by Otto van Haaren | April 6, 2020
Because 95% of our team works from home and we have been working this way for over 15 years I feel confident that I can help people to understand what it is really like to build a work from home strategy. There are so many ‘experts’ online at present, but who has real knowledge? You might want to ask if their observations are based on real experience or they just started reading McKinsey reports about the COVID-19 crisis and are now sharing those same ideas.
Productivity is a good example. I have seen dozens of experts repeating the fact that you can increase productivity with a work at home team. Usually, they all say that this is because work-from-home (WFH) don’t need to commute to an office and don’t have all the distractions they might have in the office – all those water-cooler conversations.
This may sound logical, but I will tell you the real reason why home-based team members are more productive – trust.
This requires a complete cultural change for many managers and companies. If you run your organization like a general issuing orders to subordinates then you are not going to succeed in this new world. And believe me, this is the new normal for business. If you believe that companies are going to return to command and control hierarchies after this crisis is over then good luck hiring anyone in 2021.
There are three important aspects of WFH productivity that the ‘experts’ are not telling you:
1. Trust: these are your team members. They are people. They help your business. Don’t treat them like numbers or money-making cogs in a big anonymous machine. Trust them to deliver and don’t manage them like you are running a factory and punishing those who fall behind.
2. Independence: you are hiring people for what they know. Give them some independence to handle customers in the best way that helps the customer. Let them decide what is best, don’t script every conversation or force the agents to do something that is not going to help improve a situation.
3. Subject matter expertise: most companies demand academic qualifications and it is important to have these just to prove a certain level of intelligence and ability to learn, but we hire people for their domain knowledge – knowledge of the things they love. You might have studied politics at university, but your main hobby outside of work is wine tasting, or brewing beer, or playing League of Legends. Almost everyone has domain knowledge that has nothing to do with their academic qualifications.
Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this publicly because these ideas are a part of the 5CA ‘secret sauce’, but then I don’t think traditional contact centers can change their culture overnight. They hire people, call them FTEs, and plug them into a spreadsheet.
When we build a customer service function for a beer company, we hire people who love brewing. When we build a solution for a gaming company we hire gamers. Then we give these people independence and we trust them to help every customer they interact with.
This is why our team is more productive and it’s why we don’t need to have conversations about attrition. Trust your team, give them the right tools and support, and let them achieve the best possible work/life balance and they will enjoy helping those gamers and beer enthusiasts – rather than just punching the clock and watching the minutes pass by until the end of a shift.
Trust. That’s the secret to productivity. Our team offers any language, any skill, anywhere – even beer.
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski licensed under Creative Commons.
Otto van Haaren is Founder and CEO of 5CA.
Following on from National Customer Service Week, our Chief Customer Officer Rob van Herpen reflects on the journey that customer service has undergone in the last decade, and the role it plays within the wider scope of the whole customer experience.
I started working for 5CA back in October 2019. Currently, I’m working as a Gaming Technology Support Agent in Spain. My job as an expert on the products of the company I'm supporting is to offer support to customers and get them up, running and happy in no time.
2020 is set to be a blockbuster year for gaming. In particular, mobile games that don’t need the player to invest in a console or any other equipment. One of the effects of the stay-at-home and quarantine orders during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been that people have needed to find things to keep them occupied.
The white paint lines on the road crept passed ever so slowly, like my life tricking away.
I tapped the steering wheel with my nails, trying to release the pent up stress and irritation while the radio mindlessly droned on. Then the tears came, right on time, same as usual.
When you look at how many people searched for ‘work from home’ in the past year, you see the chart soars in March 2020 just as many national governments were applying stay-at-home orders and quarantines to help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. This is no surprise. Every company that could possibly keep functioning with remote workers asked their people to go home.
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Have you noticed how many companies and senior executives are now experts in building a work from home strategy? According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10.000 hours of individual practice to become an expert at anything. Have those 320 business hours since the 1st of March really made everybody an expert?
Across the world, business journals have been endlessly reporting of the heroic efforts of companies with large numbers of office-based employees managing to switch to a work-from-home strategy. This has particularly impacted the contact centers because they have a large number of people in a small area and this is no longer acceptable because of the social distancing required to keep us all safe.
For almost two decades, 5CA has been perfecting our work from home customer service model. The latest version, where we only ever hire agents to work from home, has been around since 2015, so it is clear that for us this is very much business as usual.
A few days ago I participated in a webinar titled ‘pioneering contact center quality working remotely.’ The title makes it clear what the focus was, but I was pleased to be joined by our Lead QA Analyst, Sylvia Mattl, and Derek Corcoran, CEO of Scorebuddy.
A few days ago I participated in a webinar titled ‘pioneering contact center quality working remotely.’ The title makes it clear what the focus was, but I was pleased to be joined by our Chief Customer Officer Rob van Herpen, and Derek Corcoran, CEO of Scorebuddy.
My experience with starting to work remotely has certainly been one of the very best opportunities I’ve had so far. It changed my life, for the better. I’ll gladly tell you the short story of how I went from an in-office agent biking to the station every day, to exchanging my bike for snow boots when I reached my new home.
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