How to Train and Support Remote Customer Service Employees

This morning I hosted a webinar for leaders of customer service departments and operations. I walked everyone through how to prepare customer service specialists to apply psychological tactics to bring down the temperature in interactions and de-escalate.

When we moved to Q & A, Sherry asked a question about training and supporting remote agents:

Our contact center agents will work remotely for the foreseeable future. I’m concerned about training my agents and supporting them. I’m a contact center supervisor who trains, yet I don’t have a training background. What advice can you give me?

Here’s the advice I gave Sherry:

Distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to quality customer service training. Thanks to the pandemic, there are more remote agents in the workforce than ever. This trend will continue as an estimated 25-30% of the workforce is expected to work remotely following return to pre-pandemic life.

The key to creating a successful remote agent is quality contact center training. Employees who receive actionable customer service, empathy, and de-escalation training are more likely to stay with a company or organization than those who do not. Clearly outline your processes and expectations for showing concern, giving bad news, and de-escalating. Here are a few ways you can maximize training even when you’re not a facilitator:

1. Be supportive.

Your remote agents, especially your extroverts, may feel isolated without a typical workplace environment. Contact center training should include the use of teams to help your remote agents answer questions quickly. Customers want the sense that call center agents are knowledgeable enough to offer the support they need without excessive hold times. Ensure you have a supportive, real-time line of communication with supervisors and remote agents to help prevent time lost when employees search for answers themselves.

Support can also come in the form of a practical knowledge base. Create a contact center training repository that gives remote agents access to important information about the everyday functioning of their company. Include common questions and answers for new remote agents that address common issues such as problem-solving, collaboration, and difficult customer interactions that are likely to occur in calls, chat, and email communications.  

2. Engage with video.

Your customer service agents rely on audio daily as they support customers! You can break up this monotony by using visual learning. According to the Social Science Research Network, an estimated 65% of us are visual learners. Video helps store information for more extended periods than other forms, such as audio and kinesthetic learning. I have dozens of YouTube videos you can use in your training.

3. Provide incentives.

The power of reinforcement helps keep new remote agents connected to personal and company success. Designate time to play virtual games to build teamwork and morale. Incentivize positive customer interactions, adherence to policy, and collaboration through recognition, bonuses, and gift cards. This helps communicate value for remote agents. Happy agents will pass along positive energy to customers and develop the wherewithal to deal with disgruntled ones.

4. Model the desired behavior.

Being outside of the office does not mean effective contact center management should be compromised. Every moment is an opportunity to learn. Here are some ways management can lead by example and maintain accountability during and after formal customer service training:

  • Foster a friendly environment by greeting remote agents through email or chat each morning. Offer words of wisdom or encouragement.
  • Encourage remote agents to designate/define a tidy and quiet workspace in their homes. This will minimize distractions during calls with customers.
  • Do not openly express frustrations with contact center technology and equipment. Voicing grievances negatively affects morale.
  • Be available for the team by adhering to a set schedule.
  • Be mindful of tone in emails and telephone conversations. This is essential. Expectations for quality customer interactions are diminished by management that is cold, short, and abrasive. TheThe way in which management interacts with remote agents sets the standard for behavior.

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Once or twice a month, I share my best advice with my email list. I give you ideas to help you go from feeling overwhelmed with escalations, and frustrated about the lack of empathy and connection in interactions, to feeling amazed when you hear friendliness and empathy, and you realize your employees are politely controlling calls and preempting escalations.

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