The past year has seen an incredible increase in the interest in and demand for home-based work. Companies saw that many traditional office-bound jobs could be performed remotely with similar productivity — if not more. Additionally, removing geographic requirements allowed them to fill positions faster with incredibly qualified candidates. In terms of the workforce, employees in all professions and at all levels have experienced tremendous upheaval in their personal and professional lives, forcing them to re-evaluate priorities when it comes to work schedules and flexibility.
At Liveops, we’ve known and believed in these truths for some time, building a company of more than 25,000 virtual agents across the country who provide customer support for Fortune 500 companies, large enterprises and government entities. Before the pandemic started, we began digging into the agent experience to identify what support and systems would make our independent contractor agents excel at serving customers.
As almost every company is now having to adapt to a hybrid workforce of in-person and remote employees, it is critical they take a similar approach, looking at the tools being used in-office and remotely to ensure they are not only meeting business and employee needs today but into the future. Doing so requires thoughtful research and collaboration across the company.
Digital Transformation Is Cross-Functional
Digital transformation is not just IT’s responsibility. It is a cross-functional effort that requires the input and collaboration of many departments. These departments must agree to a common objective. For us, it was improving the agent’s experience, resulting in higher retention, more referrals for new agents and better service to our customers.
In order to truly improve agent experience, we needed to walk in their shoes. Through a series of surveys, one-on-one interviews, focus groups and user experience testing, we learned where the friction points were in our agents’ days. We wanted to offer our virtual agents an opportunity to communicate, collaborate and learn within the context of their own entrepreneurial journey.
Matching Technology to the Journey
We are rolling out three new technology-enabled platforms this year to meet the needs we discovered through our research. These innovations further enhance the platforms already in place.
- Recruiting: Between March and December 2020, Liveops created opportunities for 20,000 virtual agents, and we needed a system that could handle the volume and speed at which we recruited. Our selected applicant tracking system, Fountain (get.fountain.com) does just that. Additionally, we heard from our agents that most of their job searching happened on mobile devices, so any recruiting platform needed to be mobile friendly in its design and function.
- Learning: As experts in adult distance learning, we provide engaging learning content in a “flipped” classroom environment, using a combination of self-paced and virtual classroom learning with real-life practice modules and stage gating. Our model is designed to get new agents prepared and answering calls more quickly than traditional in-office call centers can. Critical to this success is getting agents up to speed on our customers’ business quickly so they can start answering calls within days of starting. A platform had to support the varied styles of engaging online learning, better help agents track and manage their progress, test knowledge transfer through gamification, handle increased volume as we continue to grow, and integrate more seamlessly into multiple systems.
- Community: A drawback of at-home work is it can get lonely and agents can feel isolated and unsupported in their work. We work hard to create a community among all agents, across all our customer teams. With the rapid growth of our agent community, it became time to upgrade our solution to create an even more engaging experience. We needed a new “digital water cooler” to allow them to talk to one another and share challenges, tips and tricks, frustrations, and successes. We needed a way to constantly reach out with new content around their work and how to find balance when working from home.
With collaboration across our operational groups and coordination with our agents, we homed in on the right solutions that will not only get implemented but get adopted. Digital technology cannot transform organizations unless it meets the needs of its users. Digital transformation is a whole-organization undertaking and, as such, can have tremendous impact on bottom lines if done thoughtfully and strategically.
Greg Hanover is CEO of Liveops.