Q&A: Pitney Bowes on How At-Home Agents are Improve Customer Engagement

Shawn Siegel

At the Virtual Call Center Summit, Jesse Hoobler, Director of Support at Pitney Bowes, will discuss the keys to adopting and adapting to virtual environments. In this interview with CMIQ's Shawn Siegel, he shares his thoughts on the challenges management faces when dealing with home-based agents, and the type of training management needs to overcome these challenges.


Shawn Siegel, CMIQ: Why can adopting home agents lead to higher end-user satisfaction?
Jesse Hoobler, Pitney Bowes: There are two main factors that lead to improved customer experiences through utilization of the home agent model. First, agents that work from home tend to be more engaged employees than their counterparts in the office. This is due to time and money savings associated with not having to travel into the office, comfortable working conditions, and flexible work schedules. Many studies have proven that as employee engagement rises, so does customer satisfaction. If you want happy customers, start with happy employees. The second main factor is a flexible workforce. Allowing agents to work from home gives management the ability to ramp up and ramp down staffing levels throughout the day much easier than in a normal office environment. With a dynamically flexing workforce throughout the day, your customers won’t feel the pain during peak volume hours.

Is there a way to quantify the ways home agents provide better service?
Your customers will tell you – good, bad, or ugly. If you are utilizing a voice-of-customer survey methodology, you’ll see the results of your work-from-home transition. I would also recommend surveying your employees. Did they like the transition? Do they enjoy working from home? One of the golden eggs in the call center world is low turnover. If your best employees are happy with the transition, they’ll stick around longer. The longer they stick around, the greater the impact they’ll have on your customer base and you’ll see these results in your survey program.

What are the new challenges that management faces when working with home agents?
Visibility does not mean productivity. Many inexperienced managers think that seeing an employee’s face every day means that they are a productive part of the team. Your management team needs to evolve their metrics to ensure proper accountability and responsiveness within your home agent group. In my presentation, I’ll guide you through the metrics transition: moving from measuring output to measuring outcomes.

Another major challenge is to ensure continuity in your organizational culture. Your office has a culture, do you know what it is? Do you know how it will be affected when you make your staff remote? In my presentation, I’ll guide you through the major considerations that you’ll need to work through to ensure you keep a strong, vibrant culture that flows through your remote workforce.

Are managers properly trained to handle these different challenges?
No. If you think your managers can seamlessly transition to successfully managing remote employees, you’re wrong. Inexperienced managers do not have the proper toolkit to manage remote teams and could expose your organization to increased employee turnover, agent underutilization, and a drop in customer satisfaction. In my presentation, I will give you the toolkit necessary to arm your managers for success when it comes to managing remote and collocated agent workforces.

Home agents have benefits such as reducing costs and reducing turnover, but what problems do home agents pose?
Not every employee can be a successful home agent. Working from home introduces new stressors, distractions, and challenges that employees in an office do not have to consider. Managers need to develop a hiring and selection process that considers which candidates will be able to make a successful transition to the home agent model. In my presentation, you’ll learn the five most important factors to consider when looking at your candidate pool and how to prepare your employees to work from home.