How to Manage a (Suddenly) Remote Customer Support Team

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You’re used to having your customer support team close at hand—but due to recent COVID-related initiatives, it’s now likely that your team is planning on working remotely for at least a few weeks, possibly longer. They’re not used to this, and neither are you. The support tickets are piling up, and customers are getting frustrated.

The situation clearly isn’t ideal for anyone. But what can you do to make it better? Try these strategies.

Make sure that your customer support team has the equipment and support they need.

Give your customer support agents headsets, laptop computers, and, if they have the space for it, a home desk setup that includes a second monitor and mousepad. Their laptops should be connected to your VPN and include access to VoIP calling software, your CRM, and whatever other apps they’d normally use to do their jobs. Make sure that they also have access to high-speed internet.

Provide scheduling flexibility. 

It’s entirely possible that your team members have children who’ve been impacted by school or daycare closures, so check in with them about their schedule to make sure that they have backup child care support if they need it. You may need to allow them to temporarily reduce their workload or shift their hours based on when they will be able to best maintain focus on work. 

Set up cloud-based collaboration tools.

Most corporate offices are already equipped with a variety of communication software technologies so that teams can collaborate across departments. Take stock of what you already have, and see what you should add to supplement it: For instance, if you typically rely on in-person team meetings to set agendas, you’ll likely want to use a secure conference calling tool to do the same thing virtually. Chat messaging tools like Slack are also useful for enabling employees to check in with their coworkers and ask questions, which can be answered in real-time or asynchronously, and can help simulate the usual workplace chatter.

Build a knowledge base. 

If you don’t already have a knowledge base for your organization, this is the ideal time to create one. This way, your team will be able to refer to commonly-asked questions at a moment’s notice without needing to go to you for help. You can likely build out your knowledge base with existing content that you have already in your technical documentation, project management system, and emails. Once you’ve done that, ask your agents what other questions they’d like to see answered and get feedback from your domain experts to respond to them. 

Focus on wellness.

It’s a stressful time for everyone, and customer support agents already have a stressful job to begin with. Make sure that it doesn’t take a toll on them by providing plenty of incentives to focus on self-care, such as setting up automatic timers to recommend a walking or stretching break every hour. You can also offer them complimentary subscriptions to online fitness and yoga videos, or ship farm-fresh produce or fruit to their doors. 

Demonstrate empathy.

A good customer support leader doesn’t just focus on customer satisfaction—they focus on their employees’ wellbeing, too. Make sure that you take the time to check in on your team and how they’re doing. Ask if there are ways that you can better support them with their new normal. Be understanding if they need to reduce their ticket volume or working hours for a little while. The better you can support them during this transition time, the less likely you are to lose them as employees.

Help customers use self-service.

Support tickets are likely to be coming in faster than ever before, so it’s critical that you provide your customer support agents with the framework they need to stay on top of complicated support issues while enabling customers to address more common issues with self-service support. Consider using a self-service platform that can help customers easily query your knowledge base with natural language to identify relevant content snippets that can answer their questions.

Evaluate workflow and processes frequently.

As we’ve seen, situations can change rapidly, and you may find that your customer volume increases or decreases substantially more than what you’d forecasted based on outside factors. You also may find that some of your agents may need to take extended time off to deal with family or health situations. In this case, a quarter-by-quarter forecast isn’t adequate—make sure that you’re evaluating agent workload and ticket volume frequently and that you’re making accommodations to support your workers, whether that involves bringing in new team members or using automation tools to reduce their workload.

By making a concerted effort to build a supportive environment for customer support agents who’re suddenly faced with the challenge of working remotely, you’ll be able to retain your best workers and make sure that your customers have a great experience when they get in touch.