Crisis as Catalyst: Managing Your Remote Customer Service Team

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Crisis as Catalyst: Managing Your Remote Customer Service Team

When we put out our blog last week on facing changes we didn’t yet know how big they would be. This week we are in a new paradigm due to COVID-19, where remote work is a necessity. For some of you this may be new territory with new challenges. We are addressing some of the key points to keep in mind to ease managing your remote customer service team.

  1. Choose tools that unify your team like cloud project management apps and a digital knowledge base. Tools that keep your team connected and equally informed ease the load. 
  2. Set up regular check-ins by video, phone or text with your agents to reduce isolation, address needs, and provide structure. Your agents are dealing with customer stress and their own. Let them know they are not alone and give them a point of focus.
  3. Predefine a set of protocols to follow for guidance and consistency. If you have identified common issues, having a plan for dealing with them speeds resolution. 
  4. Create an escalation chain with your most nuanced and skilled agents handling difficult interactions, while fairly balancing the interaction load. 
  5. Schedule managers and supervisors to be available for escalations and to manage shift changes. Your agents will lean on your management staff for support and guidance.
  6. Stagger shift changes so the next shift has the benefit of knowledge of some who have been on the previous shift.
  7. Streamline reporting and automate whatever you can with solid customer service software like CSAT.AI. During unusual times like these contact volume spikes. Reducing the load on your agents reduces their stress and enables them to address more customers.
  8. Encourage healthy breaks. In extenuating circumstances like these breaks are vital. An exhausted, hungry, stressed team cannot provide excellent CX. 
  9. Communicate with your management team. Encourage them to take breaks too. 
  10. Lead by example. The self-care and calm you cultivate has the ability to extend to your team, even if they are in different locations. 

Communication is Key

If you are creating a remote workforce due to the recent coronavirus mandates you may be working with agents who are not used to remote work. They may need more guidance than those used to working from home. 

Communication is key to keeping everyone on the same page whether you have a seasoned virtual team or one that is new to this structure. Aim for continuity and support without being excessive. There is a difference between support and micromanagement. 

From Zendesk: “Encourage employees to reach out for guidance or even just to vent. Have the team err on the side of checking in more often, to stay in touch and keep everyone in the loop. Even when employees feel a little isolated, the reality of a virtual team is that everyone’s in it together.”

The #ICMIchat on Twitter yesterday was led by Jeremy Watkin of 8×8. They talked about the challenges of remote work. From Jeremy and Dave Dyson of Zendesk:


Hearing something positive is really impactful when the going is rough. It’s discouraging to only hear the negative. In situations of heightened pressure your team needs to know their contribution is valued.  From Troy White:

Use Your Strengths

Members of your team will have different strengths. Employ them strategically. Identify your leaders and employ their leadership in line with their personalities, not just their abilities. Here is a great idea from Al Hopper:

Worth the Investment

If the current climate is forcing you to create a remote team for the first time, it could benefit  your business long-term. Crisis can be the catalyst opening the door to new ideas and tools that result in a better business model. 

Being set up to manage your remote customer service team makes scaling up for surges easier. It allows you to provide life/work balance options for your team. It may also reduce your operational costs over time.

Remember to Take a Break

This experience is a paradigm shift for everyone across the globe. Patience and kindness are needed more than ever. Your team will look to your leadership for the energy and focus to continue. 

We can’t diminish the power of downtime. As a science fiction fan, I was thrilled to discover this new short film on the DUST Youtube channel called “Progress Bar.” It’s about a virtual customer service call with a twist. The film is written by a human, but the lines of the character Lexi were written by an AI that was trained on both film scripts and customer service interactions. Enjoy!

Wishing you and your team health and success.


Corona virus guide for businesses from the CDC:

Small business relief and resources: