There is a lot more flexibility in the workplace now - some companies only making their employees work 4 days a week, others allow them to work from home, depending on the industry. As reported in 2017, 3.7 million employees work from home (making up 2.8% of the entire U.S. workforce) for at least half the time and that number will continue to grow.

In many BPO’s (Business Process Outsourcing) or call centers, agents are working at a desk, but that desk can be either in a traditional contact center or it can be at their home.

We spoke with Robert Lemmens, who is the CTO & Co-founder of HOPLA.Online, where they focus on distributed outsourcing & building remote teams, to discuss remote agents further.

What are remote agents?

Remote agents have the ability to work from locations other than the traditional office or traditional contact center. More often than others, the agents will be working from home where they have all the necessary resources available to them so that they can do their job.

The biggest difference between distributed teams is that they work from home. This enables them to save commute time and focus on things that are important to them like spending more time with their family. In return, they are proven to be happier and more productive when on the job. - Robert

Why use remote agents?

Depending on the nature of your business & the needs that you currently have, remote agents may be a great option for you (or not).

Advantages

· The most obvious benefit of working from home, such as no time spent on   travel & the cost associated with commuting.

· Having this flexibility motivates employees & leads to low turnover rates.

· The number of people that are available to hire also increases as you are not  limited to hiring people within the proximity of the office.

Our talent pool is not limited to our local reach. We can source world-wide and cherry-pick the best talent.  – Robert

· Without the cost of real estate you can hire better talent for a better price.

· Remote teams take advantage of the latest technology to monitor and improve  communication and performance of all members

Unlike conventional BPO’s, where employees “check-in and -out” we have much greater and more granular insights into performance, which auto-motivates top employees and gets rid of underperformers in the early stages. – Robert

Challenges

The hiring process (of remote agents) is very different from a regular hiring process. With the regular hiring processes, you put out a job ad, people come to the office, you have a face to face- everything is more personal. It's very easy to lose that personal touch when you hire remote. – Robert

· The hiring process will be a challenge since you need to make sure that the  agent has certain skill sets, such as being self-motivated to do quality work  while at home. As well, the hiring process is done remotely to that puts some  limitations on understanding what that person is really like.

· The lack of face-to-face interactions might be a challenge to both the agents &  the managers. With the limited in-person time, it is more difficult to      communicate & do regular check-ins, as well as being available quickly when  needed.

· Understanding how the agent is doing in terms of performance can be difficult  to determine if systems are not in place to track those. In addition, there need  to be regular points of contact & monitoring so that there’s constant check-ins  & feedback on performance & productivity.

Getting started with remote agents

Remote agents do provide a lot of benefits to the agent & the call center. Some of the challenges can be addressed by technology & processes to help hire, train & monitor your agents.

After receiving many applications for a position, in the hiring process, you need tools & tests to filter out the agents that won’t be a good fit for your organization. Without the know-how, this is a time-consuming process that is prone to error. – Robert

One of the main objectives, when the hiring process is taking place, is to try and connect with the prospective agent and learn more about them as if you’re talking face-to-face.

Video interviews & meetings are great too! Whenever someone applies for a job, they apply with a one-minute elevator pitch. With that, we really bring back that personal touch in the remote hiring process - Robert

About Robert Lemmens

After finishing his Msc International Real Estate in Oxford, UK, in 2008, Robert his first post-degree holiday turned into an ongoing Remote Digital lifestyle as a self-thought Marketer. Over the years he has built websites for clients and participated in multiple remote startups.  The difficulty of hiring remote employees and the plethora of unqualified applicants on other freelance platforms led him to train his own in-house hiring team. This team has grown to now servicing other businesses with similar requirements under the brand HOPLA.Online, enabling them to focus on growing their core business. HOPLA.Online is a complete solution, including recruitment, human resources, latest tech stack & payrolling.

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