In early 2020, nearly half of US of employees found themselves in a new working environment—their homes. They set up desks, plugged in monitors, and settled in for what now feels like the long haul. And while many will go back to the office when risks abate, a Gartner survey of CFOs and finance leaders found that 74% of organizations plan to keep some of their workforce remote post-pandemic—and they’re not alone. Many employees and their companies are realizing the vast benefits that a flexible or work from home (WFH) policy can offer.
Pre-COVID-19, Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Report revealed that 98% of teleworkers actually love their stay-at-home setup, and want to work remotely for life. According to a Staples Workplace survey, 90% of employees believe that flexible work environments boosts their morale and 80% say they’d turn down a job if it didn’t offer telework opportunities.
When it comes to businesses, 85% believe that productivity has increased because of greater flexibility and 77% of employees believe that WFH models reduce operating costs. Furthermore, companies that support remote work have 25% lower employee turnover (an issue that many service departments face) than those who don’t. Lastly, WFH strategies allow businesses to tap a broader talent pool, hiring from beyond the confines of commutable distances.
Telework can be a win-win for both service organizations and their employees. Establishing a successful and efficient WFH strategy, however, requires rethinking the way you’ve always done business. Service leaders considering moving their teams remote should specifically assess internal leadership, culture, and agent resources.
Here are 5 steps to help develop a successful and productive telework strategy.
Examine and adjust your internal leadership style
Leadership sets the tone for the entire organization and can be a decisive factor in encouraging positive change. Take a look at what KPIs your company uses to determine success. Are they tailored to a remote workforce? Are you focusing too much on the amount of work that needs to be done versus the quality of what’s accomplished? Consider adopting a more asynchronous mindset, and encourage employees to buckle down at time intervals when they’re most productive. Regardless of your expectations, communicate them well across leadership and to employees. Doing so will foster a sense of reciprocal trust that is critical for WFH organizations.
Foster a connected employee culture
Culture is the backbone of great service, and it pervades every experience your agents have with customers. But culture can be tough to create while WFH. Working solo can also feel isolating, and it’s important for leaders to build a sense of “togetherness.” Try adopting reoccurring check-ins with your team, and explore adopting video conferencing or messaging tools to stay connected. Think about ways you can creatively motivate and engage your employees—the more they support each other and share knowledge, the more successful you’ll be.
Amplify agent access to internal information
Business success is directly tied to how well companies can manage their information and respond to change. In fact, transformational ability directly correlates to speed and access to information. So, when it comes to empowering your service team to WFH, make sure they are armed with the right tools to get the information they need—such as a robust and updated knowledge base. Develop checklists and articles that explain how agents can answer their own questions while working remotely. Also, don’t forget to align your internal knowledge base with external resources. In doing so, customers will find consistent answers whether they resolve their queries via self-service or a call into an agent. Finally, take a moment to analyze what your agents are searching for in your knowledge base and recognize any patterns. Your takeaways could become insightful training material or content for ongoing education.
Augment agent access to customer information
As part of an agents’ remote toolkit, ensure that they have access to a complete 360-degree view of every customer and account. If their agent desktop doesn’t share a master record with other systems—like sales, field service, billing, shipping, and others—do they have the collaborative resources to get that information quickly from their colleagues? By breaking down the walls between siloed business units, each agent is empowered with the contextual knowledge to help a customer no matter what their query is. As a result, the agent can foster strong relationships with your customers, and help build company loyalty with each interaction.
Invest in automation
By automating responses to frequently asked questions or simple queries, customers enjoy instant gratification. At the same time, automation frees agents up to spend their time focusing on complex issues. Consider conversational assistants, for example, which help supplement an agent and point customers with simple questions to a knowledge base or FAQs. Knowledge bases are great self-service options for many people who have the same question, and they can deflect quite a few queries from service centers. If a conversational assistant can’t solve a customer’s question, an agent can quickly jump in and help. Another automation tool is intelligent advice. When many customers have issues that require personalized answers—like wanting to cancel airline tickets or check a warranty—intelligent advice can bring in a customer’s unique context through a decisioning process and quickly provide resolution without needing an agent’s intervention.
The goal of developing remote customer service strategies is twofold. Companies can maximize revenue and lower costs with more productive and happier WFH employees. Even more importantly, they can deliver authentic and outstanding service to their customers at their every point of need.
To learn more tips to developing a WFH customer service strategy and to hear examples of businesses who successfully transitioned to remote work, check out a recording of this June 2020 webinar: Delivering Exceptional Service When Working From Home.