Work environments have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing mandates kickstarted a rapid switch to a hybrid employment model. As it’s proven effective, more and more organizations jumped on the bandwagon.
That’s especially true for customer support. Nowadays, you can attend to customers and elevate their experience from different locations without it impacting the quality of service. Providing flexibility in work locations can be a great benefit for employees. But, it leaves managers with the challenge of finding new ways to effectively lead a hybrid customer support team.
In this article, we discuss challenges that managers may face and some tips that can help to effectively overcome them.
Challenges in managing a remote/hybrid team
Image source: iStock
Being a manager is a complex role. You are constantly juggling the responsibility of leading teams, ensuring productivity, and facilitating your team’s personal and professional growth. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, a remote or hybrid situation raises even more issues for managers to worry about.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these issues.
1. Different locations (and time zones)
Keeping up with team members in other locations can be challenging for various reasons, including:
- Difficulty aligning activities across different locations
- Limited time to interact with team members in different time zones.
Team members may not always be available to work simultaneously, which could disrupt business operations and workflow. So, it’s no surprise that 50% of company leaders want employees to return on-site five days a week, according to CNBC Make It.
2. Communication and scheduling problems.
Several factors might impact a team member’s ability to communicate via specific channels. These can include:
- Cultural festivities and national holidays
- Environmental barriers
- Political barriers
- Family interference, etc.
For instance, the responsiveness of a team member in an area with a high-quality internet connection will not be the same as for a team member in an area experiencing rain storms and power outages.
These factors can also make it difficult to schedule calls and meetings. But when working in person, a quick stroll to a team member’s desk can quickly resolve such issues.
3. Retaining company culture
Managers are responsible for passing down company culture to their employees, but this can be challenging with a hybrid team. Since physical interactions play a vital role in shaping company culture, it takes extra effort to instill a feeling of camaraderie in a hybrid working team.
4. Monitoring work and productivity
Some managers have difficulty ensuring team members’ productivity in a hybrid workspace. Team members are often underutilized or have too much on their plate. Both of which can be detrimental to an organization. Keeping tabs on the working hours and workload of team members across time zones is a crucial part of hybrid team managers’ jobs.
5. Building trust
It’s no surprise that a remote setting can also make it difficult to establish and maintain trust between a manager and their direct reports. With team members working from different locations, managers might not understand individual working styles, working hours, or the current workload. This lapse in communication can result in uncompleted tasks and missed deadlines.
To maintain trust among team members, managers might consider holding daily or weekly stand-up meetings. This gives employees an opportunity to talk about what they’ve been working on and where they may need help. Understanding how everybody has been spending their time helps team members feel like they’re working towards a collective goal, which of course they are!
9 tips for leading customer support teams
Image source: iStock
As hard as managing a hybrid customer support team may be, it’s not impossible. You can navigate most problems you encounter with a little guidance. In this section, we’ll tackle ways to solve the above-mentioned issues.
1. Communicate often as a team
Organize weekly team meetings or periodic team bonding activities. This will give your team something to look forward to and provide take a break from constantly speaking to customers and chatting about work experiences.
Frequent team communication through networking apps like Teams and Slack is also an excellent way to enable team members. They can share ideas on handling customer-related problems and the different temperaments a customer service professional encounters daily.
Other benefits of frequent communication include:
- encourages trust
- enhances team engagement
- prevents potential conflicts
- increases team productivity
- boosts innovation
- fosters better customer relationships.
2. Communicate work schedules in advance
Communicating work schedules across the team is an excellent way to maximize team members’ utility to ensure no one is underutilized or overworked.
As a manager, you can assign various aspects of customer relations, as well as daily or weekly goals for each team member. It will also make scheduling meetings easier with timely, advanced communication.
3. Unite your team
Your hybrid customer support team members may be focused on supporting customers, but they have needs too. One significant professional need lacking in organizations with hybrid models is inclusion. With team members spread across different locations, it is easy to feel left out. This can affect both motivation and productivity.
As a manager, you should find ways to make all members feel like part of the team. Some examples include:
- organizing team bonding activities
- rotating meeting hosting responsibilities
- encouraging team members to share positive feedback
4. Initiate individual problem-solving
Make room to address your team member’s individual needs and the challenges they face. Ensure that the entire problem-solving process is not treated as a customer service issue and remains confidential, to build trust. Communication improves when your team is in a good mental space.
5. Leverage technology and collaboration tools.
Promote a culture of exploring and utilizing available customer service-related technology and collaboration tools.
Regardless of the challenges of remote and hybrid work, most businesses have succeeded because they leveraged innovative solutions, such as virtual call center software, to stay connected with employees and customers.
Managers can promote asynchronous communication to make it easier for team members to collaborate effectively. Recording essential calls or meetings for absentees to watch later helps to ensure you’re not leaving any team member behind.
6. Provide proactive support in the office and online
It is vital to offer helpful solutions to the challenges that your hybrid customer support team may face on the job.
It could be providing backup internet services in the office or pooling written resources online — anything that helps to make their job easier. You could also host team webinars to help team members further develop their skills and techniques from time to time.
7. Use monitoring tools
Implementing monitoring tools can be a helpful way to track team member workflows and ensure that deadlines and KPIs are met. Clockify, for example, can provide insight into how your team is spending their time across tasks and projects. Another option might be to have your team complete check-in forms before scheduled 1-to-1 calls to make your time together as effectively as possible.
8. Set boundaries and expectations
Remote work doesn’t have to mean working round the clock. Make it clear to team members that as much as you appreciate a high-performing team, you want to prevent burnout as much as possible.
Have team members work only during business hours in their respective locations and time zones. Simple tools like shared Google Calendars will allow team members to see all schedules and working hours. That way, they can respect each other’s work hours as well.
9. Spread positivity
We can all agree that happy employees are more productive than unhappy employees. You can help to foster a positive work environment by being proactive and encouraging positive reinforcement. For example:
- Regularly recognize great performances through team shout-outs
- Help your team set realistic expectations and deadlines
- Hold regular check-ins and forecasting sessions to keep goals and objectives on track
- Ask where you can provide additional support
- Encourage collaboration between team members
Take the time to understand the needs of your team. Celebrating wins, showing empathy, and prioritizing their well-being will help you to keep your team happy and healthy.
Managing a customer support team can be challenging, especially in a hybrid or virtual setting. However, with the right strategies and tools in place, you can effectively navigate these challenges and lead your team to success.
Establish clear communication and understand your team’s needs, both as a whole and on an individual level. Doing so will help you create a healthy, positive work environment and ensure customer satisfaction.
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