Working remotely is on the rise across multiple industries. Following this global trend, remote customer service is climbing in popularity as well. Such customer-centric giants as Amazon, Zapier, LiveOps employ remote support staff around the world.
According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” study, the number of employees working remotely has risen from 39 percent to 42 percent since 2012.
And is your business ready for remote support? Let’s have a look at some pros and cons that may help you make up your mind.
24h coverage. With teammates based in different countries, it’s easier to provide a round-o-clock support without resorting to night shifts.
Better customer experiences. Dealing with customers requires patience and composure. As remote work results in healthier work-life balance (flexible work environment and not having to commute) and lower stress levels, your support workers are more relaxed, which will definitely translate into a more positive customer experience.
Cost reduction. Resigning from having the office allows companies to save on overhead costs. No need to pay for real estate, utilities, housekeeping and other office-related services. Saved money can be reinvested in things bringing higher business value, like training staff or product development.
Requires high level of self-discipline, commitment, and motivation. Without direct supervision, some workers are just losing structure and simply do not rise to the occasion and do not perform well. Hiring people with right character qualities is crucial for the effective customer support.
Communication within the team is harder. Remote support is not the best fit for startups where tight communication is essential at early stages. And it can also be harder to mentor or train someone who is new to your sector. Given that employees may work in different time zones, it’s not easy to difficult to find the time when everyone is available.
Team spirit takes a blow. Team members hardly ever see each other in person. This lack of face-to-face interactions results not only in the lack of personal relationships but weaker company culture and lower motivation.
How to organize the best possible remote support?
Organize smooth communication with customers. Choose the right support tools that will make it easy for the customer to get immediate support in the most comfortable way for them.
Live chat. It’s fast and direct and does not require any additional equipment, like headsets. Live chat agents can work anywhere – at the beach, in cafes, co-working spots without disturbing others as it’s a perfectly silent tool as opposed to the phone support.
If the live chat you choose is mobile friendly (like HelpCrunch), your employees are not chained to PC or laptops – they can do their job on the go – during a walk in the park while lying on the beach or visiting the Eiffel tower.
Live chat is budget savvy and the cost doesn’t depend on your agents’ geographic locations. And no problem with bad hearing or understanding different accents!
Ticketing software, where customers’ queries and questions are organized in support tickets. At HelpCrunch, use our customer support platform that includes both a live chat and a ticketing system. All conversations are forwarded to a shared team box so that support agents can monitor and manage interactions from any spot in the world, anytime. Customer interactions are assigned tags (like “lead”, “important”, “affiliate” etc) and communication statuses (e.g. “new”, “open”, “pending”, “resolved”, “closed”).
Phone support. After the rise of instant messaging applications (like WhatsApp and other messengers), which have become people’s preferred channel of communication, the phone support is losing ground. However, it’s still efficient if your target audience consists mostly of the older generation, less familiar with new technology and unwilling to type.
Email. Modern customers are so time-sensitive – they want their answers immediately and get frustrated with a long email ping-pong. Nevertheless, emails are still effective for following up, sending sign up confirmations, onboarding instructions, tips on using your service, sending updates or announcements etc. We use email automation that lets us trigger email campaigns based on customers’ actions on our website.
Facilitate communication among team members.
You need work as a team and organize your communication wisely. Use services like Slack, Hipchat, Bitrix 24, eXo Platform, Twist etc. Divide your communication into separate channels communication in channels so that it’s easier to find the topic or issue you need.
We integrated Slack with our live chat and activated message notifications to get real-time alerts whenever a customer hits us a message. There’s no risk to miss any important interactions.
Video call conferencing tools like Skype or Google Hangouts. Find the time to bring all team members or at least the majority of them together (if they are based in different time zones). Make sure all team members are on the same page, discuss the current situation, challenges and goals.
These could be daily or weekly call meetups, the important thing is that they should be scheduled and regular.
There’s a variety of tools, like Jira, Trello, Asana, Pivotal Tracker and Trello that will help you keep everything on track. And Google Drive works fine for collaborating and sharing documentations.
- Organize company retreats, at least once a year. These get-togethers – will help build bonds of trust and friendship.
- Have a place for non-work related conversations. For example, we use a fun Slack channel (#random stuff) and skype chats (“hungry birds” to talk about food, and “genius chat” for sharing news, ideas, funny pictures and videos).
So do you think it’s worth going remote with customer service? We’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to share your comments or tips below.
Looking for some customer retention inspiration? We've got 5 companies that got their retention strategies just right.