Business Continuity Series: Home Agents


Contact centers are more important today than ever before as agents become the first line of communication for many organizations that have temporarily shut down locations or offices. But agents, too, are being forced to work remotely. WWT’s Ed Villareal discusses the challenges organizations face when enabling employees remotely and how companies can leverage what they already have to spin up a contact center in short order.

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Read the transcript below:

- Hi there, my name is Brian Feldt with World Wide Technology and I'm joined today by Ed Villarreal who leads our content center practice. Ed, thanks for taking some time today to join me.


- Thank you for having me.


- Yeah, so today we'll be talking about how organizations can balance the needs of customers with the health and safety of their, their own home agents. As many of them are being forced to work remotely instead of out of a call center. Ed, I've heard you say recently that contact centers are more important now than they ever have been before. Wondering if you can expand on that a little bit.


- Yeah absolutely. So what we're seeing is, from organizations, is that the contact center is very critical to their operation. Not only before the crisis, but now. Because it really is that personal contact. It's that personal touch with an organization where maybe it was before it was in a retail location or healthcare, for example. Going to visit a physician or something, and now it's all virtual. Maybe through a video chat or call. And then also we see on the retail side of being able to go into a store. We're just not able to do that anymore. So this is really that customer facing element of the business.


- I would imagine a lot of organizations are, that have call centers or contact centers, that are probably scrambling to figure out how to make it all work. What are some of the challenges that you've been hearing from some customers in terms of what it takes to spin up these contact centers when the employees just aren't in an office?


- Sure. I think that certainly, I think the most logical thing, challenge is going to be technical, you know? And certainly we deal with that, and how do you take a large contact center where there's hundreds of agents and distribute them either through smaller regional sites or to home? Do they have the proper amount of bandwidth? Do they have the proper access to the systems? Do they have the equipment? Do they have a laptop? Do they have a headset? All of those things are critical to the day to day operations of a contact center agent, but within that there's even other challenges that may not be immediately, immediately apparent. And that is things such as the business side of this. So what is the business process? How does this process change based upon this migration of the agent into these remote or home locations? How do you escalate to a supervisor, for example? How do you get support if you've got a question? All of those are questions that come up as part of this process. And you also have ongoing things such as training and quality management that must be managed in order to ensure the proper level of customer experience. And so that's all a big part of this that may not be captured as one of the apparent challenges.


- Yeah as you mentioned a lot of employees in these contact centers, they're sharing desktops or work stations. They may be sharing headsets and other equipment. So a shift to remote working is probably not a very easy migration for them, but what can organizations do to leverage existing equipment or assets to get some of these call center functions, which are critical to the business continuity of what's going on, what can they do to spin these up a little bit quicker than maybe starting from scratch?


- Sure. We've had a briefing in which we've outlined several options in which we can take existing technology from the contact center and leverage that to support remote agents, and we've outlined very specific options within there. All the way from creating the remote agents using standard BPN technology, all the way to deploying a cloud based contact center and a quick deployment option. So all of those are pieces that we can leverage as part of a solution to enable those agents in a remote manner.


- As people become more accustom to working from home or not in their office, and as organizations are figuring out ways to enable those employees, I guess I'll ask you to predict the future here a little bit, what is the future of contact centers? Are we gonna see a shift in how organizations approach these?


- I think we have to. I think that this situation that we're in right now has really opened the eyes of a lot of different organizations related to how they provide contact center operations. Much of it, and there has been a transition. From these big, large, centralized contact centers to either smaller remote or even home agents. But that migration hasn't completed. And so there's still a lot of large contact centers, but I think that this, this pandemic has really caused a lot of organizations to rethink what their future operations are gonna look like and in talking to several large organizations, the remote work force, at home agents, is going to be a significant portion of their ongoing operational aspect of their contact centers.


- What other resources might we have available for customers or organizations looking to just get a better grasp on what they can do with their home agents or maybe what they can do to not only tackle short term issues, but create more of a long term sustainability plan?


- Well we put together within the WWT.com website, we have a business continuity within there that has a lot of detail around the planning for that, and so within the short term here, and I'll go, actually let me show you here on the WWT.com site, platform. If you look in the top right here there's a business continuity resource button, and I'm clicking on that which takes us to Enabling Critical Operations for Business Continuity. Now this encompasses all the different technologies that would be required in order to support business continuity. So as you go through here you'll see those components that make it up. So Remote Working, Home Agents, Telehealth, Improvised Treatment Locations, and Remote Learning. So we're focused, the focus today is on home agents. So I'm going to click on that, and what we'll see in there as we dig into here is we have additional information on the briefings and other related information to enable home agents as part of the overall solution. So that's where I would start if I was looking for information on, "Hey, how do I take advantage of what "WWT has to offer related to "enabling these home agents?"


- Ed, I appreciate the time as always, for you to take some time and talk to us about what we can do to enable home agents as they're stuck working from home and we look forward to the next time we speak to you.


- All right thank you very much.