in this moment too.
“Transition to Home Office can happen within a week”
– Was it a complicated move or did it go easy?
I would say the process was smooth and fast, I was surprised myslef how quickly we were able to close the project. It’s funny, because moving to HO was actually planned before the pandemic. However, management felt that people wouldn’t be ready for it yet. It also seemed to be challenging from a technical and security point of view and there were some worries how would our clients react. Finally reality showed that transition to home office can happen within a week.
– What kind of equipment did you provide for your operators?
The majority of our agents are using their own devices. Those who don’t have their own equipment at home were provided with a laptop or a PC from the office. Of course we installed a VPN for everyone to ensure a secure access to client data.
– How do your operators like working from home? And how does HO effect their productivity?
Overall, our agents appreciate the benefits of HO and part of them would prefer staying at home or mixing HO with office work even after the pandemic. Their productivity didn’t decrease, moreover they became more punctual and are never late from the shifts…
– How do you control their work remotely?
Control was a crucial point. Before the lockdown we set hourly reporting and status monitoring, but that didn’t seem managable with remote work. While formerly our supervisors could easily contact the agents personally, in HO they only can use Messenger and texting. Of course we are not merely talking about control, but also about staying in touch and maintaining seamless customer service remotely.
“Comnica Contact Center gives us a solid support to serve Wizz Air”
– Which contact center platforms are you using for managing calls through remote work?
We use several systems, but for serving Wizz Air one of our biggest clients, we have been using Comnica’s Contact Center platform for years. Which gave us a solid support these days too. It allows the supervisor to listen to our agents being in line with Wizz passengers and intervene if needed. Also Comnica CC collects all the call data we need for further analysis to develop customer experience. It’s very important for us that we can have all the data in one place and check reports in one single interface. Also we can export data from the platform into our other tools or BI systems. What I like the most about Comnica is its clear and intuitive interface that doesn’t require long studies. Call listening and evaluation is pretty convenient too.
– What are the benefits of remote work from an operational and business point of you on a long term? I assume reducing office rental costs could be one of them.
Cost reducing can certainly be a point. But there is also an important HR aspect of the remote work: Simply Contact is now more flexible with recruiting new candidates. For companies like ours, the most valuable resource is our operators. HO provides the opportunity to recruit agents from all over Ukraine and beyond. We even had new hires during the lockdown and our recruiters managed to prepare candidates for the training twice as fast as usual.
“Work can actually be done from anywhere”
– So do you think Home Office will remain with us on a long term in the call and contact center industry?
Experts say office work will never be the same after the pandemic. The past months showed all the business owners and clients that work can actually be done from anywhere. Our management believes that this experience can open incredible opportunities we can benefit from.
– How, do you think, new technologies such as AI and automation will affect the future of your industry?
Apparently the number of call center operators is decreasing with the spread of AI related sotutions, IVR, voicemail, voice recognition, chatbots and dialogue flows. However, that doesn’t mean that robots will substitute human beings. There will always be human operators, but with a higher level and more diverse scope. Clients will expect more excellence in customer service and advanced sales techniques, thus call centers will be getting more interested to retain high quality staff and put efforts into the skills development.