Recent years have seen a huge surge in the number of people working remotely, with a 2016 survey finding that 66% of UK SMEs now allow employees to work out of the office.
Thinking about taking your company remote? Here’s a guide to the pros and cons, and some helpful tips to make sure your customer support doesn’t suffer.
The pros and cons of a fully remote support team
The biggest perceived downside of remote working is the fact people aren’t physically in a room together. This can potentially make it harder to communicate with teammates as you can’t just tap them on the shoulder when you need to ask them a quick question, or sit down with them to discuss an issue in person.
Critics of remote working also believe that telecommuters don’t share the same bonds with their colleagues or the company, which can result in poorer team spirit and a lack of employee engagement or loyalty.
From a company’s perspective, one of the biggest benefits of having a remote team is the substantial cost savings. Some are able to ditch their office entirely, while others can downsize and pay substantially less for utilities like electricity. This money can then be re-invested into the company, hiring more employees and developing new products and services.
Having a remote support team means you aren’t limited to hiring from the local talent pool; if the best person for the job is based hundreds (or even thousands of miles) away, you can hire them! A globally distributed team is also more capable of offering support around the clock without having to resort to shift work.
Employees also report many benefits to remote working. It’s often seen as a much more flexible approach to the daily grind, giving people the freedom to work from wherever suits them – whether that’s their home, a local coffee shop, or a hot desking location. Some people even use remote working to live a nomadic lifestyle, travelling around the globe and working out of cafés.
Studies have shown that remote workers are likely to be more productive, engaged, and efficient, as well as being less stressed – this is therefore more likely to result in your customers receiving greater support from happier team members.
It’s clear that having a remote working policy can benefit companies and employees alike. So how can businesses ensure their customers continue to receive great support when team members aren’t together in the office?
Make it easy for customers to talk to you
It is imperative that customers are able to get in contact with your team without any stress or hassle on their end; the last thing you want is for people to feel let down by your customer service or lack thereof. There are hundreds of tools you can use to ensure that you offer the best support you can.
Live chat services make it easy to speak to people directly without them having to wait on a response. Intercom is a great example of this and can not only be used to communicate with customers with real-time messaging, it also offers automated emails that go out to users based on them fulfilling certain criteria or carrying out specific actions.
Team inboxes are a popular choice for companies where several people are manning the email, as they allow any team member to respond to emails instead of just giving one person that responsibility. Customers will get responses a lot quicker (making them much happier). G Suite and Front are both good tools to use if you’re looking to have a shared inbox with your team.
Ticketing systems enable your team to respond efficiently to customer issues to avoid important issues being missed or dealt with too slowly. Having a ticketing system in place adds a bit of structure to how issues are responded to. Zendesk and Freshdesk are examples of popular ticketing tools that you can use if you have a relatively high volume of customer enquiries coming through.
Cloud-based phone systems make it a lot easier for remote teams to communicate with customers. Unlike traditional phones, calls are sent over the internet, so support teams can answer calls wherever they are in the world. Nimvelo Phone and Dialpad have features such as time-based routing and ring groups to make sure customers are getting through to the best team member to help them, and businesses can choose a phone number that suits them.
Making it easier to talk to one another
You may think working from home means you’re no longer part of the team but that’s not the case. Although remote working means you can no longer physically turn to your team member to ask a question or check over work with them, the apps mentioned below allow you to be on the same page as the rest of the group.
Messaging services such as Slack and Yammer allow you to chat with your team using real-time messaging, and also include nifty (yet essential) features like file sharing and integrations with other apps.
Video conferencing tools make it easier to have face-to-face conversations with team members regardless of physical location. Google Hangouts and Skype are popular video conferencing apps that can be used for calls between teams – whether it’s a scheduled weekly meeting or a quick chat about a customer’s problem.
Cloud phone systems are one of the easiest and quickest ways to get in touch with a colleague. Tools such as Nimvelo Phone and Dialpad offer teams a flexible, cost-effective business phone system that allows them to call each other within seconds without incurring huge phone bills.
Ready to go remote?
If you’re scared of letting your team work remotely because it may negatively impact your company’s ability to provide excellent customer support, don’t be. By planning ahead and making it easy for your customers to get in touch with you, you’ll ensure their query or issue is resolved every bit as satisfactorily as it would be if you were all sat in an office together.