Remote jobs have gained much popularity since the pandemic. Still, even before that, at least 70% of the global workforce was already working from home once a week, as stated in the study conducted in 2018. Remote jobs are very flexible opportunities that allow people to work from anywhere, as long as they have a good internet connection.
15 Ways You Can Manage Your Customer Team Remotely
If you want to adopt a remote dynamic with your customer team, there are things that you should take into account to make it more effective:
1. Prepare Your Team
Customer teams are the image of your brand in your customer’s eyes. How they present themselves and interact with your customers will determine the customer’s satisfaction. For that reason, they should always undergo training and preparation.
Training is even more critical when they are working remotely, as close supervision of their behavior and work method isn’t always easy and at the moment.
Why Does Training Your Team Matters?
Training your remote team allows them to learn enough about your company’s values and culture to provide the customer service that represents your brand in all its essence. It also saves you of the hurdle of micromanagement since training invariably results in an independent and highly specialized team.
Your customers benefit the most from team training. Trained agents are more likely to guide them to customer success easily and in less time than untrained agents.
How to Train Your Customer Service Team?
How you choose to train your customer service team, above all, will depend on your company’s culture.
There are many methods you can choose from and many exercises that are usually helpful for most companies. The fittest ones for small businesses who intend to save the most while still getting the best of customer service team training are:
- Creating a Bank of Video Training Material
A bank of video training materials consists of sharing and storing a list of videos done by you or other experienced agents about various work-related tasks and experiences, to pass out knowledge to new and inexperienced agents.
This method of training is very helpful since the videos are available to any agent who wishes to rewatch them, allowing them to learn in depth and when it’s most convenient for them, without time constrictions.
Overall, it takes off pressure that could exist on the learning process while allowing employees to get the best of it. In fact, studies have shown that 83 percent of workers actually prefer video task explanations.
For these reasons, it’s one of the best ways to train your team.
- Creating Virtual Lessons and Classrooms.
Still, on that note, you also have the option of teaching your agents through live video lessons in a virtual classroom.
In addition to visualizing the class, virtual lessons are interactive, giving your agents a chance and opportunity to pose questions, share their insight, and listen to their colleagues’ insight. All things that add to the experience and maximize learning.
The most famous platforms where you can host these lessons with ease and without coust are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google HangOuts.
- LMSs and LEPs
LMSs (Learning Management Systems) and LEPs (Learning Experience Platforms) are online platforms for e-learning and training that allow you to deliver, track and report customer service programs.
They are both good platforms for those looking for organized training, with the only difference between them being that LEPs are more flexible and evolutionary, accompanying the agent’s growth with its programs.
There are plenty of free LMSs and LEPs that you can choose from:
- Best Free Learning Management Systems:
- EdApp: an award-winning mobile app that has many templates to help you create and share the best lessons with your team.
- CourseSites: another great platform that allows you to post classes, interact with your team, and track their performance.
- ATutor: an app that will enable you to develop online courses and interoperable learning content.
- Have Your Customer Profile as The Basis of The Training:
A customer profile is a document that gives you insight on your customers and their patterns in relation to your company and helps you become what they need.
Through it you can have a clear image of who your customers are, where they are mostly located, what age groups most of them belong to, what are their buying patterns, their interests and what’s their overall experience with your brand.
Assuming that even in remote dynamics, the ultimate goal is still customer success, the best way to get there is by teaching your team how to deal with your specific type of customer.
You can only do that by teaching them based on facts gathered through customer profiling. Therefore using customer profiling as the bases of your training benefits your company.
Besides, statistics have already shown that 75% of consumers expect an agent to know their customer service history when their support interaction begins.
2. Focus on Your Identity and Culture
Your company should have set values that all the employees share. These values, paired with your mission and methodology, form your culture and guarantee that everyone is on the same page regarding your work method and what the company stands for.
This applies to your remote customer team too. Focusing on your brand’s identity and culture will help keep the team together even with the barrier of working a long distance from each other. It will also help them to provide a seamless customer experience across departments and generate customer satisfaction.
3. Encourage Unity within Your Customer Team
Team unity is crucial for team success.
A united team makes work easy by focusing on supporting and helping each other reach their potential. It helps create a harmonic work environment that is more prone to productivity while the satisfaction that comes from individual and collective success causes staff retention.
Still, team unity is especially challenging for remote teams since they have the disadvantage of being physically distant from each other.
As a manager, you can encourage unity by incorporating it in your culture and supporting interactions beyond work. Separate ten to fifteen-minutes daily for talking and playing and create a group chat where the whole team can interact.
Another good idea is encouraging team members to get to know each other on a personal level. Not all will be comfortable with this at first. You shouldn’t force it either, but suggest it and lead by example.
4. Define a Methodology
Get your agents all on the same page by defining a few steps to follow when interacting with customers. Things such as preset speeches or even speech rules will guarantee that your agents give your customers the best experience possible.
You can also lay out steps that might help them with their daily interaction with the rest of the team as it also helps guide them into harmony in order to provide a seamless customer experience.
5. Get Collaboration Tools
Collaboration tools are handy in remote dynamics. Through them, your team stays connected, and communication happens in an organized manner, allowing them to get work done without many hurdles while boosting productivity. You, as a manager, are also freed from micro-management, saving you a lot of time.
They can be online chatting platforms such as Whatsapp and Messenger. They can be existing cloud-based tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. You can even create your own with the help of your IT team, a cloud-based tool or software, only accessible by you and your team members (through username and password).
Creating your own software gives you the advantage of document and data storage while allowing them to be accessed by anyone authorized by the credentials. It also allows you to monitor your team and all the work that is being done.
For small businesses, based on my experience, the best chatting platforms for team collaboration are social media platforms (Facebook), messenger, telegram, or even Whatsapp. They are easy to use by anyone, and the information goes through wonderfully and with no issues. Plus, WhatsApp has the advantage of encrypted messaging.
6. Create a Knowledge Base
A knowledge base is an information repository. It stores essential information to help your team know their day-to-day activities and replaces the necessity to contact you as the manager or other team members for basic tasks, especially when a customer is waiting on your agent to provide them with answers.
Keeping in mind that no matter how good your customer team members are, there’s always a chance that they might need your help or consultation, that’s the best way to be helpful from afar.
Many successful businesses (remote or not) have implemented knowledge bases. In fact, in an Aberdeen Group study, 100% of top-performing companies have reported providing knowledgebase articles to their agents.
7. Invest in Technology
Remote jobs wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for technology. From computers to softwares, technological means are the primary basis of this dynamic.
In your particular case, probably all the operations conducted by your team will mostly happen through technological means. For that reason, it’s important that you really invest in that area.
Even if your business is small and your customer team doesn’t have many complex tasks still, you shouldn’t shy away from investing in good computers, telephones and especially in good customer service software.
There are many customer service softwares for small businesses that are FREE or give you a free trial that is worth giving a shot to.
Free Customer Service Softwares for Small Businesses:
A very popular customer service software that allows you and an unlimited number of agents, access to the best customer service tools without any costs for the first 21 days.
It’s best known for the following features: multichannel support ticketing (which means multichannel interactions between your customers and your agents), call center features, and ticketing reporting features.
Although not as popular as Freshdesk, ThriveDesk is another good platform with remarkable features to improve your customer service.
Besides the 14 days free trial, it also gives you the following features: a shared inbox, live chat, a knowledge base, and reporting features.
This simply designed platform has everything you need for exceptional customer interactions, with features such as multichannel support, a chat window (signaling if a team member is ready to help), and easy access via IOS or Android apps.
8. Invest in Automation
Have you ever texted a company through the chatting option on their app or sent them an email and got an immediate response stating that they would review your situation and get back at you as soon as possible? That was only possible through automation.
It’s a great way to save your customer team from hurdles. When your agents have to deal with repetitive tasks such as answering frequently asked questions or giving standard responses and redirecting customers, automation helps them by performing those tasks for them.
With automation, you have faster responses to customer issues and questions and save time that can be spent handling another customer.
9. Connect with Your Team in Creative Ways
An office environment has the advantage of always bringing something new as moods vary each day. While remote work, although more flexible and comfortable, can quickly become boring due to repetitiveness from the lack of human interactions.
The best way to compensate for that missing part in remote work is to bring fun to your customer team.
Some creative practices you can implement include having a designated time for fun conversation, creating fun rituals, and having fun online team activities.
Another good creative idea is to gamify your culture. Make achieving team goals fun by uplifting team members who do it in a fun, competitive manner. Keep score of each team member’s achievements, give open recognition to those who achieve those goals, and encourage other team members to do better.
For example, I had a friend who worked for a non-profit organization. She and her team’s job was to get the most number of donors possible for their causes and get people to make big donations.
Her manager used to set daily goals and a challenge once a week; anyone who met the goal would get a small bonus for it, and anyone who could win the challenge would get a bigger bonus. Besides having fun with it, her and her colleagues were more motivated for the bonus.
10. Hold Stand-up Meetings
Stand-up meetings are daily team meetings where you and your team address performance matters and discuss how the team can do better. As opposed to the fun and competitive approach I mentioned in the previous point, stand-up meetings have a more serious tone.
Their purpose is to analyze how the team did in the previous day, based on factual data and indicators- actual numbers.
When holding them, make it quick, approximately 10 minutes. Make sure to hold them right before your team gets engaged in work for that day. Highlight important aspects from the day before, both positive and negative, and set a new goal or team commitment for the day ahead.
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11. Encourage The Use of Video Chat
Normalize the use of video chat at work. It’s the best possible alternative to physical human interaction when your team works remotely.
You can easily incorporate it into your team rituals, such as the daily stand-up meetings and fun moments you create to help your team relax.
However, there might be cases where video calls are a little difficult to execute for timing matters and differences in time zones, usually when your customer team is spread across the globe. In those cases, adapt the practice. Instead of incorporating video chat in your daily meetings, set a specific day of the week and hour that works for most.
12. Set Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are easy tools that help you witness how each individual’s been doing within your team, through analysis. They measure the employee’s performance based on the indicators that you (as the employer) set as evidence that they are growing as a professional and making progress.
Setting KPIs only works if you reward your employees by giving them raises and bonuses, trusting them with more complex tasks, or even promoting them.
Besides helping your company grow, KPIs are also very enriching for employees; they allow them to grow as individuals and help them reach their goals.
A manager can further help by keeping track of their progress, holding regular private meetings with employees who need it, providing training when necessary, and helping them reach their individual goals.
13. Offer Your Team a Stipend
A Stipend is a fixed amount paid by an employer to an employee to cover offset expenses. Paying your team members a stipend besides their salary will not only satisfy them, but it will also help those who don’t have all the basics for remote work.
For instance, a stipend can help one of your employees cover their internet expenses or help another fix an issue on their computer. If we really think about it, those expenses would be your company’s responsibility in a regular office job.
Even though their salaries could cover those expenses, you choosing to do it through a stipend is a way of showing you care about creating the conditions that a good employer should have ready for them but can’t have because of the remote dynamic.
14. Practice The Skills
Find creative and fun ways to stretch yours and your team’s muscles by exercising all the key points that you’ve learned about customer service and remote working. You can plan random team exercises where you remind them of your company’s values and approach.
This is a great way to ensure that your agents are well trained, prepared to represent your brand to the customer, and ready to work from afar.
14. Embrace Unpredictability and Change
No matter how much effort you put into defining how remote work will go, this type of dynamic is always susceptible to unpredictability and, in consequence, rapid change.
Not having your team together and physically close to you can feel like hell at times; when a team member is out of reach while you were counting on them or when one of your team members has a sudden technical difficulty at an inappropriate time, and things are just out of control.
Various scenarios can spiral you and your team out of the path and force you to adapt and make sudden changes, and if you struggle with that, your company might not progress.
That’s why you need to embrace unpredictability and changes by always expecting the unexpected (without being overtly negative) and prioritizing solutions rather than complaints when faced with adversity.
Having a remote customer team doesn’t equate to having a physical, in-office team. There are both hardships and benefits to this dynamic.
Benefits of Remote Teams
Some of the benefits of having a remote customer team are:
Remote work has no office expenses, no hiring expenses, and it gives you the possibility of growth and expansion without the need for physical relocation, cheapening your company’s growth.
- Hiring is less time consuming:
When working remotely, hiring is much easier and faster than if you were doing it physically. This is mainly because physical recruitment has many stages that are painfully slow because of schedules and logistics.
- More options for potential hires:
If you’re remotely focused, you automatically have access to various talent and customer call agents. This also opens you to more quality and more experience.
For example, instead of only having customer agents available in your region and who probably only speak one language, you can now have agents from around the globe and with knowledge of various languages that add to your customer service offer.
- More productivity:
Most people who work from home have a designated space for that, generally a calm space where they can work without being disturbed and without interruptions. In addition to that, there’s also the absence of co-workers and their conversations which can be distracting.
All creates the perfect base for more productivity.
- Employee retention:
Employees generally deal with a lot of stress when working in an office. From dislocation to the time spent confined in the office, many factors affect them negatively.
A remote dynamic reduces stress factors by allowing employees to work from where they feel comfortable and manage their time even when they are under a predetermined schedule.
All of this generates employee satisfaction and may inspire staff loyalty.
- Flexibility and scaling:
One of the main advantages of remote work is how flexible it is, allowing you to plan your agents’ time and scale your team.
Assuming that you hire agents from all over the world, with different time zones, you can easily plan their schedules in a way that best suits your company’s customer service flow and scale agents with opposite time zones.
- Quality work:
By working more comfortably and with more flexibility, your agents can perform better and exhale at their tasks, thus delivering more quality to your customer.
- Possibility for more employee benefits:
We’ve talked about how working remotely is very economical. Since you’ll practically be saving by not having an office, you can invest a little in agents’ benefits, such as paid health insurance or even paid gym memberships for all your agents.
Besides benefiting their physical and mental health, these will generate employee satisfaction.
- More hours of customer service:
With the benefit of scaling your agents also comes the benefit of extending your services for longer hours, so that your customers have 24/7 access to help regardless of their time zones.
Disadvantages of Remote Teams
When you work remotely, and all of your work is online-based, there’s always the possibility of one of your agents having unsafe networks that put at risk confidential information, such as customers’ data.
Besides that, not knowing your agents can be dangerous when you expose them to customer data. Yet, this issue can be solved by having your employees sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to ensure no information gets leaked.
- It can be especially challenging for new agents:
Besides being harder to train and monitor a new agent, they can struggle to learn your communication style and how to use the tools -without anybody to actively lead them by example.
- Low product knowledge:
Product knowledge can also be affected because instead of it being based on the actual everyday experience of the product, most times, it’s based on information available in knowledge bases.
Although helpful, that information can’t replace the value of experience, and for that reason, under those circumstances, your agents will never have full knowledge of your product.
- You can easily overlook some agents:
The fact that your agents are dispersed and you aren’t physically close to watch everyone’s journey and progress can cause you to overlook specific agents.
Even though daily meetings won’t allow you to ignore their existence entirely, you probably will pay more attention to those who regularly interact with you, in opposition to the quieter ones. Especially being that virtual silence seems ten times bigger than it would appear if it were in person.
- Your agents can struggle to get your value and mission:
A big advantage of having an office or general physical place of work for your team is that a lot of the company’s culture and mission is transcribed in the place’s disposition and decoration, serving as a constant reminder of it for your team.
In the absence of that physical element, understanding your company’s culture and values to the core can be quite challenging, no matter how much you try to reinforce it through other means.
Another aspect that some companies may interpret as challenging (and even a disadvantage) about customer service is team and employee monitoring because “how do we monitor someone from afar?”.
Although that concern may seem valid at first, there are many ways monitoring can happen.
Ways To Monitor Remote Employees
When it comes to monitoring your customer service team, your best options are:
- Implementing productivity tracking tools:
Productivity tracking tools allow you to keep your employees on a clock.
Implementing it will guarantee that they work in the determined schedule (that works best for your customers). You will also be able to learn which employees are busy at which times, giving you plenty of room to assign other tasks to those who seem to have more free time.
You can also use it to figure out the times that your customer service gets busier and what times it’s mostly down, for improvement purposes.
A few productivity tracking tools that best apply for remote customer service, according to my research, are:
- Time Doctor: cloud-based software that has both the functions of employee tracking and self-tracking. Besides time tracking, this app also tracks employee activity by giving you a list of which apps your employees use and the respective frequency and providing periodic screenshots.
The best part is that once installed, you need only to turn on the computer for it to be active and tracking.
Time doctor is paid, being the standard and most popular subscription plan 10 dollars per month, yet you also get the chance to try it for free under a 14-day trial to see if it works for you and your team.
- Click Up: It’s an app with time tracking and customer relationship management, amongst other features. It stands up for the fact that it combines all its features to facilitate the team’s work and eliminate the need to use more than one app.
Click Up has both a free and a paid version. The free version offers unlimited tasks for up to five user workspaces, but it has some limitations. In contrast, the paid version offers all the features and eliminates the limitations, all for a price starting at 5 dollars.
- Kicklider: This app leans more towards time tracking -it gives you insight into your employees’ work time.
It also has analytical features to analyze productivity, online monitoring, screen recording, and a special tool called Autokick that notifies you and your employee of workplace violations (based on rules previously set by you as the manager).
The app’s subscription price varies from 4 dollars to 10 dollars monthly depending on the payment plan you choose, but it has a lifetime plan for the cost of 225 dollars. It also offers you a free trial of up to 14 days if you want to test it.
One last piece of advice about remote customer service and how to make it work is to have your priorities clear on what aspects matter the most for it to work out.
What Is The Most Important Thing In Remote Customer Service?
All in all, the most crucial aspect for remote customer service to work is communication. Good communication within your team, between you and them and them and the customers, is indispensable for these dynamics to work.
Communicating effectively saves your agents and your company a lot of work and effort that could be spent in damage control but can now be spent developing your services further.
It also guarantees that your customers’ needs are understood and regarded and that their issues are taken care of, raising the chances of customer satisfaction and customer success. All things that only benefit your company.
Although it might be challenging to get the dynamic going, with time and if you apply these tips properly, you will find that remote customer service is just as good as the onsite one, with the addition of generating more employee satisfaction.