Agent Engagement

Remote Customer Service: How to Successfully Manage Remote Teams

With growing concerns over COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the team here at Stella is proud to have a culture of flexibility and technology that allows for remote work. If you’re considering transitioning to a work-from-home model for your customer service teams, we’ve gathered some ideas on how to successfully manage off-site teams.

3 Major Advantages of the Remote Customer Service Model

Studies suggest remote employees are more productive and more engaged than their onsite counterparts. Furthermore, they feel as connected with their peers as they did in person, if not more so. For these and other reasons, remote customer service agents may be ideal for seasonal hiring—and, as permanent hires, deliver more value than you might think.

1. Recruiting and retention are easier.

Deloitte’s 2019 Global Contact Center Survey revealed that over the next two years, the number of companies with an remote presence will increase from 34% to 56%. “Many organizations continue to push the boundaries on remote workforces. Backed by globally-accessible technology and data resources, contact centers and their agents can effectively support customers from any location.”

Contact centers without location constraints allow companies to expand recruiting efforts while offering the flexibility that employees require.

In fact, flexible work is one of the biggest incentives for job seekers. By taking geography out of the equation, a remote customer service model not only expands the pool of potential candidates—making it easy to scale customer service teams—but also attracts more high-quality applicants and increases the likelihood that new hires will stay.

2. The cost savings are significant.

In addition to increasing productivity and lowering attrition—two big bottom-line benefits—a remote customer service model eliminates the overhead of a physical contact center. Brands not only enjoy the cost-saving benefits of outsourcing, but also maintain control of coaching, training, and performance measurement.

The outsourcing vs. out-staffing question is an important one. If you’re looking to shift some of the burden of managing off-site workers, outsourcing is the way to go. But if cost efficiency and oversight are equally important to you, a remote contact center would be a win-win.

3. Technology makes it a seamless operation.

In addition to the normal pressure to allow agents and employees the flexibility to work remotely, the unprecedented measures some companies are taking in the face of the recent appearance of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) are causing an even more dramatic shift to a dispersed workforce. Work productivity tools such as Zoom, Slack, and more help keep employees productive while remote. 

These tools bridge the distance between remote agents, and between agents and managers, to strengthen team cohesion and make coaching and training easier and more effective. In fact, remote customer service agents have the tools they need to stay engaged, resolve customer issues on first contact, and achieve optimal efficiency.

How to Overcome the Biggest Management Challenges

Managing a remote customer service team has its challenges. Add a pandemic on top of this, and things are sure to become more stressful.

For agents, working in a contact center is not a stress-free job. Customers reaching out to agents typically have something they need help with, and are very vocal about what they need. To keep agent performance high, a strong sense of community and camaraderie is essential. While in-house teams are able to give each other fist bumps, remote agents have to find more creative alternatives. Novo for instance leverages the power of technology to recognize their agents.

“Stella Connect has played a big role in helping us reward and recognize our team. We set up a shout-outs Slack channel and all customer reviews––both negative and positive––are pushed to this channel so that agents have access to real-time feedback.” – Brian Kale, Head of Customer Success at Novo

For companies, staying on top of trending news and customer reaction is critical. We have seen dramatic shifts in operational procedures at some of the world’s top companies. Delta Airlines recently altered their flight change policy to enable more flexibility for their customers. Walmart has updated their in-store pickup procedures to ensure customer well-being. All of these changes show that companies are listening carefully to their customers and responding in real time. When your front-line employees are working remotely, being able to isolate these trends, consolidate feedback, and alter Standard Operating Procedures is more difficult.

In fact, simply listening to customer sentiment with a dispersed agent workforce is uniquely challenging.

Fortunately, Stella Connect offers a solution that mitigates these challenges. Our platform for gathering customer feedback, allowing customers to rate the performance of the agents, recording and consolidating feedback to ensure compliance with newly announced operating procedures, and coaching individual agents on their compliance and effectiveness, works to ensure customer satisfaction actually increases during these difficult times.

Motivate agents to excel

With an agent-level feedback platform, you can motivate and engage agents by sharing feedback data via dashboards and team leaderboards. Agents set goals against their current scores, congratulate top performers, and compete to move up in the contact center rankings. For many Stella Connect clients, team leaderboards are second only to individual feedback streams in terms of platform traffic; agents want to know how they’re faring with customers.

Deliver micro-coaching in the moment

As data streams in and triggers alerts related to specific types of feedback, managers can use chat tools (without interrupting workflow) to ping agents with praise or concerns about recent customer comments. Through a combination of continual reinforcement and quick reminders, managers can help keep agent performance trend in the right direction.

Measure service quality

Many brands use technology to determine how many calls reps are fielding and how much time elapses between calls. Productivity measures like these are important for managing a remote team, but so are quality measures. As the first platform to holistically connect customer feedback, coaching, and QA in the same place, Stella Connect enables frontline managers and QA leaders to identify top and bottom performers, understand areas for improvement, and identify fracture points—all from the customer’s point of view.

If you have an agent-level feedback program in place, your customers will do much of the hard work for you. They’ll boost agents’ morale and give them something to strive for. They’ll reveal coaching opportunities and training needs you’d otherwise miss. As a result, they’ll help you measure agent performance in ways that matter most to the health and longevity of your brand.

Front-Line Feedback Brings Remote Agents and Customers Closer Together

Among all the programs companies use to measure and improve the customer experience, agent-level customer feedback has the unique ability to humanize brands and establish a human connection after every service interaction. Agent-level feedback keeps remote teams informed and engaged and builds brand equity. It makes remote customer service not just a viable option, but perhaps the best choice for your team.

What’s Next

In the face of recent events, many teams are transitioning to a more remote friendly work model.

As you plan your approach to the situation, we want to help ensure success. In our webinar, we share 3 actionable tips for maintaining excellent service quality with a remote CX workforce.

View the recording now as we work to support each other through this transitional time.