By Ben Rafferty, Chief Innovation Officer
Everywhere you look, companies across all industries and around the globe have implemented remote working policies and work-from-home structures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this shift has been occurring for several years now and a topic that we’ve covered in the past, the current crisis has forced organisations everywhere to embrace digital transformation for the sake of business continuity and remaining operational, regardless of whether or not they had planned for it. With this shift comes a massive change, presenting both benefits and challenges along the way.
In theory, and in practice, an increase in remote working is excellent for many reasons. For customer service representatives, the flexibility and lack of a commute can be a big productivity booster. Contact centre research published in the Harvard Business Review found that at-home workers completed 13.5 percent more calls than those in the office. With no commute, no traffic and no wasted time, most CSRs can get more work done.
For businesses, this flexibility for agents can help alleviate the need for investment in huge contact centre spaces, and for customers, it doesn’t matter to them where an agent is based, as long as they’re receiving consistent and complete service. Additional cost savings can be found in removing the need to provide agents with small, but expensive, items such as parking spaces, desks, monitors and more. Ultimately, the cost savings can be enormous. At-home agents can also have a huge impact on First Call Resolution (FCR) and Average Handling Time (AHT). As long as business managers invoke effective workforce management tools to engage and maintain organisation among remote CSRs, these agents can be an incredible asset for improving FCR and AHT. They can respond faster during peak periods and have proven to be more productive and effective in their work. And, with higher FCR and lower AHT, comes additional cost savings – agents can speak with more customers and effectively “do more” with less.
Overcoming the Security Challenges
However, the benefits of having remote working agents balance themselves out with some unique security challenges. The data that contact centre agents are asked to handle is not secure in individual employees’ homes. While CCTV is common and used to maintain security in most office settings, it would be both difficult and expensive to install in 1,000+ agents’ homes! Without the secure boundaries provided by contact centre office walls, how can a business ensure that customer data is safe? And how can they expect their customers to trust them with sensitive information?
It is difficult enough for companies to support and enforce a strict a BYOD (bring your own device) policy within an office, impose a slightly easier to manage CYOD (choose your own device), or, the most frustrating of all for a security workforce, a COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) policy. Forget having to manage the security of an entire workforce using their own devices and their own spaces in their own homes. An ideal situation for a business managing remote employees would be the ability to allow remote agents to use their own devices, while logging into secure endpoints. And, this does work. Sensitive data can be managed via agents through secure web technologies, apps, “containers” on tablets and more. However, these approaches to secure remote data do not ensure that data that comes from a customer is safe.
No matter what, customers need to provide sensitive information to contact centre agents—this is a given. And, many still require callers to read their credit card numbers, names, dates of birth and more out loud. Beyond phone calls, CSRs have also increasingly begun to handle customer queries through live online chat channels, SMS, and even social media, creating further vectors that must be secured. The complications of this occurring in an at-home environment are obvious. Most information security teams would never even dream of piping customer data “in the clear,” i.e. unencrypted, into hundreds or even thousands of agent homes throughout the country, or even internationally. When it comes to cardholder data in particular, the PCI SSC has advised that organisations must maintain PCI DSS compliance even while employees are working remotely, and suggests following guidelines set out in its Guidance for Securing Telephone-Based Card Payments.
Securing Data Regardless of Where Employees Are Located
The only way to ensure that this information is safe, is to secure it before it ever even gets to a contact centre agent’s individual home and workspace. They should never have it in the first place. Fortunately, there are ways to do this, and they can improve both productivity and create a more frictionless experience for customers as well. Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+ solution removes contact centres and remote-working agents from the scope of PCI DSS compliance and ensures greater data protection for customers.
Eliminating any necessity for your organisation to store, process or transmit cardholder data, Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+ makes it easy to get a PCI DSS compliant payment strategy for your remote workforce up and running in days.
Customers simply follow the secure links you provide and enter their payment details, using whichever payment method they choose (SMS, email, webchat, social media, etc.); and nobody else sees their sensitive personal payment details. With no long-term contracts, flexible deployment options, and pay-as-you-go billing, Cardprotect Relay+ allows you to:
- Instantly create and send secure payment links (URLs) to customers and manage transactions via the payment service provider (PSP) of your choice
- Transact with customers in their preferred channel and get live updates on every payment link
- Track where your customers are throughout the payment process in real-time to help with troubleshooting should the need arise
- Precisely configure different payment flows across the payment channels you initiate
- Manage everything from geographical range, to how long a link stays viable, or how many retries a customer has to complete their payment
- Deploy around the globe – get remote workforces up and running in a matter of days
- Enable a frictionless customer experience in any digital channel
Remote working employees do not need to be a liability. As long as sensitive data never touches a remote work environment, remote agents can be an incredible asset to a company’s productivity and growth –improving AHT, cutting costs and maximizing employee performance, all simultaneously.