A lot of companies have been forced to make a nimble transition to remote work in the last few months. For some, this has been a relatively smooth shift. For others — particularly those reliant on in-house equipment and IT support — it’s more complicated. Often, customer service organizations fall into that second camp.
But here we are. The shift to remote work has become at least temporarily mandatory for a lot of companies. And let’s face it, we don’t exactly know when things will return to normal. For all practical purposes, this is the new normal.
To transition your contact center agents to this new paradigm, some best practices are quickly emerging. Here’s a rundown of the steps you’ll need to cover in the shift to remote customer support work.
Step 1: Ensure everyone has access
For your employees to work from home at all — never mind productively — they’ll need two things:
- Internet connectivity
Ideally, you already had a stash of laptops ready to dole out to anyone who needs them. If not, you’ll have to make that happen quickly. You’ll also want to make sure everyone on staff has a decent internet connection or a plan B for how to get online securely.
Step 2: Provide the right content
They’ll also need to have access to the right documentation. An accessible online knowledge base is critical. They may also need access to customer files, your CRM, and your ticketing system.
Step 3: Get them inside your network
In the interest of security, some customer support organizations normally operate behind a firewall. If that’s the case for yours, you’ll need to enable all of your employees to access that network via VPN.
Alternatively, you may be using a cloud-based software platform that does not require VPN access. If so, you’re in a good position, because employees can log in from anywhere. You may want to enable particular security measures, such as single sign-on (SSO) authentication or multi-factor authentication to make it easy for your agents to get into your system without compromising security.
Step 4: Create a communication scheme
Know what your lines of command are in this new setup and create regular check-points and check-ins. You might have a weekly or even daily “standup” meeting with all staff, leaning into video conferencing to bring the team together.
Step 5: Don’t neglect their human side
Along with communication around work needs, reach out to your staff frequently to ensure their morale is up and they’re feeling taken care of. Don’t underestimate the importance of emotional support during this transition. With or without COVID-19 in the mix, any major change to the work environment can be stressful and overwhelming for employees.
Step 6: Balance performance metrics with work boundaries
Performance metrics are important, but they might shift in a remote work scenario. You may want to revisit the expectations and metrics you use to measure employee productivity.
And at the same time, make sure you set boundaries on behalf of your employees. Just because they’re working at home does not mean they’re available all the time. Don’t let schedule creep occur.
Step 7: Use automation to your advantage
If your company is experiencing a surge in support requests, or a lot of repetitive questions, automating aspects of your customer support experience will help ensure customers don’t have to wait for answers while freeing up your human agents to handle more unique requests. (And Helpshift is currently offering its technology to impacted organizations at no cost, so you can leverage the power of automation to rapidly scale operations even with reduced staff!
Step 8: Keep the lines of communication open with customers
In addition to the way you communicate with staff, communication with customers is also essential at this time. Everyone is wallowing in uncertainty, to a degree, and the more transparent and reassuring you can be, the better.
Communicate to your user base and customers that you’re doing your best to keep supporting them under the circumstances, and to bear with you as you strategize the change and build up your resources.
This shift to remote customer support work, by the way, is not only driven by the necessity of reality right now. The world has been trending toward remote work for a while, and there are plenty of statistics and anecdotes touting the benefits of a remote workforce. Flexjobs, for instance, conducted a survey that showed 74% of people considered flexible work to be “the new normal” before COVID-19 came on the scene.
So while your organization may be in a reactive mode right now, the work you’re doing will set you up well for the future.