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There’s a new look for service centres in 2021

19th Mar 2021
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Inspirational speaker Simon Sinek once reminded us that “customers will never love a company, until the employees love it first”. So, the question is, how can a business ensure that its customer service team feel the love for the company when they are working remotely, and in some cases, with no colleagues to keep them company at all? 

Customer service teams are stereotypically associated with service desks in-store, call centres spread out across the country and offices full of people ready to help us. But, with the sudden arrival of national lockdowns, this is no longer the case. Service agents are no longer walking into work and experiencing the buzz associated with the service centre office. Instead, like many of us, they are adapting to this new way of remote working. What’s more, post-pandemic, nearly two thirds of businesses (63%) plan to make these remote working policies permanent, according to recent research. It has become clear that the adoption of the hybrid working model is set to become a permanent fixture. And, as it does, businesses are rightly thinking about how to keep agents motivated, whilst ensuring customers are kept happy.  

National lockdowns have proven that there are a whole range of benefits to a remote customer team set up, including optimised workflows, increased efficiency and border-less collaboration. In fact, three out of four (73%) of executives surveyed by PwC said that shifting almost their entire office workforce to remote work was a success. At the same time, fewer face-to-face interactions and watercooler moments have taught us the importance of nurturing the community spirit within our businesses, so that service agents don’t feel isolated or hindered while away from the service centre. If Simon Sinek’s philosophy is true, how can businesses replicate the service centre culture, remotely? 

Foster a positive team spirit

Meal kit delivery company Marley Spoon has been helping to foster a close-knit community feeling across its organisation by encouraging bottom-up initiatives run by cross-practice teams of 'Spooners'. These have so far included a remote working handbook full of hints and tips on how to approach day-to-day life when working from home, including on employee mental and physical health, and wellbeing. They have also created a happiness committee in their global Shared Service Centre. This team organises virtual events and helps to keep the company values alive through shared experiences and greater transparency. This also helps new starters who may not even have met any of their colleagues in real life. 

“We record our leadership team calls, for example, and openly share our financials in all-hands meetings, so that everyone at the company feels like they are an intrinsic part of the community” explains Katalin Fritz, Chief Customer Officer, Marley Spoon. “We look at everyone as a core team member with valuable insight on how to improve the business – no matter where they sit within it.” 

Businesses can also make it a regular practice to show their gratitude to agents for good work – through pre-made, easy to fill out cards, for example, or by circulating a trophy or prized item around the team. Tech features like badges and leaderboards also really help to boost motivation, as do visual representations of the impact agents make to customers. These also help place a focus on outputs and productivity, rather than presenteeism.

Integrate the right tools and technology

Providing agent teams with the best tools, training, visibility and cross-channel adaptability should help to optimise productivity, as well as help with staff retention. UK and European companies described as Champions in the recently released CX Maturity report – those with a boast-worthy, well-oiled CX operation – were found to provide an average of 2.4 more days of training for service and support staff per year. They were also 4.8x more likely to describe customer service and support staff turnover as ‘not at all problematic’. 

However, it’s not just having the right tools at an agent’s disposal but the integration between these tools that’s really important, so that agents don’t have to spend all their time switching between software windows and, in turn, can provide a slick service to customers. Software integrations, such as customer service with video conferencing allows agents to speak to customers, while at the same time being able to read all about their query and any previous actions that have been taken to solve their problem. 

Plan for uncertainty 

With 2021 off to an unpredictable start and many of us accepting the idea of a new hybrid way of working, businesses are thinking ahead. Office leases are coming up for renewal, and it poses the question as to what to do with the space, or if the space is needed at all. While it could be too soon to completely write off the physical office, that doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to it. Involve your employees in this process. It’s their workplace too, so it’s important you show them that their opinion is valued. Take the time to listen and ask questions. Insights from employees are invaluable to help you to provide them with the right resources. After all, empowered employees make for happy customers.


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