5 Ways to Build a Great Remote Customer Service Team

Byon December 21#best-practices

Remote work is the new normal, and 85% of managers support this statement.

Yet, working out of office poses certain challenges, the most popular of which are:

  • Increased workload due to the change in clients’ working conditions and/or them spending more time online.

  • Higher stress levels in customers since many have had their work hours cut and struggling to maintain their usual payments.

  • Learning curve due to new software implementation your customer support agents might be unfamiliar with.

  • Uncomfortable working space as many have to work from a couch or a kitchen table.

  • Physical and mental distractions are especially critical for employees with children.

  • Losing motivation since many have trouble separating work from home life. 

All these things may negatively affect a remote customer service team’s performance. Your remote team needs your help with organization and we have several tips to assist you in this task:

1. Employ globally

With remote teams, you are not limited by geolocation. That means you can hire from an international talent pool. That simplifies the search for candidates speaking the right languages and having the necessary skills to match your job requirements. The only real constraint is the lack of a stable internet connection.

What’s more, by hiring agents living in different time zones, you naturally get 24/7 customer service without having to make your reps suffer from unhealthy hours. A study shows the negative impact of night shift work on a person’s health and general job satisfaction, so with an international team, you may as well improve employee churn in your company. 

Another benefit of drawing from the international pool and round-the-clock customer service is more client diversity in terms of industries served and, subsequently, an increase in sales. The world is moving away from the traditional 9 to 5 timeframe, so if you are open at the same hours every day, you risk missing out on a large section of customers. Those, who might be busy at work in these same hours and can’t give proper attention to your advertising.

2. Implement automation tools

To provide stable and continuing support while faced with increased customer service demand, your agents will need to reevaluate their tasks’ priority. And the implementation of automated software can help by taking over some work.

According to Businesswire, over 90% of businesses have invested in some kind of automation. Among the most popular are:

Live chat. This customer service software brings extra convenience to a website or an application. Using canned responses, you provide a quick solution to most customer issues. And having an agent to pick up the conversation, whereas the situation goes beyond generic, saves the appreciated human touch. Choose a tool that supports multiple communication channels so that customers can get help right where they are. Easy integration with your CRM and the ability to create surveys will also come in handy.

According to Capterra, the top popular live chat solutions are HelpCrunch, Tidio and Chatra. HelpCrunch is a full-house customer communication platform that provides a fully customizable live chat, a well-oiled knowledge base, a unified inbox and a rich popup builder. Tidio connects businesses with customers on desktop, mobile, and overall social media platforms, but their chatbot and analytics may feel confusing for some. Chatra is easy to use and affordable for small businesses, but due to the absence of a ticketing system, one's chats may lack organization.

Self-service platform. A survey from Microsoft found that 86% of consumers expect a self-service option from a business, and ⅔ prefer it over talking to a real agent. A smart self-service strategy lets customers get immediate answers to their inquiries, thus improving CX and decreasing the workload of your customer service department.

According to reviews, most businesses choose between Intercom, Freshdesk, and Zoho Desk. Intercom offers many communication features beyond a knowledge base, so if you need just that, the price tag might seem a bit too much. Freshdesk is another full-stack customer service software with excellent UI, yet it doesn’t integrate with Google workspace. Zoho Desk combines ticketing solutions with easy-to-search and access training materials. Still, they seem to use a non-standard settings layout which might be confusing at first.

Tracking software. This is a broad category of customer service tools that help to manage employees' work and estimate their performance. They include call tracking programs like Phonexa or Infinity, task management tools like Workast, email software like HubSpot and others.

3. Focus on inspiring your team

Engaged employees tend to be more efficient and productive. Moreover, statistics claim that just a 10% increase in employee engagement results in $2,400 profit per person a year.

At the same time, switching to remote has made developing relationships with colleagues challenging, and many employees report feeling lonely. They don’t feel connected to their team anymore and avoid getting involved in the decision-making process, which overall reduces their engagement.

To inspire your remote customer service reps, give them something to look forward to. Remind them of the career options available at your company and help to get the necessary skills to assume new responsibilities. Trust your workers to set goals on their own and decide how many tickets they should close per day or how long their calls should be. Set expectations and reward achievements instead of micromanaging.

Use meetings to nurture relationships by throwing in an informal chat about their day or advice on a book or series to watch. Use emojis in written conversations and aim to use video calls more often than phone calls. Being able to use body language creates a sense of face-to-face conversation.

4. Provide extensive IT support

Working remotely, an employee can’t call for IT help whenever they face an issue. Employers also may find it difficult to ensure data security and provide their remote workforce with all the necessary hardware. The following steps can be used as a framework for creating a remote IT support plan:

  • Provide 24/7 IT support. If your customer service staff works all day, so should IT personnel. Consider employing in different time zones or implementing shift work.

  • Supply remote devices. Having employees access your internal files through their personal devices can put your data at risk. By providing company-owned equipment, you can better control security measures and simplify support. Alternatively, protect your sensitive details with an MDM policy and ensure to update it regularly.

  • Go cloud. Cloud computing offers uniform access to all and makes it easy to back up and restore data.

  • Have a VPN. Virtual public networks encrypt information protecting it from hackers, thus making data sharing safer.

  • Allow real-time monitoring. Let your IT staff take over a remote device to troubleshoot. This will help your not-so-tech-savvy employees.

  • Have a task management software to escalate customer service issues: Not all issues can be fixed by customer service, so having a task management software can help assist the customer service team and connects the development team with the customer service team.

5. Set clear KPIs

Most support software provides analytics extensive enough to timely adjust your strategy. However, to know why your team performs a certain way and how to change it, you should consider different factors and how they impact your support team’s performance. Identify the top KPIs tied to these factors and make appropriate changes to your customer service reps coaching. Generally, the most-watched KPIs for customer support are:

  • Changes in the number of tickets. Brainstorm the reasons for spikes and dips in the ticket volume and what you can do to even it out.

  • Number of unresolved tickets. If it is higher than the total ticket volume, you have a problem with your service agents training or abnormally many inquiries.

  • Average resolution time. This metric shows your support team’s effectiveness.

  • Average reply time. Velaro’s survey showed that the majority of customers are ready to wait on hold for up to 1 minute.

  • Customer satisfaction rating (CSAT). You can measure it by presenting a customer satisfaction survey after each ticket resolution. A good score falls somewhere between 75 and 85%.

  • Net promoter score (NPS). Using data from customer satisfaction surveys, determine how many customers have given you the highest and the lowest ratings, and how many rated you “average”. The general rule of thumb is that a good NPS is above 20.

Remote customer service needs time to become excellent

Remote work should theoretically make it easier to achieve a better work-life balance. Yet, many of us are still adapting to the new world. Help your customer service workers build a strong remote team with modern equipment and foster communication and advice to stabilize their day.

This article is a guest blog written by Julia Serdiuk. To contribute a guest post to Workast.com, please complete the expression of interest form here.

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