How to Build a Remote Customer Service Team That Thrives and Thrills Your Clients
It is possible to instill a strong culture of customer service remotely. Here's how I do it.
I’ve been running my content agency, Express Writers, for nine years, and the part that still amazes me today is that we’ve never had a brick-and-mortar office. While other agencies eventually open concrete workplaces, I’ve kept my own brand with a staff of more than 90 workers thriving completely on a remote basis.
So far, I’ve loved the advantages of working remotely with my team. I’m able to hire from all around the world, quite literally — I currently work with experts from different parts of America, Africa, Asia and Europe. I love the flexible schedule, the diversity and the complete absence of office-related overhead costs.
But here’s a question many people ask me: how do you manage your customer representatives while working remotely? Isn’t it difficult when you can’t look over your employees’ shoulders to see if they’re doing things right?
The short answer is yes, it can be difficult. Unfortunately, I did experience embezzlement by my top agency players back in the day. But throughout the years, I’ve developed a system that allows me to lead my customer representatives in a way that complements my brand’s content marketing efforts.
Here’s the five-step system I use.
1. Hire people who are humble, hungry, and smart.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A great man is always willing to be little.”
I agree with this 100 percent, which is why humility is the first thing I look for during the hiring process. Humble people are a dream to work with because they receive criticism as an opportunity for growth instead of a hit to their ego. Experience has taught me that the hardest people to work with aren’t the total newbies, but the proud, inflexible 40-year-olds with decades of experience and numerous accolades to their name.
Another characteristic to look for when hiring is passion. Hire workers who are hungry for growth. These individuals are always stretching their limits, stepping out of their comfort zones, and reaching out for new opportunities, no matter how uncomfortable. To me, they’re the real geniuses – remember what Michelangelo said at age 87? “Ancora Imparo.” I’m still learning.
Along with humility and passion, my other must-have is smarts. This doesn’t necessarily mean they graduated cum laude or earned multiple doctorate degrees. It simply means quick, clever, witty individuals. These people are flexible enough to think outside the box, empathetic enough to step into someone else’s shoes, and determined enough to keep looking for solutions in difficult situations.
2. Let workers be autonomous and focus on results.
It’s important to note that this step only works once you’ve found the right people to work with. It’s impossible to give workers autonomy if they aren’t completely in your corner and willing to expend themselves for your company’s goals.
But once you’ve found the right people, focus on the results they bring instead of exactly how they spent their workday. Ditch the apps that take random screenshots of their computer screens. Stop requiring them to log in and out at pre-set times. Don’t ask for reports detailing what they were doing during each hour of their day.
Instead, let them breathe. Give them the flexibility to choose their own schedule. Let them be creative about how they get work done.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “A sense of freedom — the ability to choose what you work on, as well as how, when, and where you perform your work — is a growing priority for talented professionals across sectors and industries, and one of the core elements of a fulfilling career.”
Another study revealed at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting shows that companies offering their employees flexibility and freedom have up to 20 times the potential to outperform companies that don’t.
You can take my word this works. In fact, I can hardly believe the massive amount of loyalty and trust I’ve been able to gain through not requiring strict daily logs and reports. When your workers know you trust them, they’ll quit working like robots and take your brand’s best interest to heart.
3. Create channels where your representatives can share their lives.
Numerous studies show that family-owned businesses outperform non-family owned businesses in employment and revenue growth. One reason could be the workplace culture of camaraderie and support without judgment.
Creating a family feel between your key members is critical to your brand’s success. When one of my client team members suggested we create a chat channel called #offtopic, I jumped on it. In this space, we talk about our day, share interesting news or facts and talk about life. This is important to building a sense of human connection, especially for remote teams.
4. Make customers feel like they are No. 1.
Poor customer service is costing businesses $75 billion a year. 86 percent of people say they will gladly pay more for better customer services. The bottom line? Your customer services can either make or break your business.
To make our customers feel like they’re No. 1, I try to create a deeply personal feeling between them and my brand. I've set up our chatbot to send automated messages only during off hours, but during business hours, I make sure there’s a real representative standing by to serve them. We work on response times to be as fast as humanly possible, and we ask questions about what they need and get to know them before requesting a single bit of info from them. This creates security and assures visitors we’re not simply after their contact information.
5. Encourage self-growth.
My aim at Express Writers is to give customers that “wow” experience where they feel they are valued and cared for. One way I do this is to ask my representatives to step into my shoes and understand the reason why my agency exists in the first place: to help people grow their brand through outstanding content. From there, I encourage self-growth. I give them free access to my courses, prepare lists of blogs to follow and books to read and curate content for them so they’re always updated on current trends, statistics and stories in our industry.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor