Give Agents a Remote High-5: How to Engage Your Remote Workforce

Aug 26, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Keeping agents engaged can be a challenge in the best of circumstances, but with work-from-home it’s harder than ever. Distractions abound. How can you keep everyone involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work and your workplace? This was the topic of our CCW at Home roundtable discussion, “Give Your Agents a Remote High-5”.

Samsung, Verizon, Etech, Arise, Canadian Red Cross, Alorica, and dozens more shared their success stories in our roundtable discussion. I’m summarizing their collective wisdom here.

Get to Know Each Other 

“Are you a hippie or a hipster?” A call center Training and Knowledge Specialist suggests themed team meetings such as this as a way to create camaraderie. It’s a fun way to start a meeting, and it helps everyone get to know each other. 

Sidney Chatfield, Manager of Customer Service Operations at WB Games, tries to replicate a shared office space vibe by having an open “Zoom room” where colleagues come together to talk and chat. While WB Games has other channels dedicated solely to work, this particular one is simply a safe place for agents to be silly and friendly, a space to talk “where their boss isn’t looking.” 

Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Experience at NumberBarn, agrees. He says, “Chatter isn’t detracting from the workday - it’s crucial to allow this to happen in order to foster camaraderie among agents.” 

Facilitate and Encourage Collaboration

“Working remotely can quickly become very isolating,” says Watkin. “As leaders, it's important for us to allow ‘watercooler talk’ to happen.” Watkin emphasizes the need for leaders to be immediately responsive on chat channels “so agents know they are constantly being heard and understood.”

As VP of Business Development at Arise Virtual Solutions, Ted Kassiotis says centralized systems are key. “We put everything the agents want to see and need to see all in one place: performance results, competitive gamification, need-to-know information, themed days, etc.” More content gives their employees more reasons to visit that page.

Roy Thompson, who leads Contact Center Training and Quality for Samsung America, finds that virtual classrooms best enable the onboarding of new agents with centralized screen-sharing, chat windows, video chat, polls, Q&A, and file-sharing. Veteran agents can easily share notes and how-to guides with new hires.

Recognize Individual Contributions

Bring out the Cookie Monster! Michele Wilson of Chrome Federal Union sends cookies once a week to the winner of their “Wow moments” contest. Peer nominations give every team member the chance to give kudos for handling customer interactions well, and Michele kicks off every team meeting by recognizing all “Wow moments”. At the end of every week, whomever receives the most nominations gets the cookies. Simple, yet meaningful and effective.

At NumberBarn, Watkin motivates work-from-home agents by sending them lunch via DoorDash.

Chatfield of WB Games makes use of group chat rooms to give ‘virtual high-fives’ and thank agents for doing a great job.

Celebrate Team Success

Chatfield warns, “When recognition is competition-based, middle- and lower-level agents can become disengaged when going up against high-achievers.” That’s quite the opposite of what we want to achieve! Chatfield went on to say, “What I’ve found to be more successful are tier-based team rewards. You want everyone to work towards a common goal.”

Kristen Doyle, Senior Manager of Customer Experience at Canadian Red Cross, agrees. She says, “Part of our ongoing recognition and incentive program is having team threshold goals.” Once the team as a whole achieves their defined metrics, everyone receives something. High performers get their own separate recognition.

Thompson of Samsung has leveraged non-monetary points based peer based recognition, for “in the moment” awards and badges based on supervisor, QA, and other agent observations.  Each award or badge included a point value which could be accumulated and converted into incentive merchandise and incentive prizes. Showcasing the power of recognition, some agents chose to paper their walls with these badges rather than trade them in!

Chayan Basak, Senior Manager of Customer Success at Altair, started a points system, letting agents earn lottery tickets which can then be drawn for giveaways like Amazon gift cards. Basak feels it encourages everyone to do a great job, every day. He says gamification can help, too. 

Keep Your Culture

Geography creates additional culture challenges. At Arise, Kassiotis tells us their agents number in the tens of thousands, and span the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. While Arise agents have been working from home for 25 years, their challenge stems from trying to go deep into the culture of each geographic location. Kassiotis feels three components are key:

  • A robust training curriculum
  • Continuing education
  • Constant communication 

 

Chatfield agrees culture is harder to build and maintain remotely, and talked about the challenges presented by locations abroad. He says relationships are key in order to sustain company culture. Video chat, for examples, helps teams better engage ‘as people’.

Other attendees chimed in with similar experiences -- and agreed that each location's leadership team must be involved to build a culture that spans the company. Doyle of Canadian Red Cross echoes that view, stating, “Culture starts from the top down. Managers have to give back to their teams and lead by example.”

Make it Fun

Find a twin! Umm… what? Well, Etech Global Services may have not had any twins on their team beforehand, but on ‘Twin Day’ day there were twins galore. Participants paired up with a “work twin” and on the designated day tried to look like each other. How fun! 

Twin Day 2 Twin Day 3 Twin Day

LaMarcus Wallace of Etech Global Services shared other gems. They’ve had ‘Dress Up as Your Favorite Superhero Character’ and ‘Take a Picture with Your Pet’ contests on their social media channels. 

How about a sock monkey contest? At Canadian Red Cross, one campaign included sending socks -- some of which were returned due to undeliverable mail addresses. Doyle’s team repurposed the returns by making sock monkeys. Agents posted their creations on a private Instagram account, and everyone voted for their favorite creation.

With this amount of fun, it doesn’t matter who “wins” the contest. Everyone gets a laugh, and it strengthens team relationships at the same time.

Key Takeaways
  • Do what you can to foster personal connections. 
  • Encourage creativity with fun contests. 
  • Make sure awards are focused not just on individual performance, but teamwork as well.
  • Use collaboration tools to facilitate learning and sharing.

 

I’m happy to brainstorm with you on how to keep your remote agents happy and productive. Let us know how Edify can help!

Kay Phelps

Written by Kay Phelps

Kay Phelps is Director of Product Marketing at Edify. As a 20+ year veteran in Contact Centers, Kay’s experience spans product development, systems engineering, product management, and product marketing. As a frequent blogger, author, and presenter, Kay uses her expertise in all facets of product development and marketing to help companies deliver excellence in customer experiences. When not in the office, you can find Kay hiking or skiing a mountain, dancing, reading, or traveling.