The current global pandemic has led to many a business scrambling to reorganize their staff for remote work, and this has impacted how customer support teams work.
We share 8 tips for setting up remote team communication and customer support, especially during this time of crisis so your customers can get the help they need in a timely fashion.
1. Get IT On Board Early
Your workplace is already organized for customer support but the moment you remove all that technology and access, the team will struggle to do their job.
Everyone now has to self-isolate, but your business needs to continue to some extent—you may not be able to carry on as usual under the circumstances, but you’ll want to get as close to regular operational ability as possible.
This is why you need to get the IT team working on making the support team remote. If you need to set up remote desktops, you need to consider not just access but privacy.
Data that would normally be contained within your business servers will have to be rerouted through home networks—your IT team needs to ensure those systems are in place and secure.
Though not all your customer service team will be taking calls—some may be working other systems—your VoIP process and technology needs to be tested and approved for use.
IT has a crucial role to play in the successful relocation of your in-house staff into remote teams—work with them from the start to make the system effective.
2. Cover the Customer Support Basics
Your customer support team will have been given a training manual when they first joined the company. Now is the time to make some crucial adjustments to that handbook.
The reason for changing the manual is because customer support teams need to update their interactions with customers, even their salutations and greetings—the usual corporate response to a call no longer works.
You need to acknowledge the current circumstances immediately on every call—the team also has to be more understanding of customer issues than usual.
People are on edge and more impatient than usual—train your staff to respond in a manner that eases their concerns but also buys your team enough time to resolve issues.
If you are receiving a high volume of calls or requests about one particular issue, consider creating a recorded announcement to address those first.
The most important thing to remember during this time is that people are concerned about the unknown—information is at a premium so make that your goal for every interaction.
Consider using an ebook creator to design new branded manuals and playbooks—these can be easily distributed via email or pinned in a chat.
3. Hold Remote Team Meetings
The need for communication with your staff is heightened when everyone has had to involuntarily go remote.
Keeping in touch with your support team is particularly crucial during this period of time—but you need to be smart about the kind of meetings you have.
Holding too many meetings is counterproductive—you’re taking away valuable time that could have been spent answering customers.
You also want to avoid giving your staff too much information at one go—which is what tends to happen in massive company-wide meetings.
Instead, break up the meetings thus:
- Limit weekly one-on-one meetings to 10-15 minutes
Instead of holding a meeting to look back on the week, summarize roadblocks and wins in an email
Schedule team meetings for every fortnight, not every week
To facilitate quick and effective communication, avoid relying solely on email—instead, use team chat tools like these Slack alternatives to message teams and individuals when you need to.
4. Customer Support Automation
If your company isn’t already using automated software for customer support, you should be looking into implementing it now.
Customer support is going to be at a premium for the next few months—your team will be stretched thin and the demands on them will be high.
Streamlining workflow and customer response should be a priority—which is why you need to think of implementing two types of automation:
Customer support automation
To facilitate better workflow when your team is spread across different locations, consider using project management tools like Trello, Zenkit, or Asana.
To ensure that customers receive prompt replies to simple queries, make a chatbot with built-in responses to common questions—more complex issues can be passed on to support teams.
A number of automation tools are free to use for smaller companies, and not very expensive—using them will benefit your team and company in the long run.
5. Revise Your Knowledge Base
Your knowledge base will have served you well over the years, but it needs to be updated for the circumstances we find ourselves in now.
With new technology comes new demands on your knowledge base—if you are used to customer support being routed through calls, when you implement chatbots, you will need links to blogs and explainer videos for people to follow.
Visualizations are always going to get information across faster than paragraphs of text so you will want to focus on making those as quickly as possible.
You will also have to input more data into your existing chatbots so that common queries related to the present situation can be resolved without anyone having to resort to creating tickets.
6. Customer Support Goes Omni-Channel
Automation is going to be the key to ensuring smoother workflow but you also need to expand your customer support channels.
Waiting for your customer base to contact you isn’t the best strategy right now—you need to go where they are. So, where are your customers?
If they are still visiting your website, you should be fine with using chatbots to answer queries.
But what if your customer base is largely on social media? You need to implement Facebook messenger chatbots soon.
According to this survey on technology use, seniors and millennials extensively use phones to access the internet—you need to calibrate your customer support for mobile use.
Consider sending mobile push notifications for updates, changes, and frequently asked questions so people have the answers they need without having to work for it.
7. Socializing Remotely
If your staff is used to being in the office and socializing together, having to go remote and work away from colleagues will be difficult to adjust to.
But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be social gatherings online—organize watch parties, trivia nights, online board games, and dance parties on Zoom, or Google Hangouts.
It is extremely important that teams feel like they are still connected to each other and their company during this time—they should feel like one part of a whole, not like isolated cogs in a wheel that doesn’t care about them.
8. Remote Team Feedback
When you are in an office space, feedback on workflow and performance is often immediate and constant—individuals can walk over to each other at any point for a quick chat.
This becomes infinitely harder when everyone is working in isolation. The immediateness of the feedback is removed, increasing the feeling of isolation.
Plus, people need positive feedback when they’ve done a good job—if nobody is around, you aren’t getting that much-needed boost from a pat on the back or nod of approval.
When moving your customer support team into the remote sphere, ensure you outline what is needed from staff and managers when it comes to feedback.
Due to the nature of customer service, support teams don’t have the luxury of stopping their work for an indepth discussion with colleagues and managers.
They should be informed about when and how they are to deliver their reports and attend briefings so nobody feels like their free time is being impinged upon.
Use these remote team templates to outline work from home policies, updated HR processes, and to onboard newly remote teams.
Your support team managers need to be open to feedback—it has to be a two-way street. Customer service staff are on the frontlines and they know what clients need.
If they have suggestions on how to improve processes and interactions, these need to be taken into account and implemented to ensure the best service is delivered.
Moving your customer support team from the workplace to a remote working environment can be challenging.
The above tips are meant to help you set up a process that will not only be efficient but will also make it easier for your staff to achieve work/ life balance.
Take some time to iron out the teething issues that will inevitably arise, but once those are out of the way, you will have a satisfactory remote service team and the ability to help customers as and when they need your assistance.