The impact of the physical environment on your advisors: Your questions answered

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Published byTom Darnell

Get answers to the questions we didn’t have time to address on our webinar with the CCMA

We recently co-hosted a webinar with the CCMA where we delved into the impact that the physical environment can have on your call centre agents both in the office or remote.

Our panel of experts featured Research Director at the CCMA, Stephen Yap; journalist, broadcaster, and best-selling author of WFH: How to Build a Career You Love When You’re Not in the Office, Harriet Minter; Chief People Officer at Ventrica, Jo Regan-Iles; and COO here at IRIS, Tom Darnell.

After discussing the ways organisations can help their agents by creating optimal physical environments, the panel answered some of the questions sent in from our viewers. Unfortunately, there were so many great questions that we didn’t have time to get to them all! To remedy this, we’ve summarised and answered them all below. And of course, you can view the webinar here if you haven’t already (or if you need to refresh your memory). 

So without further delay…

When we talk about hybrid working and the future of contact centres, should we expect the agent to create the zen space in their home environment? Or should the organisation be responsible for ensuring the correct set-up expectations before recruiting?

Figuring out whose responsibility it is to create an optimal physical working environment for remote agents — and to what level — was a common theme in the questions we received. We touched on it briefly in the webinar, but this warrants a more in-depth response here. 

The answer really depends on multiple factors. A big one is whether we’re talking about new hires or existing agents. 

For new hires who are applying to work in either a hybrid or completely remote setting (or existing agents who change their contracts), expectations can be set from the start of the recruitment process. If the agent is looking to work from an environment the organisation doesn’t have control of, then it can be made clear that the agent needs a minimum standard of conditions to keep themselves and their customers happy.

For existing agents that have been forced to work remotely or hybridly, this can get a bit trickier. These agents didn’t sign up to WFH so may not be willing or able to create that ideal environment. In this case, it is more appropriate for the organisation to support that employee with remote working tools  — especially if they have no realistic option to return full-time in the call centre.

In general, it’s worth weighing the difference between the cost of a proper remote working setup versus the cost of potentially losing your best employees and having to train new ones. This is even more pertinent right now, with the significant amounts of employee churn we’re seeing not just in our industry, but the whole working population. 

Furthermore, if you’re providing the best tools for your agents to succeed, you’re more likely to stand out from competitors when hiring, whilst keeping your current agents happier and more productive. The alternative might translate into resentful agents who’ll either complain about having to pay for their own remote setup or simply stick with what they have, leading to worse customer service and dissatisfied agents.

It’s a balance, but ultimately, it’s worth diving into a cost-benefit analysis to find the best approach for your call centre. 

What extra training or support should be given to team managers dealing with hybrid working teams, given they now need to be a mix of performance coach, agony aunt, process expert, etc.

No one in the contact centre has felt the impact of the past few years’ events more than the team manager. Soft skills and empathy are needed more than ever. Looking after colleagues’ wellbeing is much harder to do over a screen than in person.

If it isn’t already understood, contact centres must realise that helping to take care of colleagues is the most important thing that people managers do. It takes priority above all else. Training should reflect this, taking into the consideration the extensive availability of soft-skills courses dedicated to the contact centre sector. Equally as important, managers must be equipped with the time and the energy to devote to their teams. That means freeing them from their other tasks as much as possible. And if needed, creating more manager roles to ensure that they are not stretched too thin.

Background noise is as big an issue in the office as it is at home. What solutions have you tried?

There are two approaches to this problem: physical solutions and technological solutions. 

On the physical side, we can provide active noise cancelling (ANC) headsets, quieter keyboards, desk dividers, or flooring and walls that cause less reverberation and echo, but these can all get quite expensive — and they’re not always efficient. 

On the technology side, voice isolation apps such as IRIS Clarity bridge that invaluable gap between reduced background noise and eliminated background noise. Using the power of artificial intelligence, voice isolation apps remove background noise on both sides of a VoIP or conference call. The best part is the software works beautifully with noise cancelling headsets. While ANC headphones help eliminate background noise around you for you, IRIS Clarity eliminates background noise around you for your customer, and around your customer for you — ultimately creating a perfect productivity bubble.

Background noise is also distracting for the customer. How do you fix that?

Well, voice isolation apps can solve this, too. With its bi-directional functionality, IRIS Clarity recognises and cancels out noise on both sides of a call. In doing so, it ensures the focus remains on what matters: understanding the customer’s query and solving it without the burden of repetition and misunderstanding. The result: shorter call handling times, increased customer satisfaction, and improved agent wellbeing — no matter what environment your calls are taking place in. 

Feel free to talk to one of IRIS’ voice isolation experts to see how IRIS Clarity might benefit your call centre.

That’s it for the webinar FAQs! If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. And feel free to watch and rewatch our webinar whenever you please!