Working remotely as a customer support team has its own unique challenges from being office based. However, neither your agents nor your customers need to suffer.
Not all team leaders will have experience in managing a team that's in a different location, and spread out in multiple locations. There will be a number who will find themselves in unknown territory when it comes to keeping their team motivated and productive. Plus, they might not have ever worked remotely themselves. In this blog we're looking at how team leaders can keep their team motivated when they are working remotely including:
- Keeping agents engaged
- Providing the right level and type of support
- Maintaining communications and business awareness
Keeping agents engaged
Keeping agents and your teams engaged is one of the biggest challenges when a remote working model is in place.
Make work fun!
The first tip is that you should try and make working from home fun. There's a good chance that some or all of your agents have may have never had to work remotely or from home before and they will have their own thoughts and feelings about this. For some, this will be an exciting prospect but for others it could be quite daunting and then there are others that will feel both of those emotions.
A major challenge that you'll face when managing a remote team is maintaining that individual agent-level engagement but also that collective engagement as a team. You're not seeing each other every day, as you would if you were all working in the contact centre together.
Now you aren't spending the working week with your colleagues, you'll often lose sharing your daily experiences together. It's a major change to the ways of working for those that have no experience of remote working and change itself, as we know, can have a major impact on people. Some agents will respond better than others.
Working in isolation when you're not used to it can feel quite strange and even a lonely experience at first, which in itself can cause some people to become quickly disengaged. One of the ways to prevent that is by making work a bit more fun, so you could introduce some games or team quizzes. Making it competitive by having agents or teams competing against each other will help to motivate them.
Anything you can do to incentivise the range of tasks and objectives that your agents are doing on a day-to-day basis can make a big difference to engagement levels. Challenge them and make sure to provide updates and recognition of what is going well. Of course, you don't want to distract them away from the role that they're doing but at the same time it's another way that you can alleviate any potential boredom and feelings of isolation.
Work to collective goals
Work on agreeing some collective team goals, as well as any individual goals, so that as a team you’re working together and not just agents working to their own objectives. This will help them to feel part of the bigger picture. It'll also help them to feel what they're doing is still contributing to their team and the team performance overall and the successes that come with that.
Working towards more frequent, smaller goals also helps you to place the focus where it's most needed, focusing on what's being achieved every day rather than agents simply focusing on the day-to-day tasks that they do.
Refreshing those goals more frequently, whether that's having daily goals or different goals throughout each week, helps to keep things interesting and keeps the energy going.
It will also encourage more interaction between your agents. This is where the communication tools and systems come into play again, so platforms like Slack will help agents to keep interacting and more engaged through that regular communication.
Teamwork spaces are ideal for teams working remotely, so they can chat to each other throughout the working day just as they would within the office.
This helps to maintain that feel of a team environment, continue sharing best practices, using anecdotes of the day and of course, to support each other when anyone is feeling particularly challenged, or struggling with the remote working experience itself. As a team leader, you're able to manage that and keep that under control, so it isn’t acting as a distraction.
Providing the right level and right type of support
Being the team leader, it's your job to make sure the right support is there for agents when they need it. In the contact centre, your agents will have everything they need. In the remote working environment, it's vital that agents still feel they have all of the support they would usually have access to, if not more.
It's really important that the following support activity is still taking place when working remotely:
- - Performance updates
- - Coaching
- - 1:1s
- - General wellness discussion
You should make sure that information about their current performance is always readily available too.
Monthly 1:1' or performance review sessions should be scheduled in, so they've got time to prepare and they can use those sessions to talk things over and have quality time and interaction with you.
Moving from a busy environment surrounded by their colleagues and friends, to being at home in a room on their own doing that job, is really quite a contrast, especially if they don't have any experience of doing that before. So, agents need to know that they have access to any support they need from you, as easily as they would as if they were in the office. They need to feel part of that bigger picture.
When you're suddenly having to make the move to remote working, some of the support functions might not be available straight away or might not be as easily accessible. So, just be aware of that and make sure, wherever you can, that there are alternatives in place so your agents know where they can go and who they can speak to if they need that support.
If it's possible to do 1:1s as home visits or to meet for a coffee somewhere then this is a great way to take the formality out of the session. It's a great way for both of you to relax and hold those conversations. It also takes both you and the agent away from that remote environment and gives you both that person to person contact.
It's also a really good way of being able to check on their general state of well-being as well, because in the office every day you've got that visibility of your agents, you can usually see if someone is looking a little down or frustrated. Seeing the agent face to face will help you to gauge how they are coping with working remotely and it gives you an opportunity to share your experiences to help put them more at ease and more relaxed with that situation.
If meeting face to face isn't an option, then make use of video calling software. Adding a face to these important 1:1 discussions is super important. Reading body language and engagement throughout the sessions will make sure you both get what you need from it.
Maintaining communications and business awareness
We've gone through the challenges that we can find around engagement and the things you can do to maintain business as usual in terms of the activities that you would do with your agents on a weekly basis. This last point is around maintaining communications and business updates when remote working.
It's super important that the updates that your agents would receive when they're in the office, apply when they're working remotely. It’s vital to make sure they're continually aware of what is going on across the business.
If you've recently made a shift or are making the shift to home working then there's going to be a lot of questions once that transition takes effect. Questions around what's going on in the wider business and what things are being put in place to support the changes. So, it's necessary that you as a team leader, are making sure that this information is reaching your agents through the proper channels.
You will need to decide how you want to do that. For business updates, you may usually have email briefings that go out to the team, so continue to make sure that they're going out. You may also use team briefings or huddles to deliver business updates or team updates. Don't let these fall by the wayside because people are working remotely. They're more important than ever.
You can still hold team briefings collectively through group conferencing, or video calls to make sure that you get all of your agents together in one place. Another advantage of that is that you're able to deliver those messages verbally and get people to respond, interact and ask questions, which is exactly how it would be in the office.
If you need to give any of your agents individual updates, whether it's about their own performance or anything that you just need to discuss with them in general, take exactly the same approach.
Don't just rely on email and written communication to let your agents know something about their performance, whether it's a piece of feedback or something else, always make these personal updates are a verbal discussion. Where there are opportunities to meet up with your agents or hold a video call to discuss these things then take advantage of that, as it can really make a world of difference.
Key tips to take away:
- Incorporate fun
- Agree smaller but more regular goals
- Maintain as much Business As Usual (BAU) activity as possible
- Don’t forget about the people element
Hopefully, this has given you lots of ideas for how to motivate remote customer support teams and keeping engagement levels up, especially with agents who are new to working from home. This blog is part of a remote working series, so take a look at the others too as you should find them really beneficial.