Improving the Remote Customer Experience

6 min read • Apr 03, 2021 • Derek Miller

How are your customer service policies helping your company? At face value, this might seem like an easy question. Your customer care team answers questions, addresses complaints to increase retention, and looks for opportunities for client growth. However, your customer service representatives (or CSRs) mean more to the success of your business than you might imagine.

According to an analysis of remote customer service from McKinsey & Company, many companies can increase their topline revenues by 10–20%, even in highly saturated markets, by improving their customer service systems and avoiding a few key pitfalls that hold teams back. The analysis identified several key traps that affect remote customer care providers and isolate customers. 

So what can you do to achieve this growth and empower your customer care teams—especially in a remote setting? Here are a few ideas to keep in mind. 

Marry Your Sales Team and Customer Service Staff

The McKinsey and Co. report highlights a common issue found in organizations both large and small: a disconnect between sales and customer service teams. When these 2 teams aren’t in sync with each other, it creates a poor and sometimes unsalvageable customer experience.

Have you ever had a sales representative promise you the world—and when your expectations weren’t met, you were left dealing with a customer service rep who had no idea what was told to you by the sales team? This gap in communication between the sales and customer service departments can leave a horrible impression on your customers.

Further, some companies—especially during the pandemic—have discovered the inefficiencies of an antiquated sales and customer relationship management (CRM) process. Many small businesses use static spreadsheets or local documents on their computers to track and leave customer annotations. While these outdated systems may have worked before, in a remote setting, they aren’t enough.

Businesses need to streamline the communication between their teams by using digital solutions like CRM software. From exhaustive systems like HubSpot CRM to simpler solutions like Zoho CRM, there’s an option available that will help you to move your sales and customer service data management into a centralized platform accessible anywhere.

Customer care teams should be involved in the sales process to better understand their needs and the solutions discussed by the sales rep. Conversely, salespeople should also be trained on the onboarding and retention processes to gain more insight into the customer journey post-sale. These added measures can help to bridge any gaps between the sales and customer service teams.

Get Rid of Your IVR System

“If you have questions about a recent purchase, please press 1…” Interactive voice response (or IVR) systems have been around since 1962—and studies show that customers hate them. In a 2019 survey by Vonage, 61% of customers said IVRs make for a poor experience, and only 13% of customers like the option to use IVRs. Half of the respondents said they’ve left a company because their customer support line had a confusing or poorly designed IVR system. 

If you want to make a splash with customer service in 2021, let your customer speak with real people. Don’t force them to listen to a half-dozen vague menu options and click their best possible options. 

If you still want to route customers to specific departments, consider setting up a representative to answer calls directly and then manually route them. This will create a positive experience, as your customers get real help and don’t feel stuck in virtual waiting rooms. A human representative is particularly important for companies with high-end clients, where customer retention is essential: small, personal touches can go a long way toward making someone feel important.  

Make Internal and External Communication Seamless

The shift to remote work during 2020 has highlighted the importance of collaboration in the workforce. Teams need to communicate effectively and easily send information to each other in a matter of seconds. If you’re offering remote customer support, then you need to empower your staff to help customers and provide immediate solutions. 

As we mentioned earlier, you may want to start by looking at the existing customer service software—if any—that you use. Are your team members able to pull up previous customer purchases and contact touchpoints to better understand the situation? Keeping this paper trail on hand can help representatives understand if a customer has had a particularly poor experience or alert them to potential products or services they might need help with.

If your employees are still using email to communicate with each other, you should seriously consider an alternative like Slack or Facebook’s Workplace. If your customer care team has a question about a client in need, they can’t wait hours for someone to check and respond to an email. An instant messaging solution is a fast and reliable way to streamline internal communication within an organization.

Additionally, you may want to use this time to invest in AI tools that identify customer pain points and provide solutions before you even speak to them. The virtual chat box has become a popular solution for customer care teams. It’s a small pop-up on your website where customers can click and communicate with your business by answering a few leading questions to direct them to an internal help desk article or to reach out for further help if needed.

Don’t Get Caught Up in Metrics

When it comes to setting goals, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. It’s understandable to want your remote team to hit those 10% growth metrics, and data is sometimes the best indicator of performance when your employees are working remotely. However, you need to remember that quality supersedes quantity every time. 

Consider the metrics you’re setting and how you’ll measure the success of your team members. At what point does your focus on data interfere with your employees’ ability to help customers? At what point might your team goals limit collaboration and successful internal communication?

Consider setting up different checks and balances within your reporting to determine whether the metrics you hit are actually creating value or just falling into a Goodhart’s Law trap. 

Always Strive to Move Forward

Providing top-notch remote customer service is a delicate balance. You need to track key metrics and set goals to reach a set number of customers while still providing personal touches and high-quality conversations. However, by setting core values around customer care and building a company culture that values improvement, you can move your customer service successfully into 2021 and beyond.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice. All information, content, and materials available in this post are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this post should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.
Derek Miller

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.