How to manage a remote customer service team

Here are some tips and tricks on how to improve the remote work experience and deliver excellent customer service.

Having a remote customer service team offers many advantages to your organization, especially now.

With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping many workers at home, the ability to successfully manage a remote customer service team has never been more crucial. 

And, as Deloitte’s 2019 Global Contact Center Survey revealed, more and more companies are choosing to utilize remote working. Over the next two years, the number of companies with a remote presence will increase from 34% to 56%.

In this post, we’ll explain why remote customer service team management is important and give some tips on how you can manage your customer support team remotely.

What is remote customer service team management, and why does it matter?

Remote customer service team management is the art of managing a customer care team who doesn’t work in the same location as you.

The development of “telecommuting” technology, such as Zoom and Slack, allows people to log in from anywhere and get to work.

Meanwhile, online customer service tools allow teams to take and respond to customer requests over email, chat, or phone.

Remote customer service employees are becoming increasingly popular as a resource to call upon for organizations. In an increasingly globalized world, the ability to base your support team in places and time zones that work to your advantage can be the edge you need over your competition.

Studies show that remote employees are often more productive and engaged than onsite employees. MIT Sloan research showed that “Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located.

A remote customer service model also removes the overhead of a physical contact center. This way, you can enjoy the cost-saving benefits of outsourcing but also maintain control of coaching, training, and performance measurement.

What’s more, while the Covid-19 pandemic is still preventing people worldwide from going to the office, it’s a pragmatic option to keep your service going at a good level. 

How to manage a remote customer service team

Build a team culture

Having a team culture is vital to ensuring your customer support team, based in scattered locations, is providing consistent service that reflects your organization’s needs.

Having shared core values is important to forming that team culture. Set shared goals and targets, and find ways to celebrate them as a team when they are met.

If targets aren’t met, then perform an internal audit and see where the issues may lie. Identify those bottlenecks in the process and make it more streamlined.

Meanwhile, personal goals should also be set, so each employee knows you recognize their strengths (yes, their weaknesses as well) and value them as individuals.

Hire well 

When you hire people to work in your remote customer service team, you need to ensure they align with your organization’s values and goals. That way, you know they’ll do their best to help the company grow.

You also need to know that they’ll be effective in remote work. Zapier wrote a fantastic list of what makes people good remote workers, summarized below:

1. Doers. Doers will get stuff done even without being given a specific task. You'll still have to provide direction and guidance around the most important things, but a doer will make something happen in the absence of that. 

2. Trustworthy. Trust is key to remote work. If you don’t trust your remote customer support staff, you won’t be able to focus on your work.

3. Good writers. Remote workers mostly have to communicate with the written word. If they’re no good at that, you’ll struggle to understand them, and communication will break down.

4. Happy alone. While it’s still important to socialize with your remote customer support team, they won’t be able to do this every day, so you need to know they’re comfortable without regular social contact.

Keep productivity and motivation high

Customer service, wherever you are working from, can be a tough job. Dealing with complaints, possibly from aggravated or aggressive customers, means that your team may need support from time to time.

If they’re working remotely, they can’t just wander over to your desk and have a chat when they’re concerned about something. Staying in regular contact and asking them how they’re doing will go a long way to helping your remote customer service employee feel appreciated.

You should engage with your team daily, whether it be over email, chat, or, ideally, video conferencing. You will help your remote employees feel included and “in the loop” by constantly engaging with them.

Make time for regular training sessions via online meeting software to ensure their personal development is constantly catered for, regardless of location. 

Just as you are looking to hire trustworthy remote employees (see above), you also need to show them trust.

Gallup study found that remote workers work four hours more than on-site workers. Trusting your remote customer support team to do their job without micromanaging them is rewarded with their productivity and commitment. 

Another way to motivate your remote customer service colleagues is to minimize the manual and repetitive work they have to do.

Raffle Workplace eliminates manual work by a massive 97% and cuts search time by 85%. Reducing this laborious work frees employees up to do work they’re actually motivated to do: help their customers.

Use the right tools

When you’ve got people working for you offsite, choosing the right tools is even more important. When you’re working from home, there’s no IT department to quickly resolve technical issues.

We’ve already mentioned easy-to-use tools like Slack as ways to communicate throughout the day. For longer conversations, video meeting software like Google Meet is advised to help you talk face-to-face with your colleagues.

File-sharing sites like Dropbox and project management tools like Trello may help you organize your team efficiently.

Most importantly, you’ll need good customer care tools. These could include call center software to take, monitor, and record calls, as well as track metrics from those calls.

Knowledge-sharing customer support software is also a good idea when managing a remote team. This brings us to...

Share knowledge

Efficient sharing of knowledge is never more important than when working remotely. Without being able to turn and ask your colleague a question quickly, it’s imperative that you ensure your team have access to the answers fast.

After all, according to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, 99% of customers say that getting a satisfactory response or talking to someone knowledgeable is essential for a great customer experience.

A well-written and continuously updated knowledge base is a good start. A knowledge base is a collection of published documents and information, typically including answers to frequently asked questions, how-to guides and videos, troubleshooting instructions, introductory articles, glossaries and definition lists, and other useful information for customers.

Just having the knowledge base often won’t be enough.

Esteban Kolsky and [24]7’s research finds that 28% of an agent’s time is spent searching for the right answer, which can only be found 20% of the time.

Using AI-driven technology like Raffle Workplace to search the knowledge base and find answers efficiently would give you the edge over your competition and reduce the time to give customers an accurate answer.

Track the data

Beyond hiring well, establishing a great company culture, and regular training, how can you ensure your colleagues are performing to a high standard?

One key way is to track the data. Among other metrics, you might use these as KPIs:

  • Average waiting time - looking at the time customers spend waiting to speak to your agents is a good way to assess how quickly your team resolves customer requests.

  • Average time on calls - This metric can help you identify if: a) your agent is spending too long to resolve inquiries and b) whether they are spending too little time on calls and, therefore, not providing a quality service. It’s a fine line!

  • Knowledge gaps - Identifying which subjects your customers aren’t getting timely information on is a good way to improve your future performance. Raffle Insights allows you to assess how your agents are interacting with our AI tools and whether customers are satisfied with the answers they provide.

  • Service level - using an agent scorecard can help you identify the levels of service your agents are offering. Agents with low scores represent an opportunity to improve your processes or knowledge sharing.
Consider your “out of hours” cover options

Finally, one opportunity that having a remote customer support team brings is to have agents worldwide, covering different time zones. This potentially allows a 24/7 service.

However, you should think about whether your customer base is truly global and needs this.

A more cost-effective option could be to utilize some automated or AI-driven first-line support solution for customers seeking help outside your main business hours.

Final thoughts: Remote customer service team management

Utilizing remote workers for your customer service is a useful option, especially in the current situation. 

However, managing the situation takes organization, communication, and commitment to ensure your company vision is reflected in your employees.

Get the technology right and share knowledge effectively, and you’ll make it a success.

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