The internet has made it possible for businesses to sell to anyone, anywhere in the world – yet at the same time, the internet has shifted power to consumers as they can get information on any product or service from multiple vendors and compare prices. In order to win business and succeed in this type of competitive environment, you must take a customer-centric approach and support your customers with the best possible customer service possible, even if that team’s scattered around the world.
That brings us to our next point. How do you manage a remote support team? How can you optimize support to cover all 24 hours of the day? Aside from logistics, how can you keep everyone productive and accountable? How can you make sure nothing slips through the cracks? While it may seem like a daunting task, successfully managing your remote customer service can be done well by following the below tips.
1. Hire the Right People
Working remotely first appears to be a great opportunity for most individuals. You get to work from the environment you’re most comfortable in, there’s more flexibility in your work schedule, and you don’t have to deal with hours of commuting, to name a few. Yet working remotely is a skill in itself and it’s important to look for people who don’t just like the idea of working remotely, but can actually work efficiently with limited supervision.
To ensure that you hire the right remote staff, see if they’ve worked remotely before. Perhaps they have experience freelancing or running their own business. These two characteristics can demonstrate the applicant’s level of accountability, and often is an indicator of a hardworking employee you can trust. You’ll also want to make sure to ask the following questions to make sure they’re the right fit for how you like to manage your teams:
- What kind of work schedule do you prefer?
- Have you worked from a co-working space before?
- Can you attend regular meetings via platforms like Skype or Google Hangouts?
- What are some out-of-the-ordinary things you’ve done to help customers and make them happy?
2. Choose the Right Customer Service Software
Along with hiring the right staff, having the right customer service software in place is essential for successfully running a remote customer service team. The right help desk software will automate the way customer inquiries or issues are submitted, handled and followed up on, making it easy for your remote team to support customers efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, your team will be given access to a wealth of data which allows them to track conversations, monitor client relationships, and revisit past communications with a specific customer at-a-glance. Having this type of organized, easy-to-access information makes it possible for your support team to provide the high-quality assistance your customers deserve.
And while giving your team the tools they need to succeed may be important for you as a manager, let’s not forget the value that customer service software provides you. Such software allows you to avoid micromanaging your team (which can be time consuming and counterproductive when your team’s scattered across the globe) because you’re always in the loop. From details like number of calls taken each day and numbers of issues resolved to hours worked by each staff member and any high-priority issues that need addressing, you’ll have a pulse on the health of your team so you can make any necessary adjustments and fix productivity issues as soon as possible.
3. Utilize Knowledge Bases
Did you know that 62% of global consumers have stopped doing business with a brand or organization due to a poor customer service experience? Make sure you don’t become a part of this statistic and create engaging customer service experiences that not only assist your customers, but make them comfortable making a repeat purchase with your company.
In order to achieve this level of trust among your customers, your customer support team will need to have access to as much company information as possible. Even your best customer support representative will come across a question that requires a bit more research. And when that representative is a remote worker, getting answers quickly isn’t as easy as walking over to you and asking a question. This problem gets further compounded when you factor in the time differences between you and each of your remote workers.
This is where a robust knowledge base comes in. By having information in one easily-accessible place, your team always has access to the answers they need to best support your customers. You can create private wiki for this type of knowledge share or create your own internal customer service knowledge base. But keep in mind that the creation of this knowledge base shouldn’t just be left to you and other managers and executives.
Utilize your customer service team to help with its creation and encourage them to update it and add answers on an ongoing basis. Thinking of your knowledge base as a living, breathing document that is constantly changing will give you an unparalleled resource to use for years to come.
4. Keep Your Team Productive
One of the most common concerns of individuals managing remote teams is how to keep the team productive and accountable. Fortunately, with the many technologies and platforms available for task management, your support team can be just as productive working from home as they would be in the office. Here are a few types of technologies to look into:
- Messaging apps – Open communication is a must when managing a remote team. You need to be able to easily share questions and feedback so team members can share what they accomplished the day before, what they’re working on, and any roadblocks in their way. This keeps everyone accountable for making progress each day and keeps your team in the loop about what’s going on.
- Video conferencing apps – While messaging apps can be helpful for quick check-ins, it can be good to have regular face-to-face meetings via video conferencing apps. Being able to talk to your team and see them visually can help to foster feelings of positivity, support, and encouragement.
- Task management platforms – It can be hard to manage the tasks of one team, let alone one that’s remote and possible scattered around the world. To increase team cohesion and make sure there are no overlapping duties or individuals encroaching on the work of others, task management apps like Trello are a great option for easily identifying and staying on top of short-term activity, long-term goals and overall progress.
Remote work comes with its challenges, but with the right strategies and tools, you can build and grow a productive and effective customer service team that helps your customers – and your business – succeed.
About the author
Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog. Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps