Home-based Agents: How to Effectively Switch Your Customer Service to “Remote”

With the spread of Covid-19, companies across the globe now have their hands full adapting to new challenges. In e-commerce, customer service is particularly in demand, as increasing online orders and unsettled customers are currently generating higher volumes than usual.

To learn more about the impact of Covid-19 on customer service, click here.

As if a sudden and significant increase in contact requests wasn’t challenging enough: social distancing measures have created further difficulties for customer support. Since you have to avoid contact with one another, the motto for customer service teams has become: “Working from home it is!

In this blog post, you will find out:

  • Which important aspects have to be considered when moving your customer service to employees’ homes.
  • What you can learn from companies that have opted to perform customer service remotely even before social distancing measures were introduced.
  • Step-by-step tips on how to proceed when transforming your contact center into a home-based operation.

 

Working from Home: What This Means in Concrete Terms for Customer Service

Members of service teams have faced up to the reality that they will have to do their work from home for an indefinite period of time. To ensure this changeover is seamless, there are some organizational aspects as well as different stakeholders to consider.

Keep the following in mind when moving your service team to their homes:

  • Both employees and customers want to be respected. Companies must react quickly to change without compromising service quality and without neglecting the well-being of employees.
  • The way in which customer support works must be quickly reassessed. What are the things that our customers must now be able to rely on? How can employees provide excellent service even within their own four walls?
  • The technical infrastructure should be adapted to the challenge. Which digital channels are needed to handle the sudden surge in requests? What technical equipment do the agents need to carry out their work from home?

 

Leading by Example: What Amazon’s Virtual Contact Center Teaches Us

There are companies that chose the “work from home customer service” model long before the onset of the coronavirus crisis. The online retailer Amazon is one of the most prominent examples of how to operate excellent customer service remotely or from home.

Amazon shows us that providing support from home

…is easy to implement.

According to its current jobs page, the only thing a new agent needs is a sufficiently fast internet connection. Employees can already look after customers via telephone, email and chat within their own four walls.

…is well received by employees.

Flexible working hours, increased independence during the working day and better work-life balance: call center agents who work from home are more satisfied, more productive and quit less often.

…is worthwhile for the company.

If some or all of the service staff work from home, the company saves large parts of the cost of running the contact center. In addition, the remote model can have a positive impact on the customer experience, as the quality of service increases in line with employee satisfaction and productivity.

 

 

How to Move Your Customer Service to Employees’ Homes

Anyone who starts operating customer service from home as a result of the coronavirus has additional challenges to overcome. Even Amazon doesn’t normally work exclusively with remote agents, but also uses an in-house customer service department.

Under current circumstances, companies are therefore faced with a double challenge: quickly relocating the entire customer service team while simultaneously managing increased volumes. Against the backdrop of Covid-19, your first steps should be as follows:

 

1. Technology: Check Equipment

Agents are moving from the contact center to their homes, where they do not have the technical infrastructure to which they are accustomed. No wonder many businesses are concerned about maintaining both the quality and accessibility of their customer service.

What technical means do employees need to be able to work from home? And how can the large number of new inquiries be handled under these circumstances?

Solve the problem by using intelligent automation. The AI solution can process some of the volume via chat, email or phone and thereby reduce the service team’s workload.

Human agents can then confidently respond to any remaining requests via email on their laptops or by telephone. Just make sure that every employee at home has a stable internet connection, a secure laptop and the necessary software licenses, e.g. for your help desk and collaboration tools.

 

2. Covid-19: Answer Questions Automatically

Increased levels of illness alongside social distancing measures complicate and slow down the usual processes. Consumers are increasingly shopping online, but usually want to know whether the coronavirus crisis will have an impact on their buyer experience.

Your customer service team is probably getting a lot of questions about Covid-19 at the moment. Customers want immediate answers to the following questions:

  • What is the expected delivery time?
  • How do I return an item under these circumstances?
  • Have the service times changed?

This is where you can rely on your virtual service employee. AI answers recurring questions about the coronavirus crisis in seconds, at any time of the day and even on weekends. This way, your customers will always receive a prompt answer and your employees will be freed from the cumbersome process of answering the same questions over and over again, which will also improve their satisfaction while working at home.

 

3. Customer Needs: Expand Support Channels

Now more than ever, your customers need sympathetic, patient customer service agents who will take their concerns seriously. Having disgruntled service staff who feel overwhelmed by the volume of phone calls is never ideal, and certainly not now, as customers are also frustrated and tense at the moment.

Therefore, expand the channels through which customers can contact your support team. This will reduce the volume per channel and thereby the number of phone calls that each agent receives per day. This way, the phone isn’t constantly ringing, which will give your agents more time and patience to deal with each individual customer problem. 

To ensure great first level support, use chatbots on your website and virtual assistants for email and telephone inquiries. Simple questions are immediately answered by AI. Customers who need in-depth advice on a complex problem will be directed to the appropriate human employee. AI also prioritizes customers who have urgent concerns or are already very annoyed.

 

4. Employee Satisfaction: Reduce Stress

Ensure you don’t neglect the mental health of your service staff under any circumstances. After all, your employees are also in a state of emergency: the whole family is at home, children have to be looked after and more distractions make it increasingly difficult to concentrate on work.

The measures mentioned above will help your service agents to cope better with professional challenges as well as their private responsibilities. A reduction in the number of phone calls to customers who really need personal assistance will make the lives of your employees so much easier. Only employees that are not inundated with inquiries can keep a cool head in this unprecedented situation and deal with customer concerns in a friendly and competent manner.

Take the pressure off your service team and maintain service quality with the parlamind automation package. Test the automated FAQs on the coronavirus crisis tailored to e-commerce. Find out more here.

 

parlamind is a Berlin-based start-up for Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service. The parlamind AI understands incoming messages from customers on a semantic level and thus determining intents, specific content and the mood of the customer in the message. Equipped with these skills, the AI ​​engages in customer dialogue independently and quickly carries out the associated processes. Latest research results from the fields of computational linguistics and machine learning form the basis for the continuous further development of parlamind AI technology. parlamind has been part of the 4TechnologyGroup since July 2018. The 4TechnologyGroup is an association of technology companies from the communications and AI sector. Today companies worldwide in the industries of e-commerce, information and communication technology, energy management, logistics and financial services use parlamind’s AI solutions. More than 20 employees work continuously on the further development and marketing of this unique technology “Made in Germany”.

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