The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted nearly every industry in multiple ways. A particular challenge involved shifting work from the office to employees’ homes. As a result, employees set up home offices in anticipation of working from home for an extended period. Similarly, supervisors accustomed to being in the trenches with their teams were faced with remote team management.
In the initial weeks of the pandemic lockdown, sales ground to a halt as companies struggled to adjust. Entire operations were shut down, and functions such as administration and customer service seemed unnecessary.
However, businesses soon realized their clients needed more support than ever and arranged for customer service teams to work remotely. Leaders were charged with looking after their teams from afar, which required efficient remote team management tools. Some businesses also turned to outsourcing to bring experienced remote workers to their teams more quickly.
Embracing Remote Customer Service Team Management
Quality customer service remained essential throughout the pandemic as people canceled extravagances and negotiated lower payments for services. Forward-thinking executives shifted these roles to remote work first and invested in technology to keep support lines open.
Two years later, a majority of remote employees hope to keep working from home at least part of the time. A remote team management system that provides support and tools for customer service agents is essential.
More importantly, leaders must find effective ways to train their remote or hybrid customer service agents. How can you ensure your home-based support team members get the training and onboarding they need? Try these seven tips.
Develop a Sound Learning Strategy
Before handing out the first training module, it’s best to establish a learning and development strategy. This will organize the entire training program and outline your customer service team’s needs, expectations, and objectives.
By standardizing the training program, all team members will receive consistent and structured information. Reach out to your Human Resources department if you need help crafting the training strategy—they have the knowledge and experience to help you develop a comprehensive system.
The training development strategy should support your company’s key business objectives. For example, you might want to include your company’s ideals on engaging and retaining employees, maintaining a consistent company brand, and providing support to employees. New workers will expect to receive basic skills training for the job, but they’ll want to learn more about their eventual roles in the company. This is why, in addition to sharing ways to increase productivity, the overall strategy should also talk about long-term plans for engaged employees.
Sharing a mutually beneficial strategy is an excellent motivator compared to a one-sided training module that only demands increased performance. This tactic also establishes trust among trainees and encourages them to think beyond their day-to-day job. It’s easier to train new employees in customer service strategies when they know their careers can grow as the company grows.
Use Remote Collaboration Tools
The right tools can help any task get done better, faster, and more efficiently. Remote customer service is awash with technology tools and solutions that help resolve customer needs and improve communication and collaboration with team members. Popular technology solutions for enhanced customer service include software that enhances communication and productivity, monitors interactions, and offers quality assurance.
Communication and Productivity Software
Communication and productivity software allows team members to constantly talk with one another, whether one-on-one or as a group. It also lets members share files, access and edit documents and calendars, and send notifications. Meanwhile, productivity software allows members to track individual and team training progress and make collective adjustments to stay on target.
Monitoring and Quality Assurance Software
Before deploying agents to face customers, managers can use monitoring and quality assurance (QA) software to evaluate each agent’s performance in a mock setting. This allows team leaders to identify strengths and areas for improvement. In addition, trainees will gain valuable experience and gather advice that can prove useful when they face clients head-on.
QA software does more than monitor and measure an agent’s performance. Built-in benchmarks and analytics can also show whether individuals and teams are performing according to expectations. Once the training wheels are off, these software solutions allow managers to listen in on live calls and provide support and coaching to team members. The software also lets managers know when they need to intervene or provide direct assistance.
Leverage Use of Video Calls
While traditional training requires in-person interactions between a manager and a new employee, video conferencing software helps fill that gap during remote work scenarios. Virtual video calls can provide trainers with a better way to communicate with trainees compared to voice calls alone. Video conferencing is also better suited for team huddles and group reporting. It brings all remote customer service agents together on one call to share insights and offer advice. Video meetings can also build rapport among your virtual team and encourage collaboration.
During remote training, it’s essential for leaders to provide clear messaging when handing out tasks or giving pointers. There should be no room for misinterpretation or second-guessing during learning sessions. Compared to voice calls or chats, video calls offer more complete context during remote team management sessions. For example, a video meeting helps reduce or eliminate miscommunication that might otherwise come from a wrongly perceived tone or wording.
Another benefit of using video for support or coaching sessions is that it can liven up team meetings better than phone calls or group texts. Personalities come through, which encourages bonding among a remote team. And, if nothing else, seeing teammates’ faces after a grueling learning session will remind trainees they’re not alone.
Maintain a Comprehensive Knowledge Base
A knowledge base is a self-service platform that records all information about specific problems and concerns previously raised by customers. This standby database listing of a majority of client concerns is more than a convenience for your team—it’s actually a standard issue for high-quality customer service teams.
Most customer-related scenarios are a replica or derivative of a previous interaction. In many cases, a previous customer support agent has already recorded that particular scenario and drawn up a guide for resolving the specific issue. In fact, this step-by-step guide is most likely stored in the company’s knowledge base.
Having access to this repository helps agents address similar interactions. Drawing information from the knowledge base means issues can be resolved more quickly and systematically. By developing a standard set of responses and resolutions, your customer service team will provide more consistent support. Plus, swift and efficient resolutions mean fewer circumstances for managers to intervene or take over.
A knowledge base is especially handy for remote agents. When working from home, agents don’t have the luxury of asking a colleague seated next to them for help. By providing them with remote access to the customer service knowledge base, trainees become better equipped to handle even the most uncommon scenarios.
As part of the training, encourage agents to contribute to the knowledge base. Asking your support team to add new or unique situations means future agents become better equipped to handle even more scenarios. A bigger and better knowledge base also ensures response times and quality assurance for customer concerns continually improve. And, your new employee can feel satisfied knowing they’re contributing to improving their team.
Ever Heard of Microlearning?
Training lectures, especially when long-winded, can be unbearably boring. In a remote setting, this type of training is even less interesting. With employees displaying shorter attention spans, overloading them with too much information in one sitting can prove counterproductive in the long run.
The concept behind microlearning is that the human brain can only take so much information in a single session. Consider social media: the most popular posts consist of a single image or short video and leave viewers wanting more. This easily digestible tidbit is at the essence of what makes microlearning such a powerful training method.
Microlearning provides lessons in small doses. Instead of subjecting trainees to a 30- or 45-minute lecture, microlearning gives snippets of learning in five-minute increments. And microlearning doesn’t only rely on lecture-type presentations—audiences can learn by watching a short video, reading an infographic, or answering a short quiz. These short bursts of learning allow trainees to digest smaller chunks of information easier, and they’re more likely to retain the knowledge.
Trainees won’t need complex equipment for microlearning sessions. Its small but highly effective system means learners can get their microlearning dose simply by using their smartphones. The compact delivery method is also a boon for content creators, who can produce microlearning lessons faster.
How About Gamification?
Gamification is a popular learning concept that takes advantage of one’s competitive spirit. By tying learning to measurable accomplishments, new employees are motivated to move through the training module, pay closer attention, and remember the lessons. Gamifying training means applying some of the elements present in popular games that people play.
For example, a training module can include a quiz that generates a score based on how many correct answers a trainee gets right. The gamified approach can also display a user’s score along with the scores of other participants to show the top achievers. Adding these competitive elements to a training module increases a learner’s engagement levels. When trainers further incentivize the gaming elements, such as through a prize for the highest score, trainees become even more emboldened to perform their best.
Gamification is a great way to enhance training on product knowledge or system procedures. By gamifying training for remote workers, you’ll see increased participation and engagement levels.
Collect and Respond to Feedback
Training is a continuous process. In the course of their work dealing with customers, customer service agents often remain unaware of their performance. Effective remote team management tools supply that feedback in a manner that helps trainees better understand it. Managers, in particular, should have the proper mechanisms in place to evaluate how an agent interacts with customers.
Feedback should remain objective and should use performance metrics as parameters. Managers should take utmost care in providing context when evaluating team members. In addition, feedback should contain both positive and constructive elements, so trainees will know which areas of their performance are good and which ones need improvement.
It’s important to note that when delivering feedback, managers or evaluators should frame their reactions in a neutral tone. Any additional nonverbal cues, however inadvertent, might result in trainees taking feedback negatively.
Outsourcing a Remote Team? Talk to Helpware
Training a remote customer service team is a bit more challenging than onboarding an in-office team. But when done successfully, the manager is left with a knowledgeable and highly engaged support staff that can perform well at home or on-site. Individual employees might respond differently to various learning methods, so it’s essential to identify which systems get a more positive response from trainees and result in better customer support.
The specialists at Helpware can efficiently and effectively outsource and train your remote customer service team. As experts in the outsourcing field, we can provide the right customer service staff for your specific requirements and the tools and training they need to perform their best.
If your company wants to maximize the results of its remote employees, let Helpware assist with your business process outsourcing needs. We’d love to learn more about your company and identify the areas that could most benefit from an outsourced and remote staff. Contact us today.