Chapter 2: How you work inside and outside of your contact center

Discover how to manage service teams from virtually anywhere.
Mark Abramowitz
SVP, Product Marketing, Service Cloud

When widespread shelter-in-place orders went into effect, every service organization acted fast to move employees to at-home environments. And let’s be honest — there were some bumps along the way. It happened to every business.

Now, as you stabilize your business and manage teams both inside and outside of your physical contact center, the right setup, communications, tools, processes, and safety measures go a long way. Learn about the best ways to drive better collaboration, engage employees anywhere, and prepare your service team for the new ways of working.

Set up work-from-home environments

The typical contact center setup involves desktops with multiple monitors. In a working-from-home environment, this isn’t always feasible. There is a risk for blackouts and possibly a lack of space needed for a full workstation.

For the most successful setup, provide laptops with enough memory and processing power along with a high-quality headset so agents can easily perform their job functions. Cloud applications are also a must so everyone can access your systems, regardless of where they are located.

If an agent is deaf or visually- or hearing-impaired, provide proper assistive technologies, such as screen readers or keyboard shortcuts. To help agents make their workstations more comfortable, offer a one-time stipend to purchase an additional monitor, desk chair, or other office item.

Ensure privacy and security

Security is of utmost importance as agents handle sensitive company and customer information. Preconfigure these security features:

For your company: Provide a direct, secure connection to your corporate VPN. If you have contractors on your team, request that they receive VPN access from their contracting agency. If that is not an option, issue a company laptop with a direct VPN connection.

For your customers: Create clear protocols and steps to make sure that personal identifiable information is secure. This may include two-factor authentication and a process to delete information when a case is resolved. Issue a reminder that all reports are monitored.

Optimize case management
Cloud-based technology and apps help service organizations seamlessly run case management and dispatch. Give agents access to service history, previous sales, and customer preferences from a single console. Within your console, provide preconfigured workflows to help them with troubleshooting.
Use computer-telephony integration (CTI) so agents see customer information immediately and have access to relevant solutions while on calls. Agents log calls automatically, put customers on hold, transfer to another agent, or add people to a conference call. They can toggle between voice and digital channels, such as chat, SMS, and messaging apps as well.
Automate routine tasks
During times of fluctuating contact volumes, automation and AI free service teams from repetitive, time-consuming tasks. AI analyzes incoming cases and predicts case detail fields to reduce average handle time and increase accuracy.
"We’re using automation and self-service to provide answers to customers quickly and to manage rising support volumes. It’s been a huge help to ensure a smooth transition to service from home for our agents.”
Built-in tools like macros automate instructions for tasks such as closing out a case or steps to apply for a loan. Quick text prepopulates messaging prompts and recommended next best actions to help service teams quickly and accurately resolve cases.
Invest in digital collaboration tools
  • Host internal team meetings with high-quality video conferencing capabilities like Google Meet
  • Create shared documents such as Quip to drive collaboration in real time and keep projects on track
  • Update your knowledge base in a centralized location so everyone on your service team is up to date on the latest protocols
  • Share knowledge, tips, and high-fives with your team on your enterprise social network

Create a training strategy

Conducting training virtually is a new struggle for service leaders due to difficulties in communication and engagement. That’s why it’s so important to create a training strategy. For managers, focus on how to effectively manage remote teams. Train agents on collaboration, communication, and wellness and reinforce soft skills. Other employees can use these programs to hone customer service skills. For example, a store associate can take training sessions to assist with service cases if their job is unavailable due to stay-at-home orders.

"New reps shadow managers until they are up to speed, usually within two-to-three days. We cross-train on a regular basis with two supervisors and two teams organizing the training. They take a holistic approach to find priorities based on abilities and customer needs. This allows us to quickly shift staff to help where it's needed most."

Upskill and cross-skill your team

The new normal means new ways of working. Upskill and cross-skill your team. Train agents to become Salesforce admins so that they can assist with processes and change workflows. If your mobile workers face restrictions entering customers’ homes, offer industry certifications in the interim. Film videos demonstrating simple maintenance tasks, such as how to change a filter. Create content explaining the difference between normal equipment behavior and situations in which a service visit is necessary to cut down on calls during peak seasons.

Maintaining a dispersed contact center also opens your business up to new talent pools. Source candidates based on in-demand skills, regardless of geographic location. Accelerate onboarding and training with customized digital learning resources.

Empower the larger team

Team camaraderie is more important than ever. Lead with empathy. Encourage your service team to send appreciation, give virtual shout-outs, and check in with each other. When one person does it, the effort snowballs. Some service leaders are even running contests to boost morale.

Another best practice is to foster growth and mentorship with an agent council. Agents work in pods based on experience or skill set to solve complex problems. By bringing people together, cross-training happens organically. Here’s how to set one up:

  1. Evaluate your existing team culture, maturity, and size. Are there enough team members with institutional knowledge or expertise? This approach works for smaller companies and can be applied to enterprises with a dedicated focus for each team.
  2. Have a plan to solicit expertise across your enterprise for support. For example, if a retailer hasn’t shipped a product, engage a team member with knowledge about your shipping department.
  3. As your team works to resolve a problem, everybody will contribute. Before moving on to the next case, designate a team member to document the resolution in a knowledge base to apply to similar future cases.
Prioritize employee wellbeing

Make it a priority to check in, even if it’s just sending a quick “hello” via chat. Give regular shout-outs to team members by email or on your enterprise social network. Designate “virtual office hours” with an open door policy as a safe space for employees to speak with you.

Take this opportunity to develop a wellbeing strategy. Use Salesforce’s five pillars of wellbeing to start: nourish, revive, move, thrive, and prosper. Provide wellness resources, such as guided meditations and healthy recipes, as part of your strategy.

Keep mobile workers safe

Field service organizations can take extra steps to keep mobile workers safe. Give dispatchers the ability to visualize real-time resources in a Gantt chart or interactive map from a single screen. With this data, they can prioritize essential jobs and extend or cancel nonessential work.

When in-person visits are necessary, encourage mobile workers to do as much work as possible ahead of time. Attach a safety checklist and relevant knowledge articles to each work order. Give mobile workers a connected device with online and offline capabilities to download this information ahead of time to reduce the need for repeat visits.


About the Author

Mark Abramowitz
SVP, Product Marketing, Service Cloud
Mark Abramowitz is a Marketing and Product Executive at Salesforce.

He’s an experienced Vice President of Product Marketing with a demonstrated history of working in the internet industry.

More Resources

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Help Customers Quickly Find the Answers They Need
Service from Home: How Industry Leaders are Restructuring Operations

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