Mobile workforce management is, for many businesses, a sudden and unexpected challenge. What tactics will help you build an effective team of mobile employees in your call center?
If recent times have taught us anything, the future of work is more fragmented than ever before.
Remote working has become the norm for so many, and so it’s unsurprising that businesses are planning for either a hybrid or fully remote working model. Sooner or later, they will have to devise a strategy for managing a mobile workforce and a policy for mobile employees.
This trend has, of course, been dramatically accelerated by the urgent necessity of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitated by the vast technological leaps made possible by internet technology and our ever more interconnected world.
According to Mobile Workers Will Be 60% of the Total U.S. Workforce by 2024.
The U.S. mobile worker population will grow steadily over the next four years, increasing from 78.5 million in 2020 to 93.5 million mobile workers in 2024.
Whether you love it or hate it, enterprises are gearing up to harness the growing interest of having and managing a team of distributed mobile employees.
So how can you channel these trends and build an effective mobile workforce for your business or, specifically, for your call center?
Clearly, there are innumerable challenges created by distanced working, such as ensuring a uniformly high quality of service, maintaining your staff’s shift patterns to remain consistently available to your customers. Also, millennials are most likely to work with an employer that encourages remote working than employers with rigid onsite working models. Setting up a work culture that appeals to them is also no mean task.
But there are also great rewards to be gained from a geographically spread group of employees — from cost and efficiency savings to building a happier, healthier, and more productive environment. That, in turn, increases staff loyalty, cutting down on turnover and the training time required, helping to improve the profitability of your operation, and ensuring customers receive a consistently excellent service.
We’re going to look at:
- What a mobile workforce is
- The benefits of mobile workforce management for your business
- How to build and manage a team of remote workers?
- Challenges that call centers face in operating a mobile workforce model
- Tactics for overcoming and even harnessing those challenges
Let’s get started.
What is a mobile workforce?
Strategy Analytics predicted the global mobile workforce to hit an incredible 1.87 billion by 2022. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the remote working revolution.
But as with any catch-all terminology, it can take several different forms, as other companies build bespoke setups depending on their specific needs.
Put simply, a mobile workforce is a group of remote workers, a.k.a, mobile employees who aren’t in the same physical space but are connected in many ways: by telephone, computer systems, and collaboration tools. Done right, your mobile employees should be as productive out of the office as they are in it. But to achieve that, they need access to connectivity and collaboration tools and expertise, and guidance from colleagues and managers.
Depending on your industry, remote working may even mean your staffs spend their working days on the move. As part of their role, they might need to complete site visits to offer field service, meet with potential customers, or even travel between different business locations to expand the market presence.
Alternatively, remote working might simply mean injecting flexibility into your business structure, allowing you to hire staff based all over the world, wherever they have uninterrupted internet connectivity.
Thanks to mobile devices growing in capabilities and reliable real-time connectivity, it is now easier than ever to recruit, onboard, and even manage a mobile workforce.
What benefits can mobile workforce management give to your call center?
When picturing what remote working looks like for your business, it’s easy to only focus on the negatives. To concentrate solely on the ways, you think it might make your existing setup harder or more complicated to operate.
But while there’s no doubt the model can create challenges, especially in terms of employee experience, there are plenty of tactics and tools for overcoming those and creating a better organizational structure than you had previously.
Before we get to those, let’s talk about what there is to gain:
Recruit and attract the best talent
According to the International Workplace Group findings, 71 percent of businesses believe that offering flexible work situations significantly widens their talent pool. Even more importantly, IWG also found that an incredible 83% of workers worldwide would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.
So not only are there clear benefits to be gained from adopting a mobile workforce model, but your recruitment might suffer if you don’t introduce flexible working. There is no time to waste.
Reduce your overheads
No surprises here, but employing remote employees cut down on the office space you need, slashing your overheads to a fraction of a monolith office working model. The deskless working model also means you have to invest in hardware, office furniture, and timely maintenance.
Improve response times
For field workers who are always on the move, access to mobile technologies can make a world of difference to their productivity. It means they can pick up messages and respond to customers in real-time than having to wait until they’re back in the office to access everything they need. This will lead to an immediate uplift in customer experience.
Deliver a healthier work-life balance for employees
Without a daily commute or the need to live near a fixed location, remote employees can build their lives around more than just work. For your business, that means happier, more productive employees and fewer sick days. It is a surefire strategy to augment employee experience.
Build a more diverse team
Not only does remote working vastly increase your available talent pool, but you can also build a remote workforce that crosses geographical borders and socioeconomic and cultural boundaries. And with a more diverse team, you’ll get a richer injection of ideas and be able to provide an even sharper customer service experience. This is especially crucial when the call for diversity is rising across all walks of life.
How do you build an effective mobile workforce?
One of the pointers to bear in mind before building a mobile workforce is optimizing the system for their productivity — whether they are field employees or remote workers working from home.
Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll find you can even start optimizing new workflows that are far more productive than before. If done right, it might even help your call center find efficiencies that simply weren’t possible in an inflexible model.
There are a few key things you’ll need:
This is the most crucial element of an effective remote workforce. Colleagues need to be able to communicate with each other and with customers quickly and efficiently. They need access to an appropriate communication form depending on who they’re talking to and for what reason, without having to jump between systems every few minutes. Consider, for example, whether email, phone, instant messaging, or video conferencing is the most appropriate tool for each contact group.
Access to systems and shared information
Remote working employees need to access all their essential business tools and databases over a simple internet connection. Think about whether this should be integrated into your communication system for ease or kept separate.
The ability to collaborate
You need easy lines of communication that allow mobile employees to ask for help when they need it, work together on projects or documents, and for senior management to provide clear guidance and leadership to the team as a whole.
Challenges and tactics for mobile workforce management in a call center
Running a call center with a mobile workforce poses several challenges. But these are far from impossible.
Let’s look through some of the biggest ones, as well as specific tactics you can use to address them in your organization.
Challenge #1: Training your recruits.
Solution: Crafting a remote training program
Providing an effective service and ensuring customers come to your business time and again relies heavily on the quality of customer service you provide. As the marketplace gets more and more crowded, these contact points have an increasingly significant influence on customer retention and loyalty rates.
And so, every agent you employ must be ramped up to speed with the way you operate your business.
Training these mobile workers remotely can be a challenge, so you need to make sure you have the appropriate processes and tools in place to ensure consistency and a fully engaged workforce.
Setting clear goals and expectations, arranging a series of test calls, and ensuring managers are on hand to help will all play a part. As well as building connections between colleagues, new hires have someone to turn to with any questions they might have.
Finally, it’s essential that training is planned and executed as an ongoing process. Keep affirming the importance of a polite, efficient, and effective service. Remind agents to use active listening to address callers’ needs quickly. And you’ll have employees consistently working to impress and deliver the results you want.
Challenge #2: Ensuring a uniform quality of service.
Solution: Empowering call center agents with the right tools
Giving your customer service agents access to suitable devices and technology is key to helping them provide your customers with the same high-quality service they expect.
Analytics and reporting can play a big part in this. An effective tracking system allows tracking and measuring workforce efficiency along with their quality of work. With the appropriate tool, you can quickly distill data into valuable opportunities for improvement, and predict customer behaviors, call rates, and agent availability.
Together, this can help you provide a higher-quality service wherever your team is based.
Challenge #3: Scheduling shifts across time zones
Solution: Proactively planning for time-zone based shifts
A global workforce means your business can provide 24/7 customer service or continuous workflows. That means you can help more customers, and you’ll also be more resilient to any downtime or surges in demand, with dispersed employees able to share the load.
With staff working at different times, you’ll need to ensure you have a clear and well-used collaboration system that allows colleagues to communicate and leave easy-to-follow notes against customer records. Integrating your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with your communication tools is an effective way of ensuring agents always have everything they need to address callers’ concerns at the first point of contact.
Challenge #4: Access to information across a range of devices
Solution: Unifying all communication systems
Cloud-based communications are the solution here. Whether you simply opt for a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-enabled phone system or onboard a full Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) system that brings all of your communications into one place. There are plenty of tools out there to ensure employees have access to everything they need, whatever internet-enabled device they are connecting from.
Plus, you can even take advantage of advanced features such as voicemail, email transcription, advanced call routing, and agent availability management.
What tools do you need for maintaining and managing a mobile workforce?
Remote working simply isn’t possible for a call center without the appropriate tools for your employees to connect and collaborate.
Here are the primary tools you’ll need:
A VoIP-based phone system
An internet-based telephony system offers mobile workers universal connectivity. They can make calls from any device to any Country or State without needing to dial into your central switchboard. Shared contact lists and easy extensions make scaling easy, and subscription-based pricing models cut the cost for you.
Call center software
Modern call center software streamlines your customer service provision, giving agents access to all the information they need in one place. Plus, features such as smart escalations, call barging, and automated routing make managing and monitoring your call center a breeze. Also, most cloud-based call center software is available as mobile apps that make lives easier for mobile employees.
Computer integrations and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
The more inter-connected your platforms are, the less time employees need to spend learning new systems and jumping between them. Connecting your CRM database to your communication tools is a surefire way of speeding up your operations and enabling your workforce to be truly remote. It can provide your sales team or customer support team with historical information on a real-time basis before or during the phone calls with customers.
There are many more ways cloud communications can help you simplify the customer support service your call center provides, many of which make remote working much easier and smoother. Find out more by reading our blog post.
So, is a mobile workforce the way to go?
It certainly would seem that way, and with internet-enabled tools becoming ever more advanced, the distance between remote workers has never been shorter.
Moving your call center to this model certainly creates challenges you’ll need to address, but by employing the right tactics — and technology — you can provide a high-quality service that is even more flexible and adaptive to your customers’ needs.
Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman
Freshcaller is a modern-day cloud phone system for setting up a phone system or fully-fledged call center for customer support and sales or even remote work. It comes with remote work facilitating features like call conferencing, call transferring, mobile app, business hours routing, holiday routing, and advanced reporting. Freshcaller offers your helpdesk integrations and CRM integrations to boost the productivity of your mobile workforce. As a remote phone system, Freshcaller provides phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.
Visit the Freshcaller website for more information or to sign up for a trial.
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