Strategies For Leading A Remote Customer Service Team
Customer service functions were already showing a migration to remote work, pre-Covid. Then along came a global pandemic, and managerial and office workers began to work at home in huge numbers. The question everyone is pondering: Will those jobs migrate back to the workplace, or stay remote?
Advantages of Remote Customer Service
Many workers would prefer to continue working remotely. The advantages are numerous: Zero commute time; every day is casual Friday; lower expenses in terms of parking, public transit, driving, office attire; less pressure in terms of child care, kids home sick, etc.; potentially flexible schedules to accommodate medical appointments for themselves or family members.
Flexible work arrangements are a boon to employee retention. Many employees who might otherwise quit due to frustrating commutes or inflexible schedules will demonstrate greater company loyalty because they value the flexibility of working from home.
Remote work can offer economic advantages to employers. Eliminating office space is the first that comes to mind. Eliminating rent, maintenance fees, utility bills and supplies can make a big difference on your bottom line.
Recruiting for remote workers has benefits as well. Because you are not limited geographically, you have a broader pool of high-quality candidates to choose from. You can also hire strategically for optimal coverage of different time zones.
Recruiting and Retaining Remote Customer Service Workers
Recruit a team of humble, smart, flexible, passionate people. Specific skills can be taught, but attitudes are often entrenched. The humble newbie tends to be more trainable than the proud, inflexible veteran.
Cultivate a social element to keep workers connected to the company and each other. The human connection is critical in customer service, so you want employees who value it and thrive on it.
Encourage and reward autonomy. Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, discovered that empowering his customer service employees to make judgment calls for any decision costing less than $100 drastically reduced the amount of input they needed from him, while also helping them feel valued and affirmed. He was also willing to “fire” his most high-maintenance customers – while this was for his own sanity, it doubtless benefited his customer service team as well.
Technology Supports Remote Working
Today’s cloud-based technology offers robust communication and project management tools which translate seamlessly to remote working. Many of these tools were already employed for in-house customer service teams to collaborate, so moving workers to a home environment may not require big shifts.
For remote working, thorough, user-friendly customer service software is critical. A good system will prioritize tickets and include all customer communications within the tickets, among other attributes.
Craft a useful, easy-to-navigate knowledge base for customer access, as well as a detailed internal knowledge base to help agents respond to customer questions and concerns.
A centralized, cloud-based project management tool such as Trello or Asana will help keep the customer service team on the same page about any projects and their corresponding stakeholders.