Our Offices are in: Budapest, New York, Rio De Janeiro, Tokyo…
Whilst Comforce has classic on-site call-center based in Central and Eastern Europe, Comforce’s international subsidiary CloudAgents operates its multilingual services remotely, with agents based around the globe; obviously, workers could not be expected to travel thousands of miles a day to work at the Budapest office!
To best illustrate how CloudAgents’ remote employees make the company work – especially when customer and agent can be thousands of miles apart – we’ve spoken to Bori Kézsmárki, the HR Partner responsible for international division. She is going to give us some of her insights.
Tell us a little about CloudAgents’ employees. If we were to invite them all to an office party, how many continents would they come from, and in how many languages would we greet them with a “hello!”?
The virtual ’office party’ is not a fiction, in the sense that we use many online platforms to build our virtual community of agents; we are a truly multinational and multilingual service. Our agents are often keen to know about each other, such as where other agents come from, what the weather is like in their respective countries, in which language and where other agents work etc. As a company, we also recognize our workers’ respective National Holidays and other significant events local to their region.
We have more than 11.000 remote agents in our database, who speak 121 different languages altogether. More than 20% of them has track record at CloudAgents by working on contact center projects and supporting customers in 40 different languages.
We started a Russian-Brazilian-South African project just last week, and it’s a great example of CloudAgents’ global nature. The Brazilian Portuguese agents, of course, came mostly from Brazil, however one of them also happens to live in Romania, whilst one of the Russian agents lives in Cyprus, and another on one of the Greek islands! Furthermore, it transpired that a South-African colleague actually lives in Hungary, so naturally we took the opportunity to invite him for a coffee. We hoped he could let other agents know that the HR department and Directors of Operations does really ’exist in real life’ not just in the Cloud. And that we are the ones managing the various campaigns during Budapest’s summer heat wave!
If I wanted to invite on-site workers to a quick meeting, I could send the invitation at 8am, knowing that I could reach everyone at that time. But what happens when the CloudAgents team would like to have a similar meeting with its remote workers around the globe?
We have found that when training or holding meetings with people speaking different languages, there are more points to consider than usual. It may be that the required language support team is located in an entirely different time zone, with anything from a 6 – 12 hour time difference, to name just a few. We have workers even further afield than that. If the project is being conducted in several different languages, we keep the personnel of that particular language’s working hours as basic as possible - we always try to find a mutually beneficial middle ground.
As a matter of course, we always record our employee training, so if somebody was unable to take part, or wanted to re-read or re-learn it at home, then all it takes is a click, and the information’s there . We are increasingly placing more emphasis on E-learning, and strive to support independent methods of self-study..
We’ve found that the interactions and sense of community that our virtual platform provides, is actually very important to our employees. As a result of that, we have found that our agents take real pleasure in our training program, even if it starts very late or early in their particular time-zone.
It is a huge help to us that our agents speak advanced-level English, and is why our training is held consistently in the English language. Obviously we are an equal opportunities employer, and relish the cultural diversity that having so many employees from around the globe, affords. CloudAgents is truly a ’cultural melting pot’ within the virtual world, and we thrive on learning from and about each other, and of each other’s’ cultures. We pride ourselves on being a very accepting, tolerant and family friendly - these are basic requisite qualities of every colleague.
Working with remote agents requires mutual trust between both employer and employee. In Hungary, employees can still be somewhat wary or unsure when it comes to working from home. What are your experiences in this regard? Also, how do you manage the practical reality of agents taking calls often being thousands of miles away on another continent?
Generally, we will allocate three people for every eight-hour shift. This is unlike a conventional call center, where there will often only be one person assigned. In the initial stages, the two most experienced agents will work, whilst the third agent acts as a buffer in standby mode. It is during this period that we provide time for the agent to improve their knowledge, or perhaps give them an opportunity to work on another project. Thanks to the rise of social media and online advertising arenas, we are no longer bound by geographical borders, so in recruiting, nothing is impossible any longer!
Home-based working is getting to be an established part of working culture in many countries. People know the benefits and subsequently decide to follow this path to build a career and there are many benefits to the work-at-home model. First and foremost, it is not essential to be tied to a fixed eight-hours-per-day schedule, and we can assign tasks that are adapted to the agent’s daily routine and lifestyle. Time and money doesn’t need to be spent on travelling to work, and so can be done within the comfort of one’s own surroundings.
When a new agent joins the team, they will undertake some initial basic training. If this is accomplished successfully, we start out by employing them for four hours a day, and extending the shift length if they prove successful at the tasks assigned. As someone becomes a more senior supervisor, they are able to take part in more campaigns, and subsequently see an increase in wages. Our supervisors are almost always former agents, so can be located anywhere in the world, and thus are well experienced long-time employees.
As part of the international HR department, you are also actively involved in the recruitment process. Because of this, you are the one of the first people to ‘meet’ future CloudAgents from all over the globe. Please, share with us a memorable experience in connection with that!
Due to the nature of our work, we unfortunately don’t get the chance to meet our employees in person. But every time I travel to a different country I think about whether there are any agents of ours living there. Last time I was in Slovenia for a friend’s wedding, I was on the road and struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me. I found out that he also worked in the call-center sector as a Slovenian-speaking agent. At that time, CloudAgents was looking to recruit Slovenian agents, so my ’recruiter self’ tried to convince him of the benefits of working for us. He proceeded to laugh, and on introducing himself we quickly discovered that he was actually a Slovenian agent working for CloudAgents, who I myself had talked to on Skype, and sent emails to, earlier! He had also taken our training program, but we hadn’t met personally before. We were both pleased to have met in such circumstances, and chatted for the rest of the journey. He also told of another female Slovenian CloudAgent whom he had met virtually through work. After meeting face-to-face they went on a coffee date... So as they say, starting out virtual really doesn’t matter when it comes to a love-story!
Borbála Kézsmárki has worked as an HR Partner for CloudAgents since 2014. She began her career in the field of communications, working initially for an advertising agency, and then going on to gain experience through working in various companies’ marketing and public relations departments. Following that, she chose to focus on enhancing her expertise as an HR Partner within the retail sector. She has also worked for MOL and AmRest, an operator of Pizza Hut, Starbucks and KFC restaurants in Central Europe. Prior to that, she has lived in a variety of countries, from Indonesia to Italy to Belgium. This has given her the unique ability to communicate easily and effectively with those from different cultures.