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6 Ways Remote Employees Can Deliver Excellent Customer Service

6 Ways Remote Employees Can Deliver Excellent Customer Service

The ability to provide great customer service has no boundaries, thanks to technology that has provided agents with remote work options.

Customers reach out with all kinds of questions, but you know the one thing they’re unlikely to ask? Whether your agents are answering them from a contact centre or somewhere else.

The ability to provide great customer service literally has no boundaries, thanks to technology that has provided agents with remote work options. Instead of cramming as many people into a cubicle farm as possible, companies that operate a digital HQ can allow customer support staff to access all the applications and data they need to do their jobs from anywhere.

Of course, this represents a significant change for the way many businesses have managed their customer service teams, much as it has in other areas, like marketing and HR.

Training that might have once been set up in a separate boardroom can now be done virtually. Updates about returns policies and other issues can be delivered via Slack or other digital channels rather than asking everyone to huddle in a crowd before a shift.

On the flip side, customer service managers might be concerned about agents missing announcements because they’re working somewhere off site. They also can’t physically monitor their on-the-job performance by walking past them (and, when necessarily, pulling them aside for an impromptu coaching session).

It’s critical for businesses that the move to remote and hybrid work policies are rolled out in a way that doesn’t create any negative impact on the customer experience they deliver. The key performance indicators are clear: if customers spend more time waiting for help, or aren’t given the answers they need, satisfaction drops. Customer churn increases. And negative word of mouth could discourage friends and family from becoming customers too.

Make sure to develop a plan for remote customer service that aims for a standard of excellence that will ensure your customers never wonder where your agents are. This includes:

1. Review and update all support resources

Imagine an agent who looks up how to fix a product failure in the company’s knowledge base and finds the proposed solution is out of date. Before remote work became the norm, they might have walked over to simply called out to a more experienced colleague to see if they had a better answer.

Though digital channels can allow for quick communication among teams, avoid making them do any extra leg work that could be addressed by the resources you give them. Conduct a content audit of knowledge bases, product documentation, video explainers and anything else that should empower agents to do their best work. If you haven’t already, deploy a platform that offers a single view of customer information that streamlines the way you serve and support them.

2. Create a predictable structure that echoes in-person experiences

You can still have that huddle that used to happen in the physical contact center. The only difference is that you might use a video call to kick off a shift, or even just a group chat to go over any urgent announcements.

Encourage the use of emojis to facilitate common responses, such as a thumbs-up to show they’ve understood the announcement, or a clapping emoji to convey that they feel excited and ready to dive into the day’s queue.

3. Offer guidance on communication channels and behaviours

Should agents send a detailed e-mail every time they need to sort through an issue with their manager? Or should they simply send a “Can we hop on a call” message in Slack instead? If you don’t clarify this, they’ll have to figure it out on your own. The result could be inconsistent approaches that don’t contribute to a great employee experience.

Talk internally with the team about the common kinds of conversations that typically happen in person, and what digital channels that could be used to yield the best outcomes. Be specific about real-life scenarios of when these channels should be used, and how they should escalate their issue if something goes awry.

4. Budget time for both scheduled and random check-ins

Customer service managers are often stretched thin, but connecting with team members is one of their most important responsibilities. Working in a remote or hybrid model means being a little more intentional about how to balance standing meetings and still leave enough wiggle room for an unexpected need to chat.

If you already have a one-on-one-with each agent, this might just come down to putting a handful of spots in the calendar each week to check in on an agents’ overall well-being. These aren’t really “random” so much as appointments that are there to be used in the moment as you see fit. And they don’t have to be long – sometimes 10 minutes is all it will take to turn someone’s day around.

5. Let technology address the most common or first-line service issues

Many companies have considered adding more self-service options to help their customers, but haven’t quite followed through. With agents now adjusting to new modes of working, now is the time to take routine or lower-level issues off their plate.

There are plenty of options to consider here. You could set up an online customer community where people can get the answers and assistance they need from their peers. Chatbots can also automate many typical service interactions, and artificial intelligence features mean they continuously improve. Even a well-designed FAQ page could deflect a lot of inbound activity in the contact center.

6. Explore social activities that maintain culture and morale

As hard they work, customer service professionals often enjoy the relationships they form with their coworkers in the contact center. There’s no reason those relationships can’t deepen in a remote or hybrid work setting.

Try to make moments during daily digital standups to ask about everyone’s weekend plans, their reaction to a major sporting event or whether they’re going to check out the latest blockbuster movie. Carve out a few minutes for people to share their latest photos of pets or children. See if there’s any appetite for after-hours fun that can be conducted online, even if it’s just a simple game of “Two truths and a lie.”

Instead of calling it “remote work” or “hybrid work,” maybe we should call it “connected work” – because when customer service teams are truly connected to data, applications and each other, excellent performance is bound to follow.

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