The rise of remote work in recent years has been nothing short of astounding. Per our latest State of Collaboration report, 57% of Gen Zers, half of Millennials, and even 46% of Gen Xers work remotely at least once a week.
Here's the thing: this trend isn't going to change any time soon. In fact, it will probably continue to become more prevalent.
With that in mind, this article will teach you how to build a customer support team that works remotely. It will also show you how to manage said team to enable better customer service. Sound interesting? Keep reading!
Build and Manage Your Remote Customer Support Team
Properly building a remote customer support team and managing it effectively isn't easy. But if you follow the five steps listed below, you will be able to accomplish it. Let's dive in...
1. Hire The Right People
The first step towards building an effective remote customer support team is to hire the right people. Without quality team members that enjoy working for your company, all of your other efforts in this area will fail.
Fortunately, we have a few tips to help make sure you get the right people on your team:
Write a Great Job Description
The best potential employees always have options. If you want to get them on your team, you have to make your team look like the place they want to be.
So list skill sets needed and the tasks new hires will be asked to perform, of course. But also emphasize positive company culture, the fact that they'll get to work remotely, and any other perks you can offer.
This should go without saying, but don't lie! Just tell the truth in the most flattering way possible.
Ask the Right Questions
If all goes well with your job description, you'll get a flood of applications from people hoping to get hired. The next step is to vet each candidate, find good fits, and schedule interviews.
During each interview, ask standard questions like: "Why do you want this job?" and "What's your greatest weakness?" But use role-play scenarios as well. Give them a situation they're likely to experience if hired and see how they respond.
Look for Communication Skills
The ability to communicate effectively is an important skill that all professionals should have. But it's an absolutely mandatory skill for those on remote customer success teams.
You need to feel confident that the person you hire will be able to clearly converse with customers. You also need to ensure that they'll be able to properly communicate with you and their other remote colleagues.
After all, you won't be able to stop by their desk if they aren't answering emails.
Test Your Top Candidates
By the time you get to this fourth step, you should have your list narrowed down to a few top candidates. The only thing left to do is put them to the test and see who performs best.
Give each remaining applicant a small test project. Pay special attention to their attitudes, their communication abilities, and their potential fit alongside the rest of your remote customer support team. One person should rise to the top. Hire them and then move on to onboarding.
2. Onboard New Employees Successfully
You found the perfect hire. Congrats! Now you need to onboard them successfully.
Unfortunately, many companies skip the onboarding process. This is a mistake as research shows that proper onboarding can help companies attract and retain top talent, keep employees engaged in their work, and encourage open communication.
Do your company a favor and build a standardized onboarding process for your remote customer support team. Here's how:
Before the First Day
That's right, an effective onboarding process starts before your new hire officially begins working for your company. Make sure the following takes place before day one:
- Send all legal documents, employee handbooks, and other important materials to your new hire. Ask them to fill out the required forms and send them back.
- Schedule out your new hire's first week so that they know exactly what to expect. The more specific you can be, the better.
- Let the rest of your remote customer success team know about the new blood and encourage them to be friendly. Tell them the new team member's name and role.
If you can handle these three things before your new hire actually starts working for your organization, you'll be off to a great start with onboarding.
The First Day
The big day is here; your new hire is officially joining your team. Here's what you can do to make sure their first day is a smashing success:
- Remind the rest of your remote customer support team that your new hire starts today. Then host a team-wide meeting to introduce him/her to the group.
- After the general meeting, once the rest of the team has logged off, discuss your new hire's schedule for the week and answer any questions regarding it.
- Begin training your new employee in his/her role and responsibilities. Set clear expectations and encourage them to ask questions if/when they have them.
Because you handled all the legal documents and such before-hand, you can hit the ground running when your new employee officially begins working for your company.
The First Week
Your new hire's first day went well, but your onboarding initiative is still going. Make sure you have these things in place so that they're entire first week goes smoothly:
- Continue training your new team member and make sure they feel comfortable performing all of their tasks.
- Get them set up with your company's chosen technology tools (mentioned below) and interacting with the rest of your remote team on a regular basis.
- Schedule an end-of-week meeting to check in with your new employee and see how things are progressing for them. Ask if there's anything they need.
BOOM! Just like that, you've developed a stellar onboarding program that will keep your remote customer support team happy and efficient.
3. Invest in the Right Technology
An important part of the onboarding process is teaching new hires how to use specific pieces of software. But before you can do that, you have to decide which tools are right for your company. Don't worry, we have plenty of ideas for you!
You'll notice that the software suggestions below fall into two different categories: communication apps and customer support apps.
The former will help your entire remote customer support team stay in contact, no matter where in the world each member happens to be. The latter will ensure your team is able to answer customer questions and/or complaints in a timely manner.
Let's start with a few top-rated communication tools:
You've probably heard of Slack before. But if you've never used the solution, you might not have a clear idea of what it does and why it's so popular. Let's fix that!
Slack is a communication tool that helps teams collaborate in real time via text, audio, and video chat features. Conversations can be organized into channels based on team, project, client, or anything else; and team members can join and leave conversations at will.
We really like Slack's searchable history feature which makes it easy for users to relocate past chats and the information they contained.
All in all, Slack is a fantastic communication tool for remote customer support teams.
When it comes to project management software, Trello is definitely one of the top tools available — both for its powerful features and easy to use interface. It will help you converse with your team and ensure important customer support initiatives stay on track.
Here's how it works:
- First, a Trello Board is created for a specific project. It's then named and team members are invited to join and collaborate.
- Next, the Board is organized into Lists, which are essentially columns representing different stages in a project.
- Then Cards are added to each List. Cards represent specific tasks in a workflow and can contain directions, due dates, chat boxes, and more.
- Finally, Cards can be dragged and dropped from List to List as they progress through a company workflow.
Trello is a convenient, highly visual project management app that keeps remote teams communicating and on track to complete goals.
Visual communication is the future and CloudApp is leading the charge. Our intuitive tool brings screen recording, GIF creation, and image annotation on Mac or Windows features to the cloud and helps support teams get more done in less time.
Rather than typing out long-winded emails that recipients don't enjoy reading, our users simply record themselves (via their computer's webcam) speaking their minds.
They can also illustrate complex processes with screen recordings, or clarify ideas with annotated screenshots.
We should also mention that CloudApp integrates seamlessly with every tool listed in this section, which means CloudApp content is easily sent in Slack Chats, added to Trello Cards, or attached to Zendesk (mentioned below) tickets.
The best part? CloudApp can be used for free! Download it today and see for yourself how CloudApp boosts productivity levels for remote customer support teams.
Next, we'll cover a few tools that will help you offer better customer service:
Zendesk provides a host of customer service and engagement products such as customer support ticket tools, live chat and messaging apps, and call center software. That's why it's used by top companies like Slack, Uber, and Shopify.
If you're looking for one complete platform to handle all of your customer support needs, Zendesk is a great option.
While Zendesk offers a complete suite of tools for every customer support need, Intercom specializes in customer messaging tools.
We really like its chatbot feature, which will allow technology to answer standard customer questions around the clock, freeing up your customer support team to focus on the bigger issues that your users face,
Another thing that's great about Intercom is it can be used in multiple departments, not just customer support. Marketing teams can use the chatbots and live chat features for lead generation. And sales reps can use Intercom to send new customers onboarding messages.
From marketing to sales to customer support, Intercom is a useful tool.
4. Host Effective Video Conferences
By now, you've built a solid remote team with good customer service skills and given them the technology tools to succeed. Let's switch gears and talk about managing this team effectively.
We have two suggestions for you in this regard, starting with video conferences.
Since you're managing a remote customer support team, regular, in-person meetings likely aren't feasible. You probably have employees working out of different countries around the world. Bringing them all together would be impractical.
Fortunately, video conferencing negates the need for in-person get-togethers. If you learn how to host an effective video conference, you'll be well on your way to successfully managing your remote customer support team.
Here are a few ideas for you:
- Select the Right App: The right video conferencing app can be the difference between a productive meeting and a complete disaster. Fortunately, there are great tools available including Highfive, Zoom, and Google Hangouts Meet.
- Make a Plan: Don't just "wing it" during your video meetings. Have a plan and stick to it. For an optimal experience, send your meeting plan to all attendees. That way they'll be prepared too and you can all work more productively.
- Short and Sweet: Countless hours have been wasted in business meetings. Do your company a favor and keep your video conferences short and sweet. Say what you need to say, answer questions, and then let your remote team get back to work.
- Hit Record: Your video conferencing app of choice should let you record your meetings. Use this feature! If you do, you'll be able to review the topics you discussed. You'll also be able to send the recording to any individual who wasn't able to attend.
Being able to host effective video conferences is essential if you hope to successfully manage a remote customer support team. The tips above will get you started on the right foot.
5. Reward Your Team
Our second suggestion when it comes to managing a remote customer support team is to reward your employees for quality work. This will show them that their efforts are appreciated and also give them greater job satisfaction.
But how do you properly reward team members? The options are almost endless, as are the opinions on how to do it properly. Here are a few general guidelines:
- Reward Often: Don't be stingy. When an employee's efforts are praise-worthy, praise them. The level of reward can vary, of course. But get into the habit of recognizing and rewarding great work. You'll likely find that great work starts to become more prevalent.
- Reward Publically: A personal email thanking an employee for their efforts is a nice gesture. But in general, public praise is preferred. It gives employees a bit of well-earned recognition and shows the rest of the team the kind of performance you're looking for.
- Reward Well: The rewards you give should be desired by your team. A gift card to their favorite restaurant, for example, is a great reward. Obviously, you can't be handing out gift cards willy nilly. But when you're able, give tangible rewards that will be enjoyed.
If you really want to go all in and officialize your employee rewards program, use a tool like Kudos. This kind of solution makes it easy to recognize stellar work and reward it.
A Better Remote Customer Support Team
Now you know exactly how to build a customer support team and manage it effectively. Just follow the five steps we outlined in this article:
- Hire the Right People
- Onboard New Employees Successfully
- Invest in the Right Technology
- Host Effective Video Conferences
- Reward Your Team
Speaking of technology, download CloudApp for free today and get access to amazing screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features. It will boost your remote customer support team's productivity, guaranteed.