3 Best Practices for Managing Remote Call Center Agents

Remote work was once a novel idea in many industries or an occasional work perk. Now, with the dramatic, global shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has now solidified itself as part of modern enterprises and is here to stay. 

One industry, where the shift to remote work has been especially prominent is the enterprise call center. While remote work for some call center employees is nothing new, it’s an immense change to have an entire workforce operating remotely. Supervisors, in particular, now face the challenge of being less connected and hands on with their teams and are unable to walk the floor of the call center to provide real-time coaching.  

Fortunately, innovative technology solutions are helping to bridge the virtual gap for remote managers and their teams. In this post, we explore the state of the call center and the challenges supervisors must overcome to adapt.  We also outline the best practices for supervisors and call center leaders who are managing remote call center agents.

Effective Coaching in the Call Center: Traditional and Modern Challenges

The support and guidance of call center supervisors is essential to driving great customer experiences. Traditionally, supervisors have been tasked with three key role expectations: providing agents with job-related knowledge, coaching and motivating agents to provide excellent customer service, and focusing on team-building activities to foster a positive culture. Fulfilling these expectations is no small feat, and is typically accomplished via KPI tracking, team meetings, isolated call listening, and “walking the floor” to detect any issues in real-time. 

However, since the shift towards a fully remote work environment and less access to team members, supervisors continue to  struggle to provide both the emotional and professional support that their agents need. This includes being unable to offer constructive feedback and praise, having less time to prepare for coaching sessions, and relying on data that may not tell the whole story. 

Cogito’s Behavioral Science team recently took a deep dive into the changes in call behavior related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The team analyzed over four million calls across seven of our largest clients before and after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic. The results showed that global stress from consumers and call center agents has had a significant impact on customer service calls. Customer experience has decreased globally by 4%, as measured by Cogito’s real-time CX score, indicating that customers are less satisfied and are displaying heightened states of emotion.  In return, agents need to provide more empathy to customers and are struggling to maintain the energy needed to have successful calls.

How Can Call Center Supervisors Thrive in the New Normal?

Much of the call center population is facing the same problem: higher call volumes, less agents to field those calls and heightened emotional states. Specifically, call volumes in key industries such as finance, healthcare, retail, and insurance have increased as anxious consumers call with increasingly complex problems. With fewer agents available to staff those calls, we must ask:  how can supervisors be successful in the “new normal”?

Almost all traditional management and motivation techniques in the call center have relied on the ability to physically observe and direct agents. Supervisors typically sat in close proximity to their teams, overheard difficult conversations, physically walked the floor, and could identify opportunities to connect with their agents. In the absence of morning stand-ups and team meetings, supervisors have been forced to overhaul the way they interact with their CSR’s and agents.  At Cogito, we see the need to leverage technology to augment the capabilities of supervisors as a must moving forward.

3 Best Practices for Supervisors Managing Remote Agents

At its core, Cogito is designed to augment and empower call center professionals to make better, more empathetic human connections. The AI platform analyzes verbal and non-verbal behavioral cues to deliver meaningful guidance to both agents and supervisors in real-time. There are three key ways in which leveraging Cogito’s AI platform can increase the effectiveness of your remote call center: virtually walking the floor, giving positive reinforcement, and streamlining coaching sessions.

Virtually Walking the Floor

Supervisors are less connected to their teams now that they are in their home office and away from the conversational hum of the contact center. This transition to remote work has presented physical and technological challenges, as many on-prem software platforms were not prepared for a home environment. With Cogito, supervisors can virtually walk the floor with a live view of their team, seeing which agents are on a call, a summary of their behavioral guidance notifications, and a customer experience (CX) score. Supervisors can click into calls in-real time to listen and see which behavioral notifications pop up. If a customer has a low CX score or an agent seems to be struggling, supervisors can reach out to provide assistance.

Supervisors also receive notifications that identify important opportunities to connect with their team members. If there’s a situation where an agent has a tough call with a low CX score, a notification allows the supervisor to view that call and determine whether or not they’d like to take action. Instead of having to go back and dig through data for those opportunities, supervisors can address the calls immediately or save it for their next coaching session.

Automating Positive Reinforcement

Giving positive feedback and acknowledging moments of employee success is a critical component to effective coaching. Cogito highlights top calls by sending notifications to supervisors, resulting in increased team recognition and higher employee morale. 

Cogito also supports within-call, live notifications that recognize positive moments in conversations. A “Positive Interaction” notification appears when an agent and a customer are effectively connecting. This live guidance reinforces positive call behaviors such as reducing interruptions, checking in with the customer, speaking with good energy, and being empathetic to customer needs. Even from a distance, supervisors can still count on Cogito to help guide agents and give them the occasional “virtual high five” for jobs well done.

Streamlining Coaching Sessions 

Finally, Cogito helps streamline coaching for supervisors by bringing attention to coachable calls and providing tools that make it easy to log and share notes for the session. When a supervisor goes back to prepare for a coaching session, Cogito makes it easy to identify calls that will serve as good examples for feedback, including the ones already flagged when virtually walking the floor. 

For example, a supervisor may start by looking at calls with lower CX scores. They could also filter to high-intensity notifications, play calls back, and see where an agent may have struggled. Cogito provides space to jot down notes and star calls so it’s easier to bring up concrete examples for effective coaching sessions.

With Cogito, Supervisors and Agents Are Providing More Consistent Customer Experiences

Additional data from Cogito’s behavioral science analysis shows how Cogito’s AI coaching system is helping supervisors and agents deliver better customer experiences. While overall global customer experience is trending downward, agents and supervisors who are empowered with Cogito have shown more resilience to the negative effects of the pandemic. 

There are also financial and business wins from using AI tools like Cogito. In one case, we worked with a Fortune 100 client to track for improvements in the quality of calls and the reach of Cogito across other metrics over a four-month period. The client was especially interested in the customer experience, and found that just a 1% increase in CX Score resulted in positive movement of both a third-party sentiment score and their traditional customer surveys. In addition, agents using Cogito experienced more company-rated “Excellent” and “Above Average” calls and decreased the number of “Average”, “Below Average”, and “Poor” calls. These positive trends can be attributed to the value of Cogito’s AI technology which provides unprecedented insight into agents and supervisors – whether they’re in the office or not.

Taking Remote Supervising to the Next Level

As we’re all aware, there have been many challenges associated with shifting to remote work.  Human aware AI presents organizations with the opportunity to address these new challenges head on and not only succeed, but actually thrive in the new remote environment.  With tools like Cogito, call center supervisors have been able to coach more effectively, regardless of their work environments. Organizations who have empowered their teams with Cogito have experienced significant increases in performance metrics and increased resilience in the face of global change. These enterprises are adjusting to the new normal and are committed to delivering high-quality customer experiences no matter where their employees happen to sit. 

If you would like to see how remote call center supervisors are coaching effectively by virtually walking the floor,
request a demo today
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Not ready for a demo?  A good place to start would be to see how your customer service stacks up against your peers.  Get a complimentary customer service empathy assessment to see how you are doing.

Joel Makhluf
Joel Makhluf

Joel brings over 15 years of results driven marketing programs and demand generation experience to Cogito. Joel develops innovative account-based marketing strategies to increase awareness and engagement with key accounts. Prior to joining Cogito, Joel led corporate marketing for Enservio, a SaaS software provider to the property insurance industry which was acquired by Solera in 2016. Joel holds a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts, Isenberg School of Management.