Remote working provides both employers and employees with numerous benefits. So, it is no surprise that this type of work environment is quickly increasing in popularity.
In fact, Amazon announced in April that it was adding 5,000 new remote customer support agents. And the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a study in 2015 saying that remote customer service teams are able to handle 13 percent more calls than in-office workers.
A remote work environment is facilitated by the increased availability and affordability of communications technology, as well as by faster and more reliable Internet service. Remote workers are now able to perform job functions from any location worldwide.
However, having a remote customer service team working in various areas around the world has its challenges. Time zones being one of them. Managers also must be able to actively communicate with and track the progress of each employee regardless of where they are located.
6 Tips to Manage Your Remote Customer Service Team
1. Hire the Right People
One of the more significant things that you can do to manage a remote work team is to ensure that you take adequate steps during the hiring process to select the cream of the crop. When you do not see your employees every day, you need to trust that they are doing their job as required throughout their work hours. The ideal candidate for your job opening will also have excellent written and oral communication skills.
Remember that not everyone has the skills and mentality to work remotely. But many people want to work in a home environment. You should look for individuals who have successfully worked remotely for other companies before.
These individuals should have a track record for having great performance and productivity levels from home. They also should be able to focus while they are working. It is easy to be lured away from work by your smartphone, or even by a neighbor knocking on the door.
Finally, the ideal candidate will have the job-specific skills and knowledge necessary to complete the job functions that are required.
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2. Give Your Employees the Proper Training
After you have worked so hard to find the right candidate to fill your position, you need to take adequate steps to properly train this individual. Remote workers need to have a strong support system that includes more than just the manager as a contact. When working alone, the worker needs to have many people that he or she can turn to with a question or a problem. Your extensive on-boarding process will educate the new employee on the various tools and resources available.
It is also important to indoctrinate a new hire into company culture. Different groups of the company should interact with this individual. Education should be provided on specific products and services since every job has its own unique customer service challenges. More specific information should also be provided about the individual’s new job requirements.
If you expect the individual to perform his or her job effectively, this person needs to be able to reach someone for assistance at any time of day when he or she may be working. After all, this individual will be helping a customer, and the customer needs a fast response. Since a live person will probably not be available for your remote worker to contact at the time, you should set up a private wiki, like a Sales PlayBook, that has answers to any questions that your remote workers may have.
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3. Foster Open Communication
Communication is essential in a remote work environment, and this includes both oral and written communication. To facilitate communication with remote workers who may each be working different work hours and in various locations around the world, using an in-office chat messaging app is a great idea. You can request each remote worker to leave a message about their work activities for the day and what they plan to do the following day. Any challenges can also be shared on this platform.
You can also set up video links between your remote workers or even host an employee summit from time to time. Your remote workers need to feel as though they are supported and are part of a team. You need to have a virtual “open door” policy so that your remote workers can effectively do their jobs and manage their challenges. Remote workers should be allowed to work independently, and you should trust them to do so. However, it may be of nice you to chat “hi” at the beginning of a work shift or to check in at the end of their shift.
4. Use the Right Customer Service Software
Finding the right customer service software for your remote workers to use is critical. The right software program can ensure that all customers receive a prompt response, and it can be used to avoid redundant work efforts. More than that, staff and managers can use the software program to review communications with customers, monitor client relationships and even track conversations.
Your customer service software may enable your remote team to log details about all customer interactions. This software may provide analytical tools to help you determine how many calls each remote worker is taking each day, how much time they spend on the phone and how many hours they spend dealing with each issue. This is essential if you want to ensure that your team is working as required.
It’s also important to allow open communication between your customer service team and your sales team. Your Sales PlayBook is the perfect place to do this!
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5. Set Clear Guidelines and KPIs
All new remote workers should be provided a set of guidelines and job performance requirements.
For example, you may set expectations regarding email response time. You also must use monthly, quarterly, or annual reviews to keep your team on track. Remember that key performance indicators, or KPIs, can help your remote workers to focus more efficiently on the tasks that are most important.
They can also assist with helping individuals advance in the company by meeting specific goals. As a manager, you should monitor key performance indicators. When you discuss KPIs and overall performance with remote workers, ensure that your analysis is fair and just based on how you have analyzed and reviewed other employees.
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6. Build a Team Culture
Because remote workers are isolated in their own homes or other spaces, it is easy for them to feel alone and as though they are not actually a vital part of the company. The reality is that customer service agents have stressful and exhausting positions, and they need the relief of chatting with a co-worker from time to time.
If possible, bring your remote workers in for a catered lunch or for team building activities. You can even structure a full retreat that includes training sessions and social time. When this is not possible, you can reward your remote workers with a gift card for working hard. When you take these steps, you may be able to help your remote workers communicate better and to feel valued. You may notice that employee retention rates increase when you make this effort.
With the right strategy, you can build an excellent team of trusted and hardworking remote workers. Use technology to break the barriers associated with remote workers located in different areas of the world and to facilitate all aspects of hiring and managing your team.
About the Author:
Helen Eagleton, a freelance blogger from Boston, follows topics in the realm of technology, digital marketing, and business in general. When she’s not researching for her next article, she enjoys watching documentaries and exploring the nature. Reach her @eagleton_helen on Twitter.