The productivity of your team is one of the key factors of business success. When working remotely it is hard to maintain a strong work spirit among the whole team.
Remote work has increased in popularity by about 91% over the last decade. Moreover, 2020 forced many companies to switch to home office mode. Almost 90% of companies forced their employees to work from home after the pandemic had started. Some love the idea, some hate it, but all had to adjust to a new reality.
When working remotely it can be hard to stay focused and work efficiently. It is not a surprise. For most of us, home is associated with relaxation and peaceful times, not working hard. In order to keep up with tasks and motivate your team, we have prepared a list of good practices that will help with increasing productivity among your remote customer service team.
Is remote work good for your team?
It may sound surprising, but working remotely might actually be a really good option. There was a study showing a productivity increase of telecommuters equivalent to a full day’s work. It showed that home office employees worked full time or even longer, took shorter and fewer breaks, and did not take sick leave as often. So it is a big pro. What is more, by allowing remote work you don’t have to rent a place and pay for it, which means some savings.
Remote work is a great solution for working with people from around the world. You can gain some insights from different perspectives, but it can also help with managing services. If your company works globally, agents from different parts of the globe can handle calls basically 24/7, and speak fluently in different languages. Time zones and communication are not problems anymore.
Challenges of remote work
Even though working remotely may bring you some benefits, it might be hard for some of your agents to work this way. And once you realize their issues you will be able to provide the solutions. Here you will find some examples of such problems.
- First, you need to check whether your agents have the right working conditions. You should ask your employees about having devices, internet connection, or just a quiet place to work. Then you should cover all topics and give them a hand if some problems arise. Many people have a problem with remote work because of the place to work or lack of basic devices. If any of your agents have such issues then help solve them. Unfortunately, you do not have the power to enlarge their apartment, but you can offer financial help to buy a better Internet package or provide new equipment.
- For many employees, remote work is associated with a lack of motivation. It is a completely different situation when you need to get up, get dressed, and go to work compared to when you can work from the living room while wearing pyjamas. You need to keep them motivated, and we will tell you how to do it.
- On the other hand, it's hard to get out of remote work. Employees come to work to do their jobs and leave the office to enjoy their free time on a typical workday. It is completely different in the case of working remotely. This can lead to a feeling of endless work, which is bad for mental health and can lead to agents working too much and thus being physically tired. This is another aspect to take care of.
Now that you are aware of some problems which may arise, you should talk to your remotely working agent and take care of them. We will cover these and some other issues below, as well as tell you how to keep your customer service team highly productive, motivated, and efficient.
8 Methods to follow for efficient remote customer service
#1 Provide the right tools
Let’s start with the basics, i.e. tools. Your agents will need not only essentials like laptops, phones, and internet access, but also some tools that support commutation, time management, and task completion, etc.
- Seamless communication. This is one of the most important aspects of remote working. Invest in tools like Slack or consider any advance team chat app, depending on your preferences. Emails are good, but they aren’t the quickest method of communication. Focus on fast and organized methods. For example, Slack offers channels that organize all conversations, so all topics will be clear for each participant. And, since it is a messenger, communication is fast.
- Collaboration. There are various productivity apps available out there which aids in task management. Thanks to such tools which allow you to sort tasks depending on the key metrics and keep track of your performance.
- Keeping an eye on your agents’ working hours and productivity, as well as helping with task management. Tools like Asana or HubStaff help with organizing the workday of your team. Thanks to such assistance, it is easy to work more efficiently. Such tools very often provide data storage to keep your ideas and files in one place too.
Another thing that can be a great improvement for your customer support team is call center software. It is a good solution not only for remote work but for on-premises too. If you are wondering which tool you should choose, there is only one answer - CloudTalk.
CloudTalk offers features that support your agents’ productivity and improve your services’ quality and speed. Your agents can tag any calls or make some notes on them, all to organize the work better. There is also a feature called Transfer that allows agents to switch a client seamlessly between them. Another big pro about this software is the Callback feature, which helps with any missed calls. In such situations, the system registers them and dials the customer number back until there is a successful connection.
#2 Set a schedule
To keep your agents motivated it is important to schedule. People are often more organized if they have a plan to follow. Start with a daily routine. We don’t mean scheduling your agents' individual work, but you can give them reference points.
Suggest, for example, daily morning updates - what your agents have planned for the day. Is it handling customers’ calls only, or do they have some reports to prepare? First, you will have an overview of what they are doing, and second, they will be forced to set specific goals for the day.
It is also worth planning regular board meetings, e.g. once a week. This will allow you to stay up to date with your agents’ work and also impose a certain routine for the week that will come in handy when working remotely.
If remote work is a long term solution, it is also worth planning regular summary meetings, i.e. quarterly, for example.. Just to keep things in order.
#3 Pre-define goals and expectations
In order for your work to be effective, you must clarify what you need. Set goals for your team, both short-term and long-term. Moreover, it's important to highlight your goals as well as your expectations of employees, their work culture, and workflow. You must first say what you expect from them before demanding it. Nobody can read your mind.
Setting goals and objectives will allow you to improve your evolution and track your progress. There was a survey conducted which showed that more than 80% of 300 small companies questioned did not keep track of their goals. That is not the right approach.
How will you know whether your business is doing well or not without tracking progress? You should pay attention to KPIs. Doing so will help with monitoring your company’s performance and also allow for better organization of work. You will know if a given solution performs well or if something needs to be improved. You will also be able to provide better feedback.
#4 Be open to feedback
Running a business is all about feedback - deliver and receive it. Your agents have a different perspective on many things, and they are on the front line of contact with clients. They are the ones who see best what customers like and what needs to be changed.
It makes no sense for agents to continue with a certain solution just because it was your idea. Firstly, they might be less effective in their work, and secondly, they may feel discouraged if they need to keep explaining themselves to clients.
Moreover, be aware that even the best solution for someone else may not work for you. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you listen to what others say. When working remotely, contact with your team is somewhat limited, so you must ensure that each of your employees can speak to you and will be heard. It is the best way to keep the atmosphere clear and your agents productive.
#5 Arrange one-on-one meetings
Being in the office, it is much easier to arrange a one-on-one meeting with an agent. However, working remotely does not preclude this solution. How can such a meeting help you and your team?
First of all, you will have the opportunity to ask for employee feedback, as they are likely to be much more open and honest when they are alone with you. You cannot observe your employees when working remotely, so such a meeting is needed to find out if everything is alright.
If an agent has a problem with some aspect of their, they are more likely to tell you about it alone than in a group. Such conversations will also allow you to find weak points and possibly repair the work plan or change daily tasks, which can increase employees’ efficiency and job satisfaction.
#6 Take care of motivation
Some people may feel more motivated when they stay at home rather than to go to the office, while others might have very different feelings. For many people, the monotony of the home office is very demotivating.
Therefore, it is worth conducting research on the approach of your employees to the home office. Did you know that unmotivated teams can cost companies as much as $300 billion every year? If you already have a general idea about how your employees work, you should provide them with some motivation.
Unsurprisingly, financial incentives work best, so offer high-performance bonuses or other valuable prizes. For example, some training chosen by an agent or, in the case of work-life balance, it could be any support for developing a hobby or a SPA voucher. If you know your agents well, you should know what motivates them best. Importantly, motivation is also recognition. Praise good work, but keep in mind to value agents' own initiatives as well.
#7 Make the information flow
Working in the office facilitates the flow of information, not only between you and your employees but also between themselves. Sometimes information just spreads by itself. But it doesn't work like that in the case of remote work. Even if you provide the best communication tools, you need to use them properly to fulfill their roles.
You should inform employees about any changes in the company. When it comes to customers, everyone must be on the same page. If an agent has a day off, others should know about it in order not to try to contact them and to take care of their clients. The same goes with staff changes. If someone joins or leaves the team, then make everyone else aware about it
You should also ensure that information not only flows smoothly from you but also throughout the team. This will improve workflow, but in order for it to happen the atmosphere between agents must be clear. If something is wrong then react to it by talking to the parties involved in conflict.
#8 Encourage self-care
The home office blurs the boundaries between work and life outside of it. As such, it's hard to leave work when you don’t leave the place you work in. This can cause work-life balance disturbances. More than 60% of full-time employees admit they don’t strongly believe that they have a work-life balance. Therefore, you must remember that, in addition to motivation, you need to keep reminding agents about self-care.
If your employees are tired and overworked, it will affect their performances negatively. Relaxed employees who have time to themselves are much more productive at work. In addition, happy employees are much less likely to take time off, and the company can save up to $2,600 per employee as a result.
Let’s take care of your remote team’s productivity
Remote work might be regarded as a convenience for many employees. However, for customer service agents, it can be quite a challenge to maintain a high level of service whilst working from their home office.
So it is your task to ensure the well-being of your team and its productivity. Remember to keep information flowing and quite simply talk with your agents. After all, communication is the basis of business performance. We hope that the methods we have proposed will work in your team well and that the home office will not decrease your team’s productivity.