Industry

Coronavirus: Implications on - and Solutions for - Customer Service Teams

For most customer service teams, remote working will continue for the foreseeable future as the impact of Coronavirus continues. This has been the most obvious or visible consequence of the crisis, but not the largest. Instead, it’s the possibility of layoffs and the problems that remote working, for teams that aren’t familiar with it, is causing. 

Having conducted a survey, we found that these are the problems you struggle with most today:

  • Potential layoffs      

  • Difficulty coordinating and aligning teams 

  • Managers struggling to get their work done because of the volume of meetings

  • Extroverted agents suffering

  • Difficult on-boarding new arrivals

So, how can we help each layer of the team?

Heads of

Layoffs

It’s not surprising that your biggest worry is anticipating the future of your team. Layoffs are a very real possibility and it’s already a reality for some. 

Before making these big decisions it is worth considering the implications of these cuts in the long-run. With significant slumps in economic growth universally predicted for Q2 and Q3, acquiring new customers is going to become very challenging. As explained by Serena Capital, customer retention is the top priority for the next 6 months. For customer service, decisions on costs should be made with as little impact on customer experience as possible.  

When Coronavirus eventually disappears, you will need to call on all the expertise you have in your current customer service team to lead the way when volumes return to normal.

If you’re making cuts in the wrong place...it will be noticed by your customer”.

For some companies today, however, layoffs are inevitable. Even though they are circumstantial, it doesn’t make them any less tough. As always, with these difficult conversations, they must be handled in the correct way. Charlotte Ward and her panel of Customer Support Leaders have a very insightful discussion about their experiences and best practices on this fragile topic. You can access it, in full, here

Reduce your time in meetings

There are two other main issues for heads of customer support. Firstly, they are spending too much time in meetings and, secondly, aligning with teams - without getting everyone in the same room.

The solution is fewer, more targeted meetings. Cancel anything that isn’t vital; put on hold anything that isn’t time sensitive. 

Fewer: If you used to have 2 team meetings (one at the beginning and one at the end of each week), maybe the first one should be scrapped in favour of a shorter morning kick-off, just to get your team ready for the day. Maybe your 1-1s can be cut down too.

More targeted: It could be worth holding alignment sessions with all primary contacts to ensure everyone is on the same page about the developing coronavirus situation and what it means for your customer service team. Any reservations that anyone has about the message must be settled here. For all meetings, set a clear goal to focus everyone and to prevent going off-topic.

Trying to cut all unnecessary meetings is the key to getting your usual work done. Limit the number of all hands meetings if possible. For those that need more contact time, make sure you prioritize them. 

Managers & Team Leads

Coordinating teams

Countless Zoom meetings. Constant checking-up on the agents’ well-being. People are a company’s most valuable asset, but it doesn’t mean to say you can’t work smart.

Prioritize check-ups on agents in isolation on their own. It will really mean a lot to them. The more introverted members of your team will also need checking up on more regularly than the extroverts.

Despite that, it’s inevitable that some of your more extroverted teammates will be badly affected by the lack of communication. They, too, need checking up on - but you can keep them motivated in other ways. Put together game nights, virtual pub quizzes and the like to help the extroverts get the human contact they need to keep in good spirits. Tell these people, the ones that you know would come to you, to ask you for a 1-1 if they need it. 

Host a daily drop in ‘lounge session’ where anyone can drop in for a quick conversation unrelated to work. This will help build up the relationships in the team and give everyone the opportunity to speak to people outside of their usual circles.

This should bring down the number of meetings and increase the value of each interaction - so you can focus on piloting operations and staying alert to change. 

Finally - projection. A manager’s role in setting the pace of the work environment is invaluable. Projecting a positive attitude will create a positive work atmosphere, just as it would in normal, day-to-day work. Even if you’re not together, you can make a lasting impact for a few hours. 

 

Onboarding

Onboarding new people during Coronavirus is a challenge and making sure that new arrivals have everything they need is vital. They must have quick access to other members of the team if they need clarification or support. As a manager, you won’t be eternally available for them, but you could set them up with your more experienced agents to support them in this context. 

They need to feel the love from you as early as possible. Going through all the tools and processes in detail will help them feel comfortable as soon/much as possible. Remind your team of what it’s like to be a new joiner so they can support your efforts. Perhaps you can assign a peer ‘mentor’ to keep an eye on them and so that they always have someone to speak to. Video calls and intra-company chats will get them as involved as possible and adapted to the company culture. 

Agents 

When there are distractions at home and you’re not in your usual work environment, it’s very difficult to keep motivated. 

If you need to reach out to people for help you should organize yourself into small groups of 3 or 4 where you can ask each other questions without waiting a long time for a response from a manager. 

Take part in these non-essential meetings, it might do you some good to see your work friends and speak about things other than work! 

There is always going to be the worry of job security in the back of your mind at this time. The best advice we can give is be completely transparent with your manager, and ask them to be the same with you. There’s nothing worse than speculation or animosity, especially in this remote setting when you can’t speak regularly. Push for these conversations if you think it will put your mind at ease. 

For a full breakdown on how to keep engaged in this remote setting, click here  

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