With the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the world and the number of reported COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, more and more companies are encouraging their employees to work from home.

Once you’ve decided to go remote with your customer support team, it’s paramount to create a plan for how your team will operate and how their performance will be measured. Managing a remote customer service team can certainly be hard, but it is doable by anticipating challenges that come with it and coming up with a remote work guideline.

Remote customer support

We at Zoho SalesIQ wanted to share some pointers we believe will help you along the way.

Foster a sense of self-discipline 

Remote workers can be even more engaged than onsite ones if expectations are properly set and they feel like they’re directly contributing to the business. Establish some ground rules, addressing issues like data protection, productivity, time management, and availability. However, don’t go overboard with these rules, and avoid checking up on team members too often, as it’s important for them to feel trusted. This trust will blossom into goodwill and engagement.

It’s also a good idea to give your team some time to adapt to the deviation from the normal.

Give your team the right tools 

With technology on the rise, a variety of tools are now available to ensure that your remote team stays as productive as ever.  

With members of your team working from different places, communication and collaboration issues are bound to occur.

So, apart from your regular stack of software like support ticketing, website live chat, remote access software, and CRM, this calls for a reliable remote team communication tool, a web conferencing tool, and secure data management software. You may also want to use a time tracker.

Define clear performance metrics

When your team is working from home, there’s can be a tendency to slack off. Establish extremely clear, numerical performance metrics like the hours each support representative is working, the number of customer queries resolved each day, the resolution time, and first contact resolution rate. It’s good to conduct regular review sessions as well. This helps you better monitor their productivity and keeps your employees focused since they know that you’ll be able to see if their numbers decline.

You can also closely monitor chats and calls attended by new joinees or keep a record of all customer interactions to make sure the service quality does not dip during this period.

Recognize and reward hard work

Considering that we’re humans and humans like not doing work—especially when not monitored—rewarding star performers can motivate your remote agents. These rewards could include preferential scheduling, personalized goods, and team or company-wide recognition.

You can also encourage your team to publicize what they accomplish each day. This creates friendly competition among them and motivates everyone to strive to do their best.

Route customer queries to the right staff

Metrics like average hold time, average transfer rate, and first contact resolution rate have a significant impact on your CSAT score. Unlike in an office environment, working remotely means it’s not very easy to reach out to someone else if you need their expertise on a certain set of topics. Thus, it’s wise to implement advanced skills-based routing strategies to reduce unnecessary wait time or rerouting, which will help minimize customer frustration. 

Deploying a chatbot in your website can also help reduce the load on your team so they can focus on more critical concerns. 

Develop an internal knowledge base 

Setting up a knowledge base in an easily-accessible place helps your team find the answers they need right away. You could use a team data management software or a private wiki for this type of knowledge sharing. Allow your team members to edit it, as well, so they can put in questions and answers that they encounter while they’re on calls.

 This serves a dual purpose as you can also use this information to create FAQs and other self-service options accessible to customers on your company website and in your live chat window.

Create a log of all customer interactions

Customer service teams deal with many customers on a daily basis. Keep past communications with a customer accessible to everyone in your team so your customer service agents can do a quick lookup on these before talking to returning visitors, without having to reach out to the agent who handled them previously.

Set up data security policies

Data security is the primary concern for many companies today. Data breaches are not only costly—they also affect your customers’ trust and damage your brand’s reputation. Your customer support team could be handling sensitive customer information. For this reason, it’s essential to chart a security policy that takes into account challenges that come with remote work and ensure that your team is aware of the policy change as well as consequences for any misuse of confidential data. Equip your team with robust privacy tools, such as a VPN, a secure browser, an ad blocker, and an anti-virus solution. Also, ensure they’re using the latest versions of all software to minimize risks.

Develop a sense of camaraderie

Regardless of whether your team has been long-running or is newly formed, you need to build team spirit among them to ensure flawless communication and knowledge-sharing. This is especially important when your team is scattered in different places. Create virtual ‘water cooler’ moments and encourage your team to share their Netflix watch-list, relatable memes, or even important news updates. This helps them connect on a personal level, ensuring work sails smoothly. An occasional video call is also a good way to catch up with your team. 

Conclusion

Though these tips can help you formulate a good remote work strategy, each team works differently. Only time and testing will reveal the most suitable policy for yours. Keep in mind that your remote customer service team can work as good, if not better, than an in-house team if you manage it correctly by staying clear of micro-management, setting constructive boundaries, and letting your team manage their work on their own as long as they perform.