Back in 2010, the remote contact centre was being touted as the next big thing, a sure fire ticket to revolutionising the industry and future-proofing it for decades to come. Fast forward to today, and it’s the rare contact centre that offers the option of a work-from-home arrangement – let alone running an entire remote workforce.
So given the undeniable broader trend for creating more flexible working conditions, and the supporting research that suggests it’s good for both employee satisfaction and the bottom line, why doesn’t Australia have more remote contact centre operations?
It’s certainly not an issue of technology; the software – and hardware – required to efficiently delegate, monitor and measure contact centre work has been around for years and continues to improve, while remaining relatively affordable (although it’s worth noting that Australia’s comparatively slow internet speeds and lack of connectivity do present difficulties that other developed nations have long since left behind).
Nor is it likely an issue of affordability, since most studies have shown that allowing employees to work from home significantly reduces overhead costs and profitability lost to sick days, employee turnover and absenteeism. Furthermore, and contrary to historical misconceptions, employees who work from home are generally more productive and higher performing across almost all KPIs than their in-office counterparts.
With so much evidence in support of the move to remote operations and so many companies growing increasingly dissatisfied with offshore agencies but still keen to improve their bottom line, it might seem surprising that more contact centre operators haven’t adopted a remote working model…until you look a little closer.
Building and maintaining a happy, high-performance contact centre team requires a number of elements – many of which I touched on in my last post. One of the most essential is creating a great team dynamic and an effective leadership framework from which to motivate, assess and guide your team on a daily basis. Take away the interactive face-to-face work environment, and it suddenly becomes extremely difficult to maintain and motivate strong performance. The work can be challenging and repetitive, and far more than in other industries, most contact centre agents require frequent coaching, quality assessment, encouragement and support to perform well in their jobs – particularly within outbound, sales-driven agencies.
In addition, the contact centre industry draws heavily from the young (18-25) and travelling worker pool, two groups whose work and social lives are often interdependent, making the concept of working from home less appealing than it would be to, say, a young mother or part-time retiree.
So what’s the upshot? While I recognise the very real benefits of running a remote team, for most Aussie operators running a successful remote contact centre team would require the kind of top-to-bottom operational overhaul that most simply aren’t yet prepared to embrace.