While many of us hoped, prayed, and assumed the coronavirus crisis would be over by now, the truth is that many places in the country are still in the thick of it. That means many of us are working from home for the foreseeable future.
There are certainly benefits to working from home—sweatpants, anyone? You’re probably not shedding a tear over that morning commute either. But the truth is that working from home can be incredibly difficult when it comes to productivity.
It’s not like most of your customer service agents plan on kicking back and taking it easy because there’s nobody looking over their shoulder. Sometimes, the comforts of working from home can detract from work; that being said, studies have shown that working from home actually has the potential to increase productivity and can even help with employee attrition.
Keeping your customer service agents motivated to keep up their world-class service is something you need to be focusing on for the rest of 2020. Unfortunately, it’s anyone’s guess when this virus will be eliminated or when a vaccine will allow large groups of people to congregate again. Instead of being frustrated over something you can’t control, try and channel that energy into problem-solving. (We know—easier said than done!)
Here are four simple ways to keep agents motivated even as they work from the comfort of their living rooms.
Embrace Video Calls for Employee Meetings
When your team is working remotely, it’s easy to forget the importance of seeing one another. After all, now your employees can wear their pjs and not shave for weeks! But the importance of face-to-face communication goes a long way. Being able to literally see your employees, and letting them see you, will continue to foster connection. Body language, an ever-so-important communication tool, can’t be picked up on over a simple phone call.
Furthermore, if employees actually do have the motivation to get up, get dressed in work clothes, and make themselves presentable, it can have a tangible effect on their productivity. By asking customer service agents to check in on a video call, you’re giving them a reason to embrace an old part of their routine and get them into “work mode.”
Video will also help them stay focused—they won’t be tempted to start scrolling their phone while speaking with you! It seems like a small thing, but request that your employees utilize video when speaking with you instead of merely audio for increased productivity.
Allow Flexible Scheduling
Flexible scheduling can be very tricky with customer service agents. If you have a phone hotline open during certain hours, you’re going to need employees who are able to handle those phone calls. But there are still ways to allow for flexible scheduling.
Why is this important? Because the more you give employees control over their schedule, the more they’re able to pick hours that will enable them to be as productive as possible. If you have employees whose children are still home from school, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to ask them to give their A game while they’re homeschooling or supervising virtual learning, for instance.
So by allowing those employees to work more hours at night, after the kids are in bed, you’re hoping to guarantee a workforce that’s able to get more done with their best foot forward.
Try looking at each employee’s individual responsibilities and figuring out how, within those parameters, employees can be given flexible hours. Maybe it means customer service agents will switch days that they answer phone calls or batch social media work or let customers know e-mail responses may now take 3–4 days instead of 1–2. It could mean the above-mentioned video calls happen on your employees’ schedules and not yours. Try and work with your employees to find a solution that works for everyone: you, your customers, and your hardworking customer service agents.
Increase Employee Recognition
Recognizing employees who are going above and beyond will always be a powerful motivator. How can you recognize employees in the time of COVID without fancy banquets or spending an exorbitant amount of money?
- Digital leaderboards can show customer service agents who is doing a great job and maybe put a fire under the bottoms of those who aren’t near the top.
- Giving small cash incentives, bonuses, or gift cards is always a welcome treat.
- Publicly share positive reviews about your customer service. Who doesn’t love a raving Yelp review that mentions them by name?
- Provide opportunities for employees to recognize one another, whether in a Slack group or over e-mail. Employees are no longer bumping into each other in the break room, and you want to keep those relationships strong.
- Create a program that rewards workers for donating to charity—it’s a great way to keep morale up, and it also improves the globe!
- Provide opportunities for professional development, like paying for an e-course your best customer service agents have been asking to take.
This last point seems obvious, but it shouldn’t be understated. You need to trust your people. When you hired them, you did so because you thought they seemed competent, hardworking, and passionate. They’re not completely different people just because they’re working from home.
If you’ve focused on providing world-class training to your employees and cultivated a culture of customer care, that isn’t going to go away just because they’re now working with kids or spouses in the background. You need to trust your people to do the right thing and give their job as much as they possibly can, even with all that’s going on in the world.
This is a great opportunity for a litmus test: Do you have employees you feel you can count on or ones you feel you need to babysit? Going forward, if handled well, this experience will actually help you hire better and help you have confidence in your hiring practices.