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A Stanford University study said that productivity increases among remote workers to the tune of an extra day per person, per week. That’s a lot of extra productivity, but how do you do it, and how do you do it effectively? It’s not always a rosy picture. In my first days of working remote due to COVID-19, I know I’ve struggled with communication, cabin-fever, and an uncomfortable work environment. And I’m not alone. Buffer released a study on remote workers and found these top three issues: unplugging after work, loneliness, and collaborating and/or communication. As much of the US moves to a remote workforce, we have no choice but to overcome these challenges. Here are the top 20 ways you can manage a remote customer service team.
1. Close Your Office
If you haven’t already, do us all a solid and close your office now. Social distancing is a pretty important word right now, and if you have a work environment with more than a handful of employees, I’d highly recommend shutting it down and moving remote.
2. Follow Routines
Like me, you probably don’t think you need a routine. You’ll just sit down and do your thing. Bad idea. Working from home has its own set of challenges and, like at work, distractions are all around you. Figure out a routine that works for you and your company and stick to it.
3. Watch Out for Security
With everybody logging in remotely, it’s worth doing a quick check to ensure your security policies and procedures are being followed. With all that is going on, the last thing you need is a roommate who inadvertently opens up your network and machines to potential security threats.
4. Find Your Place Within Your Place
Don’t think you can roam around the house and stay focused or be productive. It just doesn’t work, believe me. You need to create a designated space for work. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a small section in your kitchen or a corner of your bedroom. It may not be the perfect office, but you do need to have it.
5. Be Done
Yes, you want to be productive and yes, you want to stay focused, but just because you are working remotely doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7. It’s sometimes easy to feel guilty about “not working” while being remote, but be strong. Fill your hours, do your job, and when it’s over, you have my permission to shut your computer and live your life.
6. Execute Weekly SPIFs
You want to keep things fun and interactive, and one way to do that is with sales performance incentive funds, or SPIFs, traditionally used in sales but effective for any team. These can be small gifts or even group recognition. Don’t focus on monthly goals, but rather on short-term wins to drive motivation and engagement.
7. Schedule Break Time
It’s easy to get up and get right to work because you’re not wasting time commuting or skipping out for lunch. Just because you can sit at your computer all day doesn’t mean you should. The only way to make sure you take time for breaks or time for your family is to actually schedule those times in your calendar.
8. Get the Basics
This goes above and beyond, but it’s a nice gesture. For many employees, they may not have the basics for a remote work environment, so offering a small stipend to get a headset or other basic items to perform their job is not a bad idea.
9. Create Signs
Whether it is kids, roommates, or significant others, everybody needs to know what different signs mean. For example, door closed does not mean “bang until open.” Setting the ground rules with those around you so they all know when you are on important calls or in meetings, is a must.
10. Test Your Speed
You can’t work remotely if your internet is slow. Make sure you and your employees have fast enough internet speeds to do the job required. A good rule of thumb: if you can watch Netflix, you can probably do your work. Here is a site to test your speed: https://fast.com/
11. Start Creative Interactions
Don’t be boring. Find creative ways to interact. Could you create a remote team lunch? What about a remote happy hour? These and other ideas help people keep it light and fun.
12. Dress the Part
You might not have to be on camera but you still have to be working. Rolling out of bed and throwing your headset on doesn’t make you happy and, I promise, it doesn’t make your customers or prospects happy either. Pretend like you’re going to work, shower, and put on some decent clothes. I promise it will make the day better.
13. Huddle Daily
If you were not already doing this, shame on you. Every team needs a good 5-10 min huddle each morning to kick things off the right way. You need to keep these meetings small in size and short in time. Focus on quick numbers from the previous day. Highlight three strengths from the day before and one area of opportunity and then ask each person to commit to something.
14. Listen to a Lot of Calls
Remote managers may not have a ton of extra time, but they should optimize the time they do have. That extra time should be used listening to calls and reviewing other types of communication. Know what your people are talking about and how they are talking about it. The devil is in the details, so get into the details.
15. Be Ready to Iterate
If you’re not an expert at remote managing, give yourself a break and iterate every single day. Don’t settle. Find little things you can do better to make you and your team successful.
16. Gamify Your Culture
People want to know where they are and where they are not when it comes to winning, so help them see that. One idea is to create a scoreboard: it doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it’s a great motivator.
17. Go Video or Go Home
Push to have everyone be on video during any team meetings you hold. Video helps interaction and engagement, so make it mandatory when possible.
18. Get Collaboration Tools
If you’re not already using Slack or Teams, you should be. Find easy tools that allow your team to interact with each other more easily.
19. Communicate as Leaders Often
If you were holding a monthly company meeting to update employees about the business, you may need to make that more frequent. Leadership should plan on communicating weekly to all employees and I’d encourage daily flash emails when needed.
20. Support Your Team With Customer Service Technology
I have to put this one in here, but just because I work for a technology company doesn’t mean it is not important. Having customer service technology that allows you to monitor employee work, access important customer information, and communicate through multiple channels wherever or whenever, will be incredibly important during this time.
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