Contact centers have been intrigued by the promise of home agents for years. Technical and economic hurdles have prevented many centers from giving the remote workforce option serious consideration. VoIP-based technology offerings help get centers over the technical hurdles. But you need to consider the enabling technology carefully to ensure that you get acceptable voice quality, robust data connectivity, and appropriate managerial control.
For voice connections:
- If you choose to use VoIP for the voice path, install Quality of Service (QoS) routers or buy high bandwidth data connections for home users. Either option mitigates the risk of poor voice quality.
- If you prefer the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for voice connections, a softphone application on your agent desktops can manage agent states for call routing.
For data connections:
- Set minimum acceptable data rates for home users and make sure you recruit in areas where that level of service is available. Slow data rates impact productivity.
- Where possible, operate in areas where there are multiple service providers to meet your needs. You’ll have options in the event that a given service provider falls short in performance and reliability.
- Think through how you’ll address data security on and in transit to/from agent desktops. Most organizations opt for a software solution that limits agent access to applications within the “locked” work environment. They also use a combination of a virtual private network (which bars public access) and Citrix. The latter provides a single login to all applications, efficient application and system upgrades, and broadband connection optimization.
Use performance management tools that are consistent with your premise-based agents. Most translate readily to that environment. A couple of things to note:
- Make sure you have voice and screen capture for quality assurance as you won’t easy access to side-by-side monitoring.
- Consider using some form of video service to establish connection between remote agents and their supervisors and peers. This service supports training, coaching, and collaboration, and makes remote agents feel like they’re part of the team.