COVID-19 has changed the world in no uncertain terms. Work-from-home was frowned upon by multinationals as it was believed that productivity takes a hit when people weren’t working out of their offices. Thanks to COVID-19, working from home is the new normal.
Freelancers, independent consultants, small and medium businesses were already opening up to the concept of working out of their homes. With better communications technology, work from home has not been a problem during this pandemic. Many CEOs of large businesses have opined that they would undoubtedly let their employees work out of their homes regularly even after the lockdown ends.
20 Super-Useful Tips to Manage Remote Customer Service Team
Remote working is definitely in vogue now but having to manage a remote customer service team comes with its challenges. Proper communication channels will help track the progress of each of the employees in the customer service department. For managing a remote customer service team well, you need to be able to anticipate the challenges in advance and come up with a playbook that can be a reference guide in this situation. Here are 20 tips using which you can manage your remote customer service effectively.
1. Make them feel a part of the team
One of the biggest challenges working remotely is the isolation that it brings. People are social animals, and if we don’t get to interact with others on a personal basis, then it will show in the way we work. Socializing is important to us as human beings. It can take a significant hit on one’s psychology if that doesn’t happen regularly.
When you are managing a remote team, ensure that there is ample interaction with everyone so that they don’t feel left out. Ask everybody how they are doing and normalize opening up to each other. Be aware of the perils of the lack of social interaction and try everything within your means to get people to interact with each other. If possible, allocate one manager to a set of employees to whom they can share anything, like a buddy system.
2. Team values
Remind the remote customer support team continually of the values that you stand for. Shared values can do immense good for one’s mental health. When working from home, it can be impossible to share things and ask for feedback as and when you please, because the customer might be waiting. At times like these, you need to respond to customers based on the company values that you’ve been taught. It will help you keep a business mindset and remind you of what is right.
Having values like-” the customer is always right” or “Investigate, then respond” are the ones that will help your team perform the best when they are under pressure. If you don’t have a set of shared values yet, then now is the time to write them down after consulting with all the stakeholders.
3. Use collaboration tools
If you have just 2-3 people in your team, then a single WhatsApp group is enough for communication, but if you have a larger group, then you need to use collaboration tools. Using useful communication tools can be helpful when you are looking to share information or trying to follow up to see the work that has been completed so far.
There are a lot of tools that can be extremely useful when you are working remotely. Jira, Slack, Intercom Inbox, ProofHub, Basecamp, Trello, etc., are some of the most popular collaboration tools for remote teams.
4. Use Automation
Working remotely also gives you the time to innovate your existing workflows. See if you can automate them to your advantage. For repetitive tasks like tagging conversations, mentions, and answering frequently asked questions, create a mechanism that addresses this without human interaction.
When you use automation, you will be able to re-direct questions to the right team, reduce the response time, and have faster resolutions to customer’s problems. Chatbots is one of the most productive automation tools that you can use right now where your customers can ask common questions. They can even be used to direct the customer to the right staff.
5. Create a sense of fun
We have mentioned earlier in this article how important it is for humans to interact with each other. The water cooler talks and light gossips get people through during trying times. When working from home, you cannot have all these talks. This is where a manager should step in and create a sense of fun when people are working remotely.
Having a highly engaged and happy customer service team is the first step towards having a highly efficient remote team. If there is no sense of fun, they will feel suffocated, which will directly affect the quality of the responses to the customer.
Create rituals that will set the tone for the day. For example, on Fridays, people can be encouraged to sing before the start of a meeting. On another day, they could include kids in their meetings, and so on. Having challenges, which can either be just for fun or something intellectual, will also keep the spirits alive.
6. Use an efficient video conferencing tool
The most popular video conferencing app in this pandemic has been Zoom. Even though it comes with its share of security issues, people swear by Zoom because of its intuitive and clean interface. If you are unsure about Zoom because of the security issues, then you need to find any other video conferencing tool that has all the features that you are looking for and doesn’t go kaboom in the middle of a meeting.
Give your remote customer service team the tools that they require for succeeding. Working with a sloppy tool will only increase their stress levels. Since in-person meetings aren’t possible at all, video conferencing tools are going to be supremely important. Highfive and Google Hangouts are some of the other tools that are widely recommended.
7. Reward your team
Another way to keep your remote customer service team happy is to reward them at regular intervals. Every time they do quality work, ensure that you appreciate them, and if they go beyond their designated job to do something phenomenal, reward them appropriately. The level of rewards can vary based on what they do. Ensure that praising and rewarding employees is a part of your company’s psyche.
People want to feel appreciated and respected for what they do. In fact, most people leave their jobs because they don’t feel as if they are making a difference. If you don’t let your people feel as if they are the reason why the company exists in the first place, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Even a simple email praising an employee for good work done can do a world of good to their psyche.
8. Set expectations
Most of the employees from your customer service team might be new to working from home. If you already have experience managing a remote team, then you have to set expectations right. You need to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the quality of the work and knowing what is expected of them. Not only should you set individual goals for each of them, but also have shared goals that will keep them motivated. Giving them personal goals will keep them valued and appreciated.
9. Don’t be a micro-manager
There is nothing that kills motivation than having to face the wrath of a micro-manager. It is wise to advise your remote customer service team to do what is necessary and then let them do it in peace. No one likes to have someone behind their back to check on their every move. Some managers might feel a loss of control since their team is not available in physical proximity. But that doesn’t mean that they should let their employees feel as if they cannot be trusted.
10. Communicate openly
Now is certainly not the time for managers to communicate in cryptic codes. Clear communication is the only way you can tide over the challenges that remote work bestows upon us. Openness, honesty, and transparency is the only way for you to work with remote customer service teams.
Any ideas that you want to convey should be done in an open manner without bias or aggressiveness. Talk to your customers openly and encourage them to do the same. Even making small talk with your team regularly is good. It will ease off the tension if it is there.
11. Have one-on-one meetings
Communication is the key to managing a highly functioning team. While you might talk to your employees regularly through collaboration tools or on group video calls, we would also advise you to take ten minutes out of your day to have one-on-one conversations. Check up on everyone, how they are doing, and ask them if there is any way you can help them. If anything is within your power that they ask you for, then do it without fail.
Regular communication on a personal basis is a great way to provide feedback to each of the employees. While giving feedback, ensure that you sound empathetic and make them understand that you have their best interests in mind.
12. Chart a growth plan for each of them
At the end of the day, your remote customer service team members want to know where they will be heading next in their careers. Even if that means you have to lose out on some of your top-performing employees, you should be open to them leaving your company if it means a successful transition for them. You cannot expect an employee to stay with you forever. Give your current employees the means, skills, opportunity, and freedom to grow big so that they can progress in their careers. They will always be grateful for you and will always recommend newer candidates for your company.
13. Concentrate on accomplishing goals
Even now, some companies only care about how many hours the employees clocked. We will discourage you from taking this route as this would mean that the employees would only care about clocking so many hours instead of ensuring that goals are accomplished on time, and work is done with precision.
Take a step back to see if your internal goals are being accomplished. If they are getting done constantly, then there is nothing to worry about; if not, then you need to find out what went wrong. Careful analysis of the process that you follow will help rather than concentrating on the time each employee spends in front of their laptops.
14. Establish a mission and vision statement
You need to have a set of core values to drive the company in the right direction. Without a clear vision and mission statement, you cannot help everyone feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Only when they know that they have a clear objective, would they be driven to take risks, go beyond their call of duty, and take ownership of their work.
15. Hire people with the right values
If you hire people who do not have the same values as you do, then you will be setting yourself for disappointment. Even someone with the right set of skill sets might not be suitable for your business if they don’t believe in the same things that you do. During the interview process, ensure that you find out if the candidate understands what you aim to achieve, how you intend to do it, and the path that you will take to do it.
16. Have clear KPIs
Even if you are working from home, there is no reason to be flexible on your KPIs. Maybe you might need to leave out some of them, but the essential metrics need to be calculated without fail. Before you start working from home, you need to set this expectation straight so that there is no confusion in your remote team.
The KPIs should be monitored and used as a benchmark in the coming months. It will be fascinating to see if the numbers have improved after working from home during this pandemic or has it gone down. Using this, you can optimize your business process and streamline your operations.
17. Document processes
A considerable challenge if you are remotely onboarding someone is that you cannot train them onsite. If they were at the office, the new employee could ask questions, but doing the same remotely can be tiring for both the parties involved. This is precisely why you need to document all the processes that are usually followed so that you don’t have to waste your time during the onboarding process.
Provide this information in an organized, step-by-step manner so that it is easy to follow and implement for anyone. It will also be a reference for existing employees if they want to go back and check the processes that are usually followed whenever they are confused. Using this document, the newly employed your remote customer service team can train themselves without external help.
18. Create a strong company culture
Having a strong company culture is one of the essential things, especially if you were to manage a remote customer service team. The company culture that you follow will repeatedly be visible in the form of appreciation comments by the customers or complaints from them. When you do not get to work closely with your employees, it is only the culture that was created, which will keep you together.
Virtual meet-ups just for catching up, having a rewards system, perks, and other benefits is what makes a company culture. Every employee who is a part of the company should feel as if they are a part of something big.
19. Give them proper training
When working remotely your customer service and support team should be given the right training. Ensure that during the onboarding process, the employee gets to know everything that he/she has to follow so that they give the best results. Ensure that everyone from your team gets to interact with the new hires. They should be made to feel welcomed.
Giving them proper product training and the appropriate customer service protocols to follow will help them give their best. Like we mentioned earlier in step no 17, ensure that you create a document that outlines all the processes that are followed so that the employee can train themselves and start working.
20. Create a log of all interactions
Customer support teams deal with a lot of clients daily. If the interactions are not logged and appropriately documented, then the next time the same customer calls, it would be difficult for the team to guide them properly. The prior communications should be clearly documented and available for any customer service agent so that they can use it to continue the conversation for the returning customer.
If the interactions are not documented, then the customer service agent will have to ask the same questions to the customers that the previous agent asked. This will frustrate the customer on the other end as they would not want to waste their time repeating the same information. Some problems might take at least 3-4 calls for complete resolution. Imagine having to share your plight with four different customer service agents.
These twenty tips can help you manage a remote customer service team with ease. But you should know that each team comes with its own challenges and strengths. Focus on the strength of the team so that they can easily face any kind of problems that are thrown at them. Your remote team can be as good as your in-house team if you give them proper training, effective tools, and the right set of values. Set definite boundaries that they understand and adhere to.
If you are managing a remote customer service team across different time zones, there will be challenges, some of which you may have never anticipated at all. Thankfully, with the kind of digital communication tools that are available these days, you can make all these barriers feel as if they don’t exist. Ensure that you give everything necessary for your team. Make them feel happy, valued, and satisfied.