Sensée: Our Homeworking Story (Infographic)

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With over 1000 fully-employed and 100% home-based advisors supporting blue chip UK businesses, Sensée is the UK’s largest homeworking company.

But how did we get to where we are today?

  • Who are our people?
  • Where do they live?
  • How old are they?
  • What benefits has homeworking delivered for them?
  • What do they feel about their roles?

Find out by viewing the full infographic here

Placing Data Security at the Heart of Homeworking

SecurityAt the core of any strong work-at-home offering is the ability to delivery seamless interactions in a manner that’s compliant with data protection norms. While no one is disputing that this is a tough task, consumers expect and deserve nothing less.

What’s key is to have appropriate technology platforms and processes that can efficiently navigate the labyrinth of information security requirements in a work-at-home environment. And it is in this spirit that the Sensée Homeworking Strategic Framework sets out to deliver structure and value to businesses looking to make work-at-home a permanent element of their customer experience (CX) plans.

The Framework assists organisations in both migrating employees to homeworking, and optimising their strategies. The Six Pillars of Sensée’s Framework are: Selection Of Model Homeworkers, Workforce Flexibility and Planning, Data Security and Compliance, Employee Contracts and Policies, Virtual Management and Training, and Employee Engagement and Support.

Over half of those who implemented homeworking since the outset of the pandemic feel that it will now be a long-term part of their CX operations

The proportion of businesses now looking at homeworking as a long term solution is significant. Indeed an April/May online poll of 156 UK contact centre professionals indicated that over half of those who implemented homeworking since the outset of the pandemic feel that it will now be a long-term part of their CX operations. This should come as no surprise. Firms that have taken on work-at-home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now realising the clear business benefits realised by existing users of the model for some time: better customer outcomes, improved operational performance, lower costs, greater employee satisfaction, and more.

The question of homeworking data security still frequently comes up in discussion though and, make no mistake, it is an issue that’s of the utmost importance to CX professionals. In a recent Ryan Strategic Advisory survey, ‘data protection’ and ‘information security’ were rated the most important areas of investment for enterprise contact centre managers in the UK, and moving operations to individual home-based units certainly isn’t going to make managing these two critical areas any easier.

The overwhelming majority of enterprises need the assistance of an expert partner to help ensure maximum compliance in their virtual agent strategy

This is why the overwhelming majority of enterprises need the assistance of an expert partner to help ensure maximum compliance in their virtual agent strategy, and where the Sensée Homeworking Strategic Framework comes into play.

With 16 years’ experience in providing clients with home-based customer management solutions, Sensée has developed the mindshare needed to help enterprises with their migration out of the contact centre and into agents’ homes.

The security portion of the Strategic Framework is three-fold. The first is about making sure that enterprises deploying homeworking, and the data that they hold about customers, is secure. In the work-at-home environment, this has a great deal to do with the technologies that house information and the tools used to access data points. Sensée will advise on what provisions, solutions and procedures must be in place, alongside the right hardware required for agents.

The second part is about the operational integrity of homeworking once a campaign is off the ground. Sensée works with its clients to make certain that the right analytical tools are in place to detect and protect valuable consumer information from fraudulent activity. This includes monitoring agent desktop behaviour and validating agent identity.

The third part of the Sensée security framework is concerned with compliance. There are understandably more requirements laid out by different levels of government than ever before, and no enterprise is immune. Sensée works with its clients to make sure that home-based campaigns tick all the required legal boxes, minimising the chances of any adverse repercussions.

Homeworking is more common than ever, and this brings security challenges. Working within the Sensée Homeworking Strategic Framework, enterprises can efficiently navigate the security dynamic and ensures seamless interactions in a compliant manner.

Redefining Virtual CX Management

Contact Centre AdvisorLet it not be said that organisations did not have time to prepare.

Clearly, the opportunity of realising the benefits of homeworking has been available to companies for the past two decades, yet few have availed themselves of the chance to do so. And here we find ourselves in mid-2020, with literally the most important changes in a generation thrust upon us when it comes to contact centre management.

With so many firms needing to move agents home, yet having no blueprint on how to do so, the chance to make mistakes is pronounced.  This is where Sensée’s Homeworking Strategic Framework comes into play, outlining the most important elements of operations, compliance and agent management when it comes to homeworking.  Sensée has been in this industry for almost twenty years, and has made the beginner’s mistakes longago. Who better to learn from in the current environment

Six distinct, but interwoven elements constitute the basis for excellence in driving customer experience delivery from agents’ homes

The Homeworking Strategic Framework by Sensée is simple. Six distinct, but interwoven elements constitute the basis for excellence in driving customer experience delivery from agents’ homes.  The obvious starting point in this comprehensive blueprint is recruitment.  The work-at-home model is so much more robust when the right people are selected for virtual support from the outset. 

Sensée lays out what any contact centre operator needs to do in terms of developing the right agent profile, finding the most efficient networks with which to attract this demographic, and making certain that they are equipped adequately.  This agent dynamic also includes planning the right resourcing around agents that are home-based.  This helps ensure the optimal staffing levels at all times. 

Another facet of the Homeworking Strategic Framework involves management of the remote working team.  As mentioned, this is a new business model for many organisations, and including the best interests of those virtual team members into corporate policies must be a priority.  The Sensée Framework can help human resource managers modify employment contracts and rules for work-at-home agents, while providing guidance on health & safety aspects related to remote employees.  This blueprint also allows for instruction on how best to ensure remote training is as robust as possible, whether during the onboarding process or on an ongoing basis. 

Sensée’s advice on making certain that homeworkers are included in the broader morale of the organisation is essential in reducing attrition.  The advice considers advancement opportunities for remote customer experience workers, helping alleviate any sense of isolation that team members new to this way of working may experience, and developing activities that promote both fun and team-building.

Sensée’s Homeworking Strategic Framework provides contact centre professionals with the know-how that they need to drive the most secure remote-working environment possible

No discussion about home-based delivery would be complete without addressing the issue of data protection.  In this spirit, Sensée’s Homeworking Strategic Framework provides contact centre professionals with the know-how that they need to drive the most secure remote-working environment possible.  Some of these elements include how best to lock down data for remote workers to prevent fraudulent activity and maintaining full compliance with all relevant regulations.  This goes far in ensuring consumer confidence with regard to the agents that service their queries.

The fact is, moving to homeworking is a challenge at the best of times.  Not only can this change lead to uncertainty among the workforce, it also begs questions about best practices regarding operations.  By leveraging the Sensée Homeworking Strategic Framework, customer experience professionals will be best placed to manage this transition seamlessly.  

74 per cent of contact centre employees who homework have a better work-life-balance says new survey

HomeAgent PicThe UK’s largest contact centre homeworking survey “The 2020 UK HomeAgent Study” reveals that more and more UK contact centres are turning to homeworking as they discover its huge potential financial and productivity benefits. The survey was conducted between November 2019 and the middle of March 2020, prior to the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK.

The 2020 survey was managed/published by the UK Contact Centre Forum and sponsored by Content Guru, Sensée and SYKES. It is the second time the survey has been run, the first was in 2016. 300 Managers/Directors and HomeAgents took part in the 2020 UK HomeAgent study by completing online questionnaire surveys.

When comparing work-at-home with office-based contact centre operations, 75 per cent of organisations responding to the survey say that Attrition is lower, 61 per cent say Productivity is better, and 54 per cent say Absenteeism is better. By comparison, in the 2016 study, the figures were 42, 46, and 58 per cent respectively.

As well as delivering significant advantages to businesses, homeworking is also delivering huge benefits to agents. 74 per cent of HomeAgents say that they have a better work-life-balance. 86 per cent say they they have no travel-to-work costs, while 81 per cent say that they have removed the time wasted travelling to work. By comparison, in the 2016 study, the figures were 65, 73, and 68 per cent respectively.

Other key findings from the 2020 survey include:

  • 75 per cent of HomeAgents are aged 35 or over; 61 per cent have over 10 years experience in customer contact roles
  • 71 per cent of HomeAgents say that they are happy (at least some of the time); 65 per cent are proud to tell people where they work
  • 50 per cent of organisations allow HomeAgents to work multiple shifts on a single day
  • 97 per cent of HomeAgents experience virtual training; 70 per cent of these think it is just as effective as office-based training
  • 59 per cent of HomeAgents supply/buy their own laptops; 76 per cent supply their own broadband/internet
  • 79 per cent of HomeAgents meet colleagues once a month or less

“Our survey results reveal that interest in homeworking has never been higher” said Trevor Butterworth, CEO of the UK Contact Centre Forum. “Compared with our 2016 Survey, an even greater number of HomeAgents are reporting that they’re enjoying a better work-life-balance, have no travel-to-work costs, and have removed the time wasted travelling to work, with Employers reporting greater gains in terms of lower Attrition and Absenteeism, and higher Productivity.

“Subsequent to this research concluding, Covid-19 has changed the homeworking picture significantly. Recent research from ContactBabel/Channel Doctors indicates that 84 per cent of UK contact centres are now mainly home-based*. However, this doesn’t change the significance of our research. In fact, quite the opposite. As companies emerge from lockdown, they need to make tough decisions about what the ‘new normal’ will look like, and where homeworking fits in. This research can provide them with the confidence that homeworking is a sound option from an ethical, financial and employee engagement perspective.

“It should come as no surprise that an April 2020 UKCCF webinar poll of 156 organisations revealed that 47 per cent of contact centres that have introduced homeworking in response to Covid-19 see it as a longer term strategy rather than just a short term measure.”

To download an Executive Summary of the 2020 UK HomeAgent survey, please go to https://bit.ly/2ze683t

Sensée creates Strategic Framework for Successful Homeworking

Sensée has created a Strategic Framework to assist organisations in migrating employees to homeworking, and optimising their strategies.

Rob Smale photo copy

Delivered by Sensée’s experienced operational consultants, the Strategic Framework has six Core Pillars:

1. Selection Of Model Homeworkers
2. Workforce Flexibility and Planning
3. Data Security and Compliance
4. Employee Contracts and Policies
5. Virtual Management
and Training
6. Employee Engagement and Support

“According to a recent poll*, 47 per cent of UK contact centres that implemented homeworking (for the first time) in response to the Covid-19 crisis now see it as a long term strategy” said Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée.

“However, they shouldn’t underestimate the size of the task. When asked about their biggest homeworking challenge, 23 per cent of poll respondents said Pastoral Care (i.e. isolation/mental health), 22 per cent Motivation/Productivity, 17 per cent Telephony/Technology Services, 14 per cent Communication with Remote Workers, and 12 per cent Staff Management.”

“The current crisis has opened the eyes of the world to homeworking” said Rob Smale, Director, Sensée. “However, organisations are quickly discovering that the real challenge of setting up effective operations is a lot more complex than just getting people connected.  The more difficult job is to optimise homeworking – not just from a technology perspective but also from a recruitment, on-boarding, management, training, scheduling and communications perspective.  Our 16 years’ experience of operating contact centre homeworking has shown that all six points within the Strategic Framework need to be considered in order to manage a successful transition”.

Details of the Sensée Framework, and how Sensée’s Operational Consultants can assist your organisation create and implement a long-term homeworking strategy, can be found at https://bit.ly/2zip4Oi

* The online poll was conducted amongst 156 UK contact centres in April/May 2020

Pic: Rob Smale, Director of Professional Services

Work-from-home to be part of the new normal for over 50 per cent of UK contact centres

Work-from-home could be the post Covid-19 lockdown norm for the majority of contact centre workers according to a new online poll.

The poll, conducted in April and May 2020 amongst a total of 156 UK contact centre professionals, set out to discover the state of contact centre homeworking during the Covid-19 crisis.

86 per cent of poll respondents revealed that they had introduced homeworking in response to the Coronavirus crisis – with 53 per cent of these seeing it as a short term measure, and 47 per cent a long term strategy.  12 per cent already had homeworkers, and 2 per cent either had no plans to introduce homeworking, or hadn’t yet implemented homeworking plans.

When asked about their biggest homeworking challenge, 23 per cent said Pastoral Care (i.e. isolation/mental health), 22 per cent Motivation/Productivity, 17 per cent Telephony/Technology Services, 14 per cent Communication with Remote Workers, and 12 per cent Staff Management.  Training, IT Security, and Recruitment were also identified.  Only 2 per cent of respondents thought that they ‘had homeworking nailed’.

“Contact centre homeworking has been around for over 20 years but only recently, and under the most difficult conditions, has it become a reality for the majority of contact centre workers” said Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée.  “What our poll shows is that it not only provides an effective short term business continuity solution but is increasingly being seen as a lot more.  Over 50 per cent of UK contact centres are now looking at homeworking as part of their longer term strategy.”       

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Homeworking: A New World of Work

(This feature, written by Sensée’s Group CEO Steve Mosser, was originally published on contact-centres.com and is republished with permission)

So, amidst the chaos aSteve Mossernd panic launched by the Covid-19 crisis, you’ve managed to get your staff to continue working by enabling them to do their duties from home? Good.

As a fervent advocate of homeworking for the last 20 years, we feel the first part of our mission is finally hitting home (pun intended): homeworking is not a nice to have, it’s a must have for any business serious about Continuity.

However, as most businesses are now realising, the challenge wasn’t really in getting someone able to login and work remotely. The real business challenge is how to you resolve visibility, control and security, and critically, how do you keep your people engaged and thriving.

How do you know what’s expected of your management in this new world of work? A simplistic and improvised “9 to 5” approach won’t cut it.

Homeworking can certainly be virtuous on many fronts: studies show people are generally more productive when working temporarily from home. Homeworking also often leads @home workers to lose sense of boundaries between private (home) and work life. In time, this leads to staff over-working, and eventually putting themselves under too much pressure and spells dangers of burnout. I mean: how do you know what’s expected of your management in this new world of work? A simplistic and improvised “9 to 5” approach won’t cut it. Particularly, in households with children, the need for their care and the opportunities for disruption are now at an all-time high at all times of the day.

This raises the challenge of sustainability of working from home. A sustainable homeworking system has to take all the realities of making home the workplace into account and have solutions at the ready.

A Scheduling Service Fit for Homeworking

As a 100% virtual enterprise with over 800 employees working entirely from home – whatever their function – Sensée has had to create solutions to ensure that people are productive, secure and most importantly, happy. At the heart of our ecosystem is TeamTonic, a scheduling service which enables our 800+ employees to self-roster (aka self-schedule) their work time against their private lives. This means that they are empowered to decide when they are working and manage their household accordingly. In essence, it enables our people to build work around their lives, rather than vice versa. Not only does this create stability, it is essential to @home employee well-being, and their own sustainability of working from home.

Without staff in line of sight, you need a systematic solution that is “cheat-proof” and drives positive behaviours without establishing a Big Brother state.

For our enterprise clients, it means they are clear when work starts and stops for each employee, and the TeamTonic tracking system means that if/when there are interruptions in work, this is automagically updated into their performance management and payroll systems. Kids streaming 4k content on YouTube chokes and kills the VPN used for work? TeamTonic automatically updates downtime and productivity loss. Trying to do so manually may work for a handful of individuals, but anything beyond will create management and HR chaos. If ignored by (over) trusting, it could lead to abuse. We all know that in contact centres, the opportunities for work avoidance are high, and unfortunately, are often attempted and successful. Without staff in line of sight, you need a systematic solution that is “cheat-proof” and drives positive behaviours without establishing a Big Brother state. TeamTonic strikes a balance between privacy and work monitoring through automation.

Security and BYOD

Which leads us to the final, and perhaps most critical piece: Security. In this time of business improvisation in mass deploying staff at home, the opportunities for data leaks, loss and theft are at an all-time high. It’s a hacker feast right now. Whether it’s equipment you’ve provided or not, the risks to your customer data are real.

We’ve long promoted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) architecture as it removes the burden of supplying and supporting equipment (as well as the liability of it failing and having to continue paying your staff until it’s fixed).

Our solutions add up a complete technology ecosystem …….  that today not only manages complex operations for over 800 Sensée HomeAgents but also thousands of client staff in well-known UK organisations.

However any Infosec person will tell you it’s not for the fainthearted and it creates a realm of IS nightmares: how do you ensure the machine is clean, free of viruses, spyware, malware etc? Our SafeOS solution enables you to turn any Windows machine into a secure thin client with 2 Factor Authentication, Schedule Access and encrypted connections. It’s not only the best security money can buy, it’s actually more secure (and scalable) than providing your own equipment to your staff.

Together, our solutions add up a complete technology ecosystem that’s purpose built for homeworking. An ecosystem that today not only manages complex operations for over 800 Sensée HomeAgents but also thousands of client staff in well-known UK organisations.

So, the dawn of homeworking is finally here. Perhaps forcibly so, but we should now take this opportunity to identify and address its implications on management, security and employee-wellbeing. A world-class homeworking solution is one that raises the bar across these three areas so that everybody but the hackers thrive. We call this Homeworking 2.0.

Will home working be the new normal in 2021?

In a recent LinkedIn post, CX specialist Peter Massey looks forward to What’s After Covid?

He asks what lessons organisations have learnt during lockdown, and what the ‘new normal’ will be when everything returns to business-as-usual.

“Now is the time to redesign your future state with the best of your breakthroughs” he advises “and don’t just take it for granted you’ll go straight back. Ask your staff what they think of homeworking – you might be missing a trick if you don’t!”

Bill Price, a US-based colleague of Peter, also offered his thoughts on home working within the post. They include:

“More than 50% of contact centres will not re-appear (after lockdown) but be replaced by work-from-home and better digital self service.”

“Work-from-home will remain a much bigger part of contact centre operating models.”

“(Organisations) will break free from workforce management (WFM) tools with standard time shifts…. the new normal will have far more options that suit agent needs.”

“Knowledge bases and communities need to be properly resourced in real time to provide up-to-date information or be replaced by simple tools for knowledge sharing.”

“The shift to cloud technology was well underway… but will accelerate even more.”

If Bill’s prediction that over 50% of US contact centres are shortly to be replaced by work-from-home and digital self-service is correct, then the industry is in for its biggest transformation since the first call centres appeared on the scene back in the 1970s.

The reality for the UK industry may be somewhat less dramatic.  In an April 2020 poll conducted as part of a homeworking webinar, we asked ‘have you introduced contact centre home working in response to Coronavirus?’. The responses were:

No. We already had work-at-home agents -10%
No. We are planning to, but not started yet – 1%
No. We have no plans – 2%
Yes. As a short term measure – 46%
Yes. As a longer term strategy – 41%

112 contact centre professionals responded to the poll.

While, many poll respondents saw work-at-home as a short term crisis measure, over 40% saw it as a longer term strategy. That is clearly a huge step forward for home working advocates, as well as for pioneers such as Sensée that has been operating a 100% home-based model for over 15 years.

With 97% of contact centres in the poll operating work-at-home agents during the Covid-19 crisis, few can question its suitability as an emergency response mechanism. But what about for business-as-usual?

In this regard, Bill’s points about organisations urgently needing to adapt operating models and technologies for WFM, communications, and real-time knowledge sharing are spot on – and mirror our own experiences. You can’t just take a contact centre team out of a bricks and mortar set-up, send people home with a phone and a computer and expect the team to operate the same way as it did in the office.

To successfully operate a home working operation calls for a different mindset. A ‘virtual mindset’ that extends from how your centre recruits the right people to how you onboard, train, communicate, monitor, manage and schedule them. Sometimes in-house tools and methodologies can be adapted for remote working, sometimes new solutions will be required. And that’s particularly true when it comes to creating flexible/split shifts for home agents, and enabling support and communications in a live ‘real time’ environment.

But be in no doubt, contact centre home working is here to stay.