Best Practices for Remote Hiring in Virtual Contact Centers

Best Practices for Remote Hiring in Virtual Contact Centers

Trust a good old-fashioned pandemic to shake up an industry and test the validity of long-held beliefs. Like operating from a physical space for Call Centers, which opens up a host of other requirements, such as the need to hire agents from anywhere who can work from anywhere.

 

The idea of remote Call Centers

The idea of remote work is not new in the Call Center world. Operating on thin margins and getting employees to work from home has long held the promise of better margins with lower real estate costs and perhaps more favorable employee salaries.

However, for one good reason or another, it has never happened. At least not at the scale at which it would make a difference. It was either going to compromise data security or fail to prevent dishonest practices from creeping in with no direct oversight, or lead to poor customer service with agents unable to seek immediate help from the floor. One thing or the other always prevented it from happening.

For oWorkers, virtual employees is only one additional step removed from the way it has been operating for the eight years of its existence; one step away from the client facilities. Identified as one of the top three providers in the world for data-based BPO services, for oWorkers, virtual workers are only a logical extension of the support that it has been extending to its clients.

 

Liberation after Covid-19

What the pandemic has been able to engineer might be nothing short of liberation for the industry from the confines of a bricks-and-mortar office.

With lockdowns enforced around the world, call center operators were unable to operate and faced revenue challenges. Their clients, at the same time, were challenged as their customer support systems were not operating. Challenging times such as the one brought on by the pandemic often help us separate the grain from the chaff.

In this scenario, to the credit of many call center operators, they managed to demonstrate the flexibility that clients expect from them and put together a patchwork of remote agents tied together on a platform that enabled them to continue services through remote work, albeit only a small proportion, that they gradually scaled up.

What this has made clear is that those earlier objections to remote call center work were mired in unreasonable arguments as they did not withstand the test of the Covid-19 challenge. In fact, it seems to be increasingly clear that remote operations will be an important part of the call center mix going forward.

oWorkers has been at the forefront of the shift to virtual work ever since the Covid-19 induced lockdowns started. Currently, its employees are equipped to operate from the office as well as remotely, depending on the situation, with equal facility. They operate on the backbone of secure protocols with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) for security of data. oWorkers is also GDPR compliant.

 

The people management challenge and how to address it

Recognizing a challenge is often a great start to managing it. And every change brings with it one challenge or another. Companies don’t run away from challenges; they make an effort to find solutions.

Hiring and retaining talent has always been a challenge in BPOs and Contact Centers. Attrition at the agent level has been a known bugbear. With agents moving up the value chain, thanks to the introduction of AI solutions in customer interactions, the reliability and value per agent is becoming greater as agents are now handling the more complex transactions that cannot be handled by automated solutions. In this current scenario, losing an agent is an even bigger loss even as selection criteria become tighter while hiring as companies look for greater levels of competence.

Add remote in the mix and the degree of complexity goes up by several notches for hiring, onboarding, training and retaining. With remote work now acceptable, agents can take up a job anywhere in the world without moving an inch physically. Though, by the same token, a company can also hire talent from anywhere in the world.

But, will legacy practices be as effective in the new normal? What will be the keys to success on the people front?

Cast the net wider

It is perhaps expected that with location not being a constraint, the net can be cast wider. However, there will always be costs associated with expanding the size of the net or casting it wider. It is expected that specialization will emerge in skill availability as well which will help define the locations for a net to be cast in, for a particular type of service agent. It could so happen that employees for F&A services are more easily available in Poland while for Call Center services, the Philippines offers richer pickings.

Blessed with their recognition as a preferred employer, oWorkers has been able to attract a steady stream of walk-in talent to take up the various roles on offer in the many client engagements in progress. So far, the walk-in talent has been employed by the walk-in center. With work from anywhere gaining currency, oWorkers is able to attract the best talent in all its centers across the world in the choicest locations, and then match them to the most suitable openings being handled by any of its centers.

Be reasonable and realistic at all steps

In traditional hiring, job descriptions used as advertisements for attracting talent for a particular role, might lead one to believe that the role might be that of the leader of a powerful nation, such was the hyperbole in the copy. While the desire has always been to attract suitable candidates in large numbers, an unintended consequence has been that such job descriptions have tended to attract many unsuitable, unqualified or over-qualifies prospects, leading the hiring team on a hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack; the few suitable candidates out of the mountain of applications.

With hiring from anywhere, and candidates looking for jobs anywhere, this can quickly balloon out of control. There is an urgent need for companies to bring sanity and realism into the jobs they advertise in order to keep wasteful applications to a minimum. Many companies are experimenting with processes like unmonitored interaction with nominated employees based on which experience applicants can self-nominate out of the race even after applying.

oWorkers has developed multilingual delivery capabilities organically, as a result of a conscious policy of a multicultural and multinational team. Candidates can express their language preferences while becoming a part of the oWorkers team.

Let the candidate do some of the hard work

Some hiring teams believe in making the process easy for the candidate. They open up multiple channels through which candidates can reach them. They initiate a dialogue with candidates to schedule and reschedule interviews. In short, they try to ensure that the candidate is left with no reason to opt out.

There are others who believe that this process is self-defeating. It becomes so easy that candidates with just a passing interest go through the entire process and withdraw at the last minute. These hiring teams believe that if the candidate has interest, small setbacks will not deter him/her from continuing with the hiring process. As a small example, they suggest letting the candidate choose the interaction date and time. Only if he/she is interested will a choice be made. It can lead to the elimination of a lot of needless effort.

Driven by systems and technology, oWorkers places at the disposal of the candidate an intuitive hiring application. The hard work that oWorkers does begins after candidates have traversed the journey on the tool and are still interested. The tool, like all oWorkers facilities, works 24×7.

Hiring anywhere means honoring labor laws anywhere

Today, you could be running a business employing resources located in Romania and Egypt, or even the other way round. Work from home, or rather work from anywhere, has liberated many companies and people from physical confines. While companies can scout for the most suitable resources anywhere in the world, employees can also look for the most suitable employer anywhere in the world.

But this brings challenges. We operate in a world of laws and rules. Most laws operate at a national level. Almost every geography has laws that seek to protect the employee from being exploited by the employer. Employers are waking up to the new reality and trying to navigate their way around the labor laws not only in their own geography but also the geography where resources could be physically located. For most corporations the right answer at this stage seems to be to ensure both the regulations are honored.  

oWorkers operates as a locally incorporated entity in each of its delivery locations. It pays social and local taxes for its staff members who are employees, and not contractors and freelancers, as some of the competitors prefer.

Hiring assessments and techniques

In the physical world, beyond the candidate meeting the basic criteria for the role, recruiters often relied on a native instinct called the ‘gut feel’ when they interviewed and otherwise interacted with a candidate. In the virtual world, opportunities for physical interactions that would enable a ‘gut feel’ to be formed would be limited. Hence it becomes important to introduce reasonably objective assessment tools such as behavioral assessments, depending on the role being hired for, and the level, to get a more wholesome perspective on the candidate.

oWorkers has a robust screening process, employing evaluation of education, IQ, language and experience, even in their legacy geography-bound hiring.

Onboarding is important

How does one onboard new employees when they are operating virtually. For that matter, the entire organization is operating virtually. Onboarding is that bridge which seeks to convert eager hires into contributing employees. Physical interaction used to be an important element of the onboarding process. But that was then. Now, without that option available in case of virtual employees, organizations are experimenting with social media for creating the initial engagement with new hires. Unpoliced encounters are also permitted with existing employees so that people coming on board can be better prepared in an honest, open setting, and begin to build friendships even before they have joined.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Employees, both past and present, rate oWorkers 4.6 or higher, on a scale of 5, on external platforms like Glassdoor.

 

Conclusion

The need for connoisseurs who can recognize diamonds in their rough state has never been greater, with hiring going virtual. oWorkers brings the same disciplined process to hiring that they employ on client projects to deliver great quality at industry-leading prices, often letting clients shave 80% off pre-outsourcing costs.

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