So much has changed in recent years regarding job preferences, right? Working from home was frowned upon by multinationals. Why? Because it was believed that productivity took a hit when people worked out of their offices. But now, it’s quite the contrary, right? If you come to think of it, when COVID-19 hit us, it altered the world’s view on “working from home.” People are encouraged to take up remote job offers, owing to the benefits they provide (both to the employees and employers.) It created a balance between “online” and “offline”. And this is clearly evident in the case of remote customer service. How? Let’s see.
What is Remote Customer Service?
Remote customer service refers to providing customer support and assistance without being physically present at the same location as the customer. The representatives help customers over the phone, via email, chat, or through other online platforms.
They resolve issues and address customer inquiries with the help of technology and communication tools while working from a different location. This removes the need for in-person interaction. Moreover, companies can utilize it to provide round-the-clock support, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction. The lack of constraints (well, in the case of being present at a physical office) will help businesses scale their customer service operations up or down.
Importance of Remote Customer Service
You will get a better grasp of it when you understand why it is so important to businesses. Here’s what I think:
- Feedback Collection: It enables businesses to collect real-time customer feedback via various online channels. This feedback can be invaluable for making immediate improvements. Plus, it adapts to changing customer needs. Using advanced tools for this will further streamline the process.
- Global Access: It allows businesses to serve customers worldwide. This expands the market reach and opportunities for growth.
- Cost Efficiency: Reduces operational costs, enabling businesses to invest resources in improving products or services.
- Customer Satisfaction: Provides swift, efficient support. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Data Security: Ensures customer data privacy and compliance, building trust and confidence among customers.
- Scalability: Offers flexibility to scale operations based on demand. By scaling them up and down, you can ensure efficient handling of customer inquiries and enhance overall service quality.
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Limitations of Remote Customer Service
Though it is beneficial, remote support and assistance have their own challenges. This may come in the form of technical issues or misunderstandings.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues you might encounter:
- Communication Challenges: Now, let’s admit it. Communication is most effective when it is face-to-face. Any form of indirect contact can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunications. This can directly affect the quality of customer service.
- Security Concerns: Now, dealing with sensitive customer data at your home will automatically raise security concerns. Right? Clear measures need to be taken to protect customer information from cyber threats.
- Training and Supervision: More effort and specialized strategies are required to make things work.
- Work-Life Balance: Have you gone beyond your usual working hours to complete that one task, which became 5? We’ve all been here. It’s hard to establish a boundary when you control the time.
Now, before we give you some important tips, you need to know the scope.
Remote Customer Service Jobs
Here are some of the positions that might interest you. I’ve also added an approximate salary package you can expect.
1. Customer Service Representative
They handle inquiries, resolve issues, and provide information about products or services. Their main purpose is communicating with customers through phone calls, emails, or online chat to ensure customer satisfaction.
Average salary: Approximately $50,000 per year, depending on experience and the complexity of the role.
2. Technical Support Specialist
As the name suggests, they assist customers with technical issues and troubleshooting problems. E.g., they help customers fix software, hardware, and technical product issues from a distance.
Average salary: Approximately between $30,000 and $60,000 annually.
3. Live Chat Agent
Live chat agents engage with customers in real-time through website chat interfaces. They guide them through the online purchasing process.
Average salary: Typically falls between $25,000 and $45,000 per year, with potential bonuses based on performance.
4. Virtual Call Center Agent
They handle inbound and outbound calls from a remote location. These agents provide information, process orders, and resolve issues over the phone.
Average salary: They earn between $35,000 and $50,000 annually. There may be variations based on call volume.
Now that we have a clear idea, let’s dive into something really intriguing. Our team has come up with a few tips that will be beneficial to companies that are struggling to manage a remote customer service team. Well, we know how demanding it can be. But worry not!
20 Super-Useful Tips to Manage Remote Customer Service Team
Just as you saw (a few scrolls above), having to manage a remote customer service team comes with its challenges. Proper communication channels will help track the progress of each employee in the customer service department.
To manage 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:
1. Make them feel a part of the team
One of the biggest challenges of 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 with 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. Why? 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” will help your team perform the best when they are under pressure. If you don’t have a set of shared values yet, take a pause right now! Consult with your stakeholders and jot them down.
3. Use collaboration tools
If you have a few people on your team, then a single WhatsApp group is enough for communication. But in case you have a larger group, 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 can re-direct questions to the right team, reduce the response time, and have faster resolutions to customers’ problems. Chatbots are one of the most productive automation tools that you can use right now. Here, 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 gossip 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, directly affecting the quality of the responses to the customer.
Create rituals that will set the tone for the day. For instance, 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 during the pandemic was Zoom. Even though it comes with its share of security issues, people swear by Zoom because of its intuitive and clean interface.
But again, if you are unsure about Zoom because of the security issues, you can find any other video conferencing tool you like. Many will have all the features that you are looking for (and won’t go kaboom in the middle of a meeting!)
Give your remote customer service team the tools that they require to succeed. Working with a sloppy tool will only increase their stress levels. Since in-person meetings aren’t impossible, video conferencing tools will 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 regularly. 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.
You’d want to feel appreciated and respected for what you do. Right?
In fact, most people leave their jobs because they don’t feel as if they are making a difference. Make sure you let your people feel as if they are the reason why the company exists in the first place. 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 not be used to working from home. If you already have experience managing a remote team, you must set expectations right.
You need to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the quality of the work and knowing what is expected of them. Not only should you set individual goals for each of them, but you also have shared goals that will keep them motivated. Try giving them personal goals. It will keep them valued and appreciated.
9. Don’t be a micro-manager
Nothing kills motivation more 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 peacefully.
Trust is key!
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. If there is even the slightest tension, it will ease it off.
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 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. Also, 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 to 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 clock. We will discourage you from taking this route. Why? Because this will create the impression that you only care about clocking so many hours. Further, your employees will solely focus on completing the hours instead of ensuring that goals are accomplished on time.
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. Focus on what’s important!
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 like 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 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 up for disappointment. Even someone with the right 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. Let them know 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 if it has decreased. Using this, you can streamline your business process and 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 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 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 be visible in the form of appreciation or complaints from the customers.
When you do not get to work closely with your employees, it is only the culture that was created that will keep you together.
Virtual meet-ups just for catching up, having a rewards system, perks, and other benefits make a company culture. Every employee who is a part of the company should feel like 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 employees get to know everything they must follow to give the best results. Ensure that everyone from your team gets to interact with the new hires. They should be made to feel welcome.
Giving them proper product training and the appropriate customer service protocols to follow will help them give their best. As we mentioned earlier, 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
Lastly, understand that your customer support team deals with many clients daily. If the interactions are not logged and appropriately documented, it would be difficult for the team to guide them properly. This will cause chaos when the same customer calls again.
The prior communications should be clearly documented and available for any customer service agent so that they can use them to continue the conversation with the returning customer.
So, why is this so important?
If the interactions are not documented, then the customer service agent will have to repeat the questions that the previous agent asked. This will frustrate the customer on the other end. Nobody likes having their time wasted.
Some problems might take at least a couple of calls for complete resolution. Imagine having to share your plight with four different customer service agents.
Keep in mind that each team comes with its own challenges and strengths. The team focuses on their strength to tackle any challenges that come their way. 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.
And, before you leave, don’t forget to try SurveySparrow. It free!