The current COVID-19 situation resulted in embracing remote working in various industries, including customer service. Did you know that amount of people who work remotely at least once per week increased by 400% in the last 10 years?
Remote working is on the rise and brings many benefits for businesses and their employees. Customer service, as an industry, has undergone significant changes where the focus shifted to remote working. Cloud-based technology and advanced customer service software allow brands to support their customers from anywhere, increasing customer satisfaction, brand reputation, flexibility, productivity while decreasing overall cost.
If you’re managing a remote customer service team and looking for ways to make remote work easier for your employees, keep reading as we’re going to share five tips on creating a smooth transition.
Benefits of Hiring Remote Customer Service Agents
Nowadays, we’re living in extremely unpredictable times, but advanced technology can support businesses to mitigate risks of facing a crisis caused by external factors. Before we dive into tips to make work from home easier for your employees, it’s important to understand the benefits of remote working for your company and your employees.
1. Higher flexibility and productivity
Depending on your business, you may face seasonal fluctuations in demand. For instance, your business focuses on vacation rentals, and you expect a surge of customers in the summer and winter season. The remote team provides the ability to adjust the schedule to surges in demand without losing the resources and customers’ satisfaction.
On the other hand, remote working enables employees to organize their schedules and priorities to deliver the highest productivity. The studies show that flexible schedule results in higher employee satisfaction, which relates to higher productivity. According to Workplace Survey Results in 2019, 90% of employees said that a flexible schedule and work increase their morale and satisfaction.
2. Diverse talent pool & efficient hiring process
Hiring remote workers enable one to focus on a diverse talent pool that isn’t limited to a geographical location. Instead of having a limited number of candidates for a certain position, you can choose between talents on a global market at competitive rates. For instance, LinkedIn is one of the biggest professional social media platforms where you can access talented and professional workers in a matter of seconds. Currently, there are around 675 million active users on LinkedIn which gives you endless opportunities when it comes to headhunting and hiring new talents.
Hiring new talents through traditional hiring channels is a resource-heavy process that limits your choices only to the geographical location, which results in lower quality of your teams in general. A conventional hiring process is a slow process characterized by interviews, resume reading, meetings, and communication backed by bureaucracy burden. Hiring online is more efficient and gives you access to a larger pool of candidates, diverse skillsets, and multiple communication channels.
On the other hand, managing remote teams and communication is challenging, especially if you’re hiring across multiple time zones. The good thing is that you can hire managers from a specific time zone who’ll manage remote teams and directly report to you.
3. Lower operational costs
Running a physical office comes with many operational costs such as office rent and supplies, monthly utilities, furniture, and similar, which add up a total operational cost. Since you don’t need to have a dedicated office for remote workers, it saves money and you can allocate the excess funds into more critical aspects of your business. On top of that, according to the Stanford study, an average worker is willing to accept an 8% lower wage to have the option to work remotely.
Online hiring enables you to build an efficient and professional team faster than the traditional hiring process. Once you’ve found a perfect candidate, the process isn’t over as onboarding is a critical process that helps newly recruited employees to adjust to a new environment and work processes.
5 Tips on Making Work From Home Easier For Customer Service Agents
There are many aspects of building a smooth transition if you’re just transitioning to collaborating with remote customer service agents.
For instance, having a detailed and structured knowledge base and cloud-based schedule software is a must when managing remote customer service teams. Here are 5 essential tips that will make work from home easier for customer service agents.
1. Create a detailed and structured knowledge base
Since hiring online enables you to access talented and specialized professionals worldwide, it also comes with a downside - a timezone difference. For instance, if an employee gets a complicated query, he or she can’t simply ask for the solution, especially in different timezones. In the customer service industry, customer satisfaction is one of the key metrics to measure. The higher it is, the more competitive the company is. Giving fast and effective solutions are the key to building a great customer experience and long-lasting reputation.
Building a well-structured, internal knowledge base increases the productivity and efficiency of your remote customer service team, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction, which helps businesses grow.
If you’re building a knowledge base from scratch, it’s essential to:
- Focus on easy-to-use user experience which reduces resources of finding the solution to customers’ problems
- Allow your customer service team to access, edit, and add new and helpful entries to widen and deepen the initial information
- Educate your customers to use the information gathered from the knowledge base effectively
- Set up an analytics system for better optimization of a knowledge base
(Caption: Knowledge base examples created using Helpjuice)
For instance, Helpjuice features a customizable and optimized knowledge base solution for businesses operating in any industry. Helpjuice supports creating, managing, optimizing, and analyzing knowledge bases and leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. A Google-like search engine supports finding the right information fast and precise. From a design standpoint, Helpjuice offers predefine design options that enable you to create and structure a beautiful and easy-to-navigate knowledge base very fast.
2. Use workforce management tools
Managing remote teams and their schedules can be a tough task without proper tools and systems in place. Scheduling, communicating, and managing takes many resources and cloud-based workforce management tools to create a productive and satisfying customer service working environment. Depending on your organizational structure, scheduling shifts across different departments, roles, and locations can be extremely resource-heavy.
Workforce management tools enable you to automatically create an optimized work schedule for call centers, record and analyze productivity, communicate with remote teams, and increase their work satisfaction.
Automatic shift scheduler (Source)
Since the competition has never been fiercer, and the market undergoes constant changes, the benefits of workforce management tools justify the investment:
Advanced workforce management tools increase employee satisfaction by providing optimized schedules, shift management, and payroll calculation. The employee can focus their energy on core business processes while setting up the most appropriate working environment.
Detailed analytical reports enable employees and managers to monitor and track employees’ performance in real-time and measure KPIs to ensure business success.
Cutting costs on inefficient work processes such as payroll calculation and schedule making. These savings can help businesses, especially the small ones, to allocate resources in critical work processes while leaving administration tasks to advanced tools.
Businesses have to comply with local and international laws, and manually aligning processes to comply with the regulations can be a burden to the budget. On top of that, failing to follow the rules can lead to devastating financial losses and fines. Workforce management tools can automatically check and optimize all the processes to ensure everything is by the laws that apply to the business type.
3. Take advantage of customer service solutions
Since customer service agents deal with many clients daily, it’s crucial to keep track of the conversations, so you can continuously optimize the processes and analyze the performance. Customer service tools allow the business to set clear goals and KPIs to maintain productivity, monitor and analyze past conversations, and optimize the processes.
Every team member can access the essential statistics and data with just a few clicks, which drastically saves resources and increases productivity. For instance, customer service tools offer various reports, such as the number of incoming calls, total work hours, resolved problems, assigned tasks, and much more. When you’re managing a remote team, usually from different time zones, it’s important to have a centralized reporting and analytical system in place. That way, you can keep track of each process, measure the productivity of your employees, and find opportunities for improvement.
4. Define KPIs to track the progress
Setting clear and attainable goals is critical for every business, but comes into the spotlight with remote teams. It’s easy to lose track of goals and priorities, especially if communication and information sharing aren’t structured processes.
Set attainable and clear KPIs and encourage your team to pursue goals and priorities. Businesses usually fail to identify and track KPIs regularly, which leads to lower productivity and mismanaged resources. Create detailed monitoring and evaluation processes so your team will stay united and on the right track. Don’t forget to discuss KPIs and goals at team meetings as it’s crucial not to lose sight of short- and long-term goals and priorities.
5. Encourage team building
The remote work principle has been around for a while, but there is still a big room for improvement. While working in regular customer service offices, employees share the same working environment and are more engaged. It leads to a heightened sense of community, which can increase employee satisfaction and productivity.
Employees who work from home can miss the sense of community, which can pose a severe problem if not addressed on time. Managing a remote customer service team has many challenges, such as creating and maintaining a good relationship between employees who live in different locations and have different cultural values.
The quality of internal communication can make or break the businesses, so it’s vital to focus resources on creating and maintaining a positive energy and organization culture. Knowing your team makes employees feel more comfortable working, which increases productivity, satisfaction, and retention rates. According to an OwlLab’s study, 96% of respondents agreed that video conferencing improves the connection and relationship quality among remote teams.
Video conference (Source)
Organize regular team meetings where team members can meet each other and share their experiences. It results in an increased sense of community as well as keeping employees up to date with the current situation and industry trends. The emphasis should be on video calls since video provides a more intimate connection between people. Nowadays, there are many video conference tools where you can schedule team meetings and host meetings in different time zones.
The most common free video conference tools are Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. If you’re concerned about security breaches or not satisfied with user-interface, video conferencing is a very competitive industry with dozens of relevant Zoom alternatives.
Focus on creating fast and effective communication channels
Communication can make or break your remote teams. Working remotely in customer service has many benefits, but comes with major downfalls if not managed correctly. Focus on creating a resourceful information base, optimize and automatize scheduling and low- management processes, encourage team building and constant communication, and set up clear goals and priorities. Keep in mind that your employees are your most valuable asset and continually invest in improving their satisfaction level.
This guest post was written by Chloe Sesta Jacobs.
Chloe's why is people; she gets her kicks from intensifying the purpose and exploring the potential of those around her. She works as Head of People & Culture at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Chloe sees her work as an extension of her lifestyle and is constantly working on revolutionizing the people and culture space.