With Right Assets, Remote Contact Centers Satisfy Modern Workforce

    The age of mobility is in full swing. As consumer telecom assets are becoming more advanced, people are beginning to feel less restricted by geography and time. It used to be that members of the workforce were bound to two things: their schedules and their desks. "Nine-to-five" hours were defined by the time spent in a physical office, Monday through Friday. But the increasing capabilities afforded by smartphones, tablets and even laptops are starting to make certain traditional concepts seem dated and irrelevant.

    As such, a growing segment of the working population is choosing to conduct its business remotely. At one point in time this sort of thing was considered a privilege and was not an expectation among many professions. But more companies and their workers are beginning to find that - with the right networks and resources - these kinds of arrangements are advantageous to all involved.

    Unified Communications, Data Integration Critical To Contact Center

    Before addressing the mobility issue, there has to be an examination of the existing systems. While the contact center has traditionally been limited to telephone connections, the consumerization of IT has started to change that. What constitutes "good" service these days has an incredibly fluid definition. Representatives not only have to have all the answers, but be available through a variety of channels. On top of that, there has to be a relationship present between the company and the patron. If a help desk worker is not able to recognize that a caller has requested assistance with a specific issue on multiple occasions, then the chance of losing business is much more likely.

    As a result of this, more customer service departments are integrating data retrieval and collection capabilities with contact center software. Including these powers in mission-critical programs can simultaneously streamline and improve operations in a meaningful way.

    "Another evolving trend, and one of the most important, is the ability to collect and 'serve up' more information to applications," wrote No Jitter contributor Jim Burton. "That information can come from many sources and include being discovered by search engines, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc. These new ways of retrieving and delivering information will be an important element in the next phase (or 'shift') in our industry. This is no longer just about unifying communications (UC); it is now all about integrating communications and information technologies, especially applications."

    Mobile UC Enabled By The Cloud

    One of the biggest drivers behind these changes is the evolution of the mobile device. There has been an increase in potential for not only what can be done, but where it can be accomplished. This is especially true on the enterprise side of the equation. With so much freedom granted by touchscreen devices, more jobs are being released from their physical obligations. This has even allowed some employees to have a say in their work schedules.

    The contact center, in particular, is an organizational division that is being increasingly allowed to roam free. This is thanks to a push in popularity for deploying cloud UC networks rather than restricting everything on-site. Employers are finding that their staff members are varied in their needs and work styles, and that offering alternative means to fulfill their duties will increase their productivity and their enjoyment of the job.

    It might appear that this push to work from home more frequently is a fad, but by many accounts it is a fundamental redefinition of career perceptions. More people these days want to hold down positions that allow them a greater freedom to balance their home life in a way that best suits them. The millennial generation, especially, is placing a stronger emphasis on treating work as something to be done and less as a place that must be gone to every day. This is so much so the case that some workers will choose employers that pay less if they are able to have more autonomy over where they need to "clock in."

    More Businesses Turning to UC

    The number of companies that are staying abreast of these new tech developments is significant - and seemingly growing every day. According to research conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group, 27 percent of organizations believe that they are "leading-edge," in that they are always on the lookout for top-of-the-line tools that can be leveraged in innovative ways. A larger segment of enterprises - 61 percent - consider themselves to be interested in new tools, but wait to see what is working well for other companies. The remaining 13 percent of businesses either felt they were "laggard" in their attention to the market or had no opinion on the matter. In the present day, this is a dangerous attitude to have - the rate at which things are moving threatens to leave behind the companies that are slow to adapt.

    To place all bets solely on the equipment and services at the business' disposal, however, is an ill-advised strategy. It should be noted that programs and hardware alone do not guarantee success. Engagement must not only be a key goal for the technology, but also for those who will be leveraging it.

    "By now the benefits of telecommuting and remote work should be obvious," wrote CIO's Sharon Florentine. "Increased employee engagement and loyalty, reduced infrastructure costs and more efficient operational expenses, to name just a few. But there's one piece of a successful remote work strategy that's tough to get right - inclusion. How can you help remote workers feel connected, empowered and fully part of your team when they're not physically present?"

    Remote Contact Centers Need Proper Management

    There are probably a number of people out there who wish that they had the ability to work from home. But even with a greater percentage of employees using advanced telecommunications tools than ever before, there may still need to be an inventory taken regarding their capabilities. No matter how braced for a transition people may think they are, the actual move may be more disruptive than some perceive it to be.

    "Try to honestly determine if the staff has the mentality and potential skills to work with the technology effectively," said Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Bob Laliberte to FedTech contributor Steve Zurier. "Are there enough people in the organization who can be trained quickly so that those in the organization who aren't as technically adept can be slowly brought up to speed? If the answer is no, budget appropriate funds for training the staff who will be leaders."