How to Run a Remote Customer Service Centre
Keep your team motivated as we buckle in for another few months of working from home
January 18th, 2021
FM Outsource has been working remotely since March 2020; we transitioned our UK-based contact centre from being a mostly in-office customer service solution to a completely remote operation. By working closely with our clients, we were able to make this transition whilst still covering all the required contact channels, without any disruption.
As with everyone else, our first thoughts were about our customer service advisors. From ensuring security processes were followed to supporting their physical and mental health, we entered a period of close support with our nearly 500-strong team to keep them firing on all cylinders.
The next step, though, was ensuring our existing teams and structures flourished in a remote environment. Here’s how we did it:
1: Increase social activity
2: Call out success
3: Onboard new starters in the right way
Why Does it Matter?
Once we were confident that every advisor had as much support as possible in their new remote location, we realised something important: we were about to on-board a lot of new staff as we headed towards the busy festive trading peak. These new staff would need as much support as our existing colleagues but would not have the understanding of the business and wider team that the office guys had built over their time with us.
Our culture is something we are very proud of in FM Outsource, and maintaining that (along with the tight commitments to quality and efficiency it promotes) became a priority for our engagement team. Here are their tips on how to achieve the lessons mentioned above:
1: Work is a Social Activity
It’s all too easy to forget, when you’re on your sixth month working from your kitchen table, that work is supposed to be social. Talking over your desk, stand-ups with your team, and conversations with your bosses are all-important in two senses:
1: They allow your team to share knowledge and experience
2: They scratch the itch that we all have to be around people
In customer service, this is especially important because, let’s be honest, sometimes customers are difficult. And dealing with that stress can be ten times harder when working alone. That’s why, at FM Outsource, we’re big believers in providing a social forum for people to continue to interact. On an individual level, it provides important support for colleagues. But, at the team level, it’s invaluable.
Tracy Davies, our Chief Operations Officer (COO), gave this great advice on how to achieve that:
FM Outsource is a series of families. From the whole business pulling in the same direction, down to individual shift and client pods who work closely together towards success. We use Workplace by Facebook to ensure we can provide a team-based approach to our engagement. Regular communication ensures that colleagues who are physically separated are reminded we’re all in this together, support each other and, most importantly, that there is a long-term objective to what we’re doing as a business.
2: Calling Out Success is More Important Than Ever
Katrina Sykes, FM Outsource’s Head of Operations, believes that recognising success is more important than ever. As the leader of a team who are spread the length and breadth of the country, she advises:
I joined FM Outsource shortly before the first lockdown and have spent more time working from home than I did in the office. In this environment, one of the biggest takeaways has been the importance of recognising achievement. Any sense of isolation caused by missed feedback combined with physical separation from colleagues can lead to sustained drops in motivation and, potentially, performance.
The reality is, in person, we often don’t think about the praise we bestow. Whether it’s a simple “well done” at the end of a meeting or a good word over the desk, it matters. When working remotely, it’s important to take time to recognise achievement in the same way. Otherwise, you risk your carefully crafted team becoming a group of individuals and may not even notice the fractures until it’s too late.
3: Make New Starters Feel Like Part of the Team
Hiring has been one of the biggest challenges for many organisations during the pandemic. In customer service, this is coupled with the challenges of temporary contracts and a quick labour market. When hiring new starters for a remote team, your induction process needs to be different so that your new employees get the best chance at hitting the ground running. Tracy had this to say about how our process at FM Outsource has changed:
How we onboard people has changed. Our biggest focus has become how we’ve introduced the business to them. Now, we put greater emphasis on who FM Outsource are; our beliefs and values, and the structure of our teams. It’s imperative we work closely with every person — from a part-time advisor to a new head of department — and ensure they understand they’re now part of a family. A family that has their back, is invested in their success and believes in them. The impact we’ve seen on new starter productivity and engagement has been one of the proudest things I’ve spearheaded since working from home was enforced on us.
Of course, maintaining your structures whilst working remotely isn’t enough if you’re not maximising your results. Fortunately, we’ve already got a great guide ready for you on how to maximise your customer service team’s productivity.
We hope the advice above help you support your customer service centre through what promises to be another challenging year. If you have any feedback or any tips that have worked especially well for you when working remotely, please let us know!