To say times have shifted over the last two years is a massive understatement. 2020 forced every industry to pivot in some form or another, and the call center industry was certainly no exception. Remote agents were not anything new at that time, organizations have been using them for years, but remote was a far cry from most of the workforce, and the change to it was made virtually overnight.
Two years in, contact centers have learned to be successful and have even thrived in the new remote landscape, finding that retention and employee satisfaction have improved overall. But one of the hardest aspects of running a call center even when having all agents under one roof is remaining compliant and protecting customers’ and prospects’ personal information, especially with legislation that is ever-changing to keep up with technology and trends.
So how is it done successfully when most agents now work out of their homes, on their machines? It can and has been done, and done so successfully, but it takes constant monitoring and adjusting to stay at the forefront of current legislation.
A COMPLIANT CULTURE
The most important thing is that call centers must be persistent and strive to create a compliant culture. This starts from the leadership at the top and down to the newest representatives. The importance of protecting personal information must be highlighted and enforced from the very first training session, through continuing education, every one-on-one coaching session, and beyond.
This applies in a remote atmosphere as well, if not more so, when leadership, management, and trainers are no longer in the same building as their trainees and agents. Cultivating compassion for your remote agents who are working hard for your organization on the front line and making sure that the human element is not lost when your only point of contact is a computer screen helps trickle that same mentality down to when they are speaking with customers on the phone. When shown they are cared about in the most basic of ways, they will in turn hopefully relay that same care and understanding to the people they speak with on the phone, even on the most difficult of calls, leading towards thinking of them as also human who deserve at least respect, privacy, and discretion when it comes to their personal information. After all, no one wants their private details compromised, no matter what it may pertain to.
The key to a compliant culture is to set up a people-first culture for your employees at the outset, followed by setting up and enforcing guidelines that they are expected to follow on every dial. This will help ease the implementation of stricter parts of compliance as your organization continues to grow.
Before, when agents were in one building working on computers that were set up and owned by the company they work for, it was much easier to ensure that the network was protected and access to information was restricted limiting the capability of compromising it. But just as technology is on our side to even allow remote efficiency, it also allows for security to be in place to ensure a call center remains compliant and makes data breaches more difficult to carry out.
Several third-party platforms allow you to give unrestricted network access to your agents working at home, allowing them to work just like they are in a call center building with the same protection regulations in place. And it is as simple for them as downloading an app onto their personal computer, lending to ease of implementation.
These third-party apps temporarily turn agents’ devices into a secure, locked-down corporate device for remote work, that gives them access to the dialer and campaigns so they can successfully make calls. Their device protection features ensure employees’ devices meet required security policies and key compliance standards like PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR while having a centralized management system so IT admins at corporate can update the system as necessary.
Agents go into a “worker mode” which makes a temporary, secured workspace that completely locks them out of their computer’s underlying system, creating a secure BYOD (bring your own device) system for call centers. This eliminates a lot of logistical concerns when operating and managing remote employees, and helps ensure all compliance guidelines are met, even as they continue to change and shift.
Communication within organizations was already technology-heavy before the pandemic, but now it has become the only way in many cases employers can relay information to, coach, and even just converse with their employees. (Which is also why it is important to retain that human element culture because it is easy to get lost behind a screen.)
That said, all forms of communication need to be just as secured and monitored as access to all systems are, and that all ties back into the network access protocols mentioned before. All points of contact should flow through that platform of choice, be it instant messaging, video conferencing, or email. Pick your choice for each of those mediums.
As mentioned before, their “worker mode” locks them out of their computer while working, so implementing and making a practice of communicating within that secured workspace is imperative.
Your organization must always be training and offer continuing education to all your employees. Not just remote agents, but onsite and remote management as well. The moment we stop learning and aiming to improve is the moment we begin to stop being successful.
In that scope, compliance needs to be ever at the forefront of discussions when training and continuing education sessions take place. Having your agents understand the importance of protecting personal information from the beginning and then reminding them often of the guidelines and any updates that may come along lends to representatives that keep it at the forefront of their minds on every call.
Training has of course shifted as well, as with everything else, and we are having to rely heavily on virtual means. Video conferencing has replaced training rooms. You click a button to raise your hand now. But training is still just as crucial as before, and it can still be done successfully using digital means. Implementing a learner management system alongside your video conferencing sessions can help you create and assign continuing education courses that can refresh, retrain, and update your employees as they continue to grow within your organization. Compliance should be updated and assigned regularly. An always learning atmosphere creates an always improving one, leading to success overall.
There are many ins and outs of compliance, and keeping up to date on and implementing all of it is crucial for every call center, no matter the industry. Making sure you are still doing so successfully when your agents are remote adds a whole new level of concern. But as we have shown in the past two years, this industry can pivot as it needs to and thrive, and can use the technology provided to us to ensure we remain successful and our customers’ and prospects’ information remains safely secured.
Nikki Revies is Director of People Operations at Anomaly Squared. Nikki leads our talent and organizational development team as we continue to create programs, initiatives, and opportunities that inspire and nurture our employees. Responsibilities include creating sustainable learning and development solutions; cultivating company culture; employee retention; organizational development; professional development; and overseeing processes and procedures.