Ask the Coach

Remote Agents – Balancing the Load

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

I manage agents in 4 locations, providing 24/7 support. The majority of our users are in North America, so the 2 teams in N.A. locations cover most phone and chat queries. The agents who work remotely in time zones with fewer users end up having to answer all the user email that has come in during our business day, so users will have answers in their morning inboxes to fulfill our promise of email response in less than 24 hours. The remote agents feel the team relies on them to do all email support, and usually they are still answering the backlog of email while trying to handle live contacts in their time zone. This has created resentmentful remotes. I admit their utilization is far higher than those in our headquarters locations, and have tried explaining that the perk for them is being able to work from home. They feel they’re providing all the email support, and although the teams at headquarters locations could, they leave email support to the remotes. It has created friction in the team, and I’m fearful of losing good, highly productive remotes.

Boss in the Middle

A. Dear Boss:

Because of their location and fewer live calls, the remotes have become the emailers of the team. The metrics you provided do highlight the 20% + utilization of remotes. Many help desks find remote agents are more productive than on-site peers, and you’re a clear example. In addition to the resentment and inequality perceived by your remotes, I have another concern: responding appropriately and professionally to email requires a higher level of writing and communication skills than chat or phone. While your remotes are honing this skill, agents at headquarters are not. Do you want that skill imbalance in your team? Are you rewarding agents according to their skills level? My recommendations are: 1) better triage and distribute email support so local agents develop email writing skills, 2)acknowledge the skill and utilization difference in agents during performance reviews and pay considerations, and 3)strive for more balanced utilization of all agents.

Help Desk Coach

©Donna Earl, Help Desk Coach, 2015