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Executive Interview : Working From Home - Exclusive Interview With Gail Rigler from Working Solutions

How easy is it to set up a workspace/ home office?
A home office requires planning to ensure a suitable, remote workplace. Working Solutions advises prospective, at-home agents to have a secure, dedicated and quiet space—away from prying eyes, noise and distractions. Also needed is a reliable, landline internet connection to ensure security, plus enough bandwidth to support client programs and always-on communications. What’s essential is a professional setup, which doesn’t have to cost much or take up a lot of room.

What technology / equipment do you need?
Our at-home agents use their own computers. Their devices must meet specific technology requirements for client programs, such as enough memory (at least 8 GB RAM) and an up-to-date operating system (Windows 10). For security, a Wi-Fi internet connection isn’t permitted. Landline connections only are permitted. And because agents open multiple apps at the same time, dual screens are advisable for speed, efficiency and quality of service. For audio, a wired USB headset is needed for voice over internet protocol (VoiP) programs. Otherwise, a wired telephone and headset will do.

Do you feel people working from home work harder, about the same or less than those working in an office environment
Whether in an office or at home, a person’s work ethic should be the same. At Working Solutions, we screen for agents who perform well on their own or as part of a team, wherever they work. The persona we want is one of a pro who’s comfortable in a remote position. At home, agents enjoy the flexibility to work the hours they choose. From that standpoint, they can select times when they feel most productive, even if it’s before dawn or late at night. While agents don’t have the distraction of coworkers interrupting them, they must manage interruptions from family and pets. Most of all, they love customer service. They possess a passion for solving problems. They, in fact, seek out opportunities to go beyond for the customers. It’s in their nature. That’s why they’re in service.

What advice would you give anyone working from home for the first time and how to adapt?
Persons new to remote work need to properly set their perspectives and priorities, being sure to separate business and personal lives. At-home work is more than just dedicated office space. We encourage agents to prepare for the workday as they would for an office or a call center. That means dressing appropriately for the job, scheduling times for breaks and meals, and turning off personal devices that distract. In short, adopt a get-down-to-business mindset. Also, we promote open lines of communications with management and peers through our Vyne agent portal—with its business updates, chatrooms and client-program groups. Agent-leader exchanges make for better workplace connections, especially in a virtual environment. Frequent interactions reduce any feeling of isolation.

How do you measure productivity of home based agents and also availability?
Productivity is measured in different ways, depending on the client program. For some, output is tracked by productive minute. For others, it might be gauged by the number of customers served or average handle time of an interaction. All metrics are aligned with client-specific targets. They might be to improve efficiency, increases sales or elevate customer satisfaction. Measurements can be turned up or dialed down for desired outcomes. As for availability, agents select their own schedules each week. Most are expected to clock 20 hours. With the Working Solutions agent ratio, two or three agents can make up a full-time equivalent or FTE.

How do you ensure security of information?
Security is integrated into Working Solutions infrastructure and processes, and practiced by our professionals, in-house and contracted. We use trusted industry tools and standards to safeguard information and the privacy of clients and their customers.

Among our safety measures are:

• Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) compliance -- A certifiable and ongoing way to maximize protection of global payment account data. Gaining and sustaining PCI Security Standards Council’s compliance status helps secure stakeholders and create credibility and trust for organizations.

• Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions -- A comprehensive approach to security and controls to specifically address each layer of the cloud-delivered desktop. VDI stretches from the user and endpoint devices, all the way to the physical data center infrastructure. With it, security can be built in, using a combination of virtual technologies, hardware and customizable user controls.

• Multifactor authentication – A check-of-a-check verification that overcomes the limitations of weak and stolen passwords, both leading contributors to breaches. Strong authentication processes require multiple elements for optimal security, generally "something you have" (smartcards or mobile solutions), "something you know" (a password or pin), and "something you are" (biometrics).

How do you ensure staff work to the same high standards when they are an office?
Being in an office is no guarantee of achieving high standards. For us, instilling quality comes down to using proven processes, selecting the right people and meeting, or exceeding, performance-driven metrics—all done virtually. With the three aligned—from recruiting to agent education to operations—you achieve consistent, sustained outcomes. Today, we have a network of 150,000+ registered agents in the United States and Canada. Each is recruited for client-specific skills, where we match talent to task. Then, adapting a client’s training curriculum, we educate agents in the virtual classroom. Using degreed educators, that instruction is driven home through practice, role-playing and real-world customer scenarios. On the job, lessons are reinforced for months afterward to ensure desired results.

How do you keep in touch with staff during the day?
Working Solutions strives to foster a caring, virtual workplace culture for employees and agents, who are independent contractors. That compassion translates into empathetic customer service. This includes building a strong sense of community, based on outreach to frontline management and agents. Our agent portal, the Vyne, fosters connectivity and camaraderie among teams. We conduct frequent polls there, where agents share experiences and thoughts viewed across the community. Also, we create a "water cooler" environment for agents to meet online, sharing not only professional, but personal and family information as well. On meeting some of her virtual colleagues, one Pennsylvania professional said: "It’s like my home away from home, even though I work from home. It’s a whole other family. I love it!"

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Any other comments you would like to share about working from home - the good or the bad?
Nearly 25 years ago, Working Solutions introduced, and today continues to perfect, the work-from-home business model for on-demand contact center outsourcing. In that time, the company has served 100s of clients and millions of their customers, all across diverse industries—from healthcare to retail to travel. In that time, it’s performed remotely through blizzards, hurricanes and now, the coronavirus pandemic. When handling whatever comes, two strengths emerge that serve clients and customers well: flexibility and scalability of a mobile workforce. A workforce that can ramp up in a few-hours’ notice, shift resources outside of harm’s way, and respond when work-in-place providers get stuck.

Working Solutions has found that it offers multiple advantages to the agents and to the company. It has afforded our clients a flexible/scalable workforce that can ramp up or down within hours if need be. Our at-home agents can meet our clients’ needs, in times of steady business-as-usual, in times of anticipated growth where readiness counts, or in future states where unforeseen market shifts require flexibility to stay in business. Our agents are not clustered in certain geographic areas, but rather spread out strategically across the U.S. and Canada, with the flexibility to work from wherever they call home at the time. And perhaps best of all amidst the uncertainties of the spreading Coronavirus, they are able to continue working in the safety of social distancing, keeping them comfortable and safe from contagion.

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Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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