5 Ways to Create Balance for Hybrid Work in Customer Service

“People make up your brand, so without an employee experience strategy, your customer experience strategy will be lacking,” said Juanita Coley, CEO and Founder of Solid Rock Consulting, during her Enterprise Connect 2023 session, “CX Beyond the Contact Centre — and Why Your Enterprise Needs a Holistic Approach.”

Many at the event stressed the urgency of developing an effective employee experience (EX). And for good reason. The recent MIT Technology Review Insights study “Customer Experience and the Future of Work” found that 23% of CX leaders expect hybrid work to be their primary staffing arrangement in 2024. Twenty-seven percent are planning to give the option for remote work, and 12% predict a shift to fully remote work for their entire team.

Speakers in several of the conference sessions shared their strategies for addressing employees’ desires for these flexible work options. Here are 5 of their recommendations.

1. Load Up the Technology

Provide staff with technology and tools to be their best wherever they work. And ensure employees can connect anytime, anyplace, with any device. This is essential when you consider that nearly 40% of CX leaders surveyed for the “Future of Work” report said inconsistent technology and broadband issues are top risks of hybrid and remote working.

Most of the speakers said their organisation provides equipment (primarily a laptop or desktop) for both home and office for hybrid staff; a few take the “Bring Your Own Device” approach — especially for phones and headsets. Several pointed out the importance of providing setups mirrored in the office and at home, so employees can focus on their work instead of wrangling technology.

2. Create Role-Based Personas

One interesting approach to planning hybrid and remote work borrows from the universal marketing playbook: developing personas. Several speakers recommended using personas to determine if — and how often — individuals or teams should work hybrid or remotely, and what type of technology and support they’ll need. Considerations include technology requirements and primary activities and requirements for a job or team (e.g., how much time is spent working alone versus working collaboratively).

The caveat is the importance of keeping personas fresh and accurate as teams, roles and responsibilities evolve, noted the speakers.

3. Focus on Outcomes

Maintaining productivity among hybrid and remote employees was a top concern the speakers addressed. Recommendations included increasing employees’ focus on collaboration and team goals, prioritising their effectiveness at meeting specific outcomes, and rethinking success measures.

The right technology is essential for supporting this. A few of the speakers said they have or are planning to implement systems that enable them to create a single view for agents and a single platform integrates with specialty apps. Findings from the “Future of Work” report echo this: 73% of CX leaders say they plan to implement a single screen and single platform in the next two years.

4. Dig Into the Data

Looking at the right metrics is also essential. Josh Goldlust, VP of Product Management at Genesys, cited an example of this during the session “Contact Centres 2026: Where we’ll be with CCaaS, AI and WFO.”

Goldlust explained that, although average handle time is useful, it was created when agents were handling one thing at a time. Now they’re often handling multiple tasks, many of which are complex.

So, combining several measures (e.g., surveys, sentiment, satisfaction scores) to determine success is a better approach, he said. “How do we think about the number of conversations agents are having over a day or week — and how effective they are in delivering on this?” asked Goldlust.

Several other speakers recommended that CX supervisors use a blend of qualitative and quantitative data to see if hybrid and remote staff are performing as they should. This could include sentiment analysis and usage patterns of key apps. Are CX employees engaged and feeling connected and valued? Are they showing up to online meetings and turning on their cameras?

5. Provide a Place to Connect

Hybrid and remote work are vital elements of a flexible environment. But sometimes being on site is best. Creating a workplace that’s welcoming and set up for productivity (e.g., available technology, team spaces, individual desks) is table stakes. As several speakers pointed out, working on site goes head-to-head against the flexibility of doing chores or walking the dog during breaks when working from home, for instance.

The most common recommendation was to create a workplace that acts as a magnet, drawing in employees. It must include executives modeling the behaviour they want to see from the team. If they’re not on site, why should anyone else be there?

It might also include creating a centre of excellence, hosting team activities and town halls, or providing incentives such as food or swag. And where possible, it should be fun and engaging. Consider themed days, wellness activities and cultural events.

Most important, it should include opportunities for exposure that could help with career growth; for example, CEO-hosted employee roundtables, in-person mentor programs and cross-team collaboration sessions.

Finally, show appreciation when employees do work on site, so they’re more likely to be happy about doing it on a regular basis.

Leading with Empathy and Finding Balance in EX

Like everyone else, CX employees are people with complex lives. To be their authentic and best selves at work, they’re looking for flexibility. Lead with empathy and support their desires to create a work environment that works for them to show CX employees that they’re valued, said Goldlust.

“COVID showed us that people can be as effective regardless of where they are. Some things are better in person, but flexibility is expected today,” he said. “You have to find that balance.”