Even before the COVID pandemic, the trend toward working at home was becoming more popular. However, by March 2020, many workers transitioned to working at home as offices closed and social distancing regulations were put in place.
Even those who prefer working at home may find it a challenge. Indeed, some issues arise at home that would not be relevant to office culture.
One issue is that customer service representatives may need special equipment when they work at home, such as headsets that cancel out noise, recording devices for calls, or encryption to protect sensitive documents shared with customers. Most of these items can be purchased in the office or electronic stores.
This can be especially true for customer service professionals, who have to be available to answer customer questions and to discuss their concerns. Employers want to ensure that customer service representatives are as attentive and helpful at home as they would be working with colleagues in an office or call center. Here are some issues many customer service representatives face and tips on how to remedy them.
Problem #1: Noise and Distractions
For customer service representatives who communicate by phone, the workspace must be quiet. Even if interactions occur by text and not the phone, quiet areas are more conducive to concentration. The home environment can be noisy, especially if there are children at home and pets needing attention.
Consequence: Distractions can interfere with customer experience. They are not only embarrassing, but they make it difficult for efficient communication with customers. Noise distractions, in particular, are problems that need to be solved promptly.
The Solution: If customers can hear noise through a call or video conferencing, it is crucial to find a childcare solution for small children. If there is construction or other noise, Invest in the best headset you can afford and use a white noise machine or app to eliminate extra noise in the work area. Also, check the internet connection. Slow internet can disrupt the sound on conferencing platforms. Upgrade internet speed if needed.
Problem#2: Sharing Sensitive Documents or Data with Customers
Suppose a customer is disputing a bill or is having problems with their payment method. In that case, a customer service representative may need to access sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or personal information for confirmation. People who work at home do not have access to the company’s protected network, which leaves data vulnerable.
Consequence: If private data is sent through an insecure network, unscrupulous people can get a hold of the data and make transactions or spy on the user. This creates substantial problems for a company and the customer service representative.
The Solution: Ensure anti-virus software is installed and up-to-date and add an extra layer of protection with a VPN, which will disguise the user’s IP address and use encryption to jumble the words and symbols so the data, even if intercepted, is rendered unusable to others. If you download VPN, it may be safe to share sensitive documents with customers and co-workers.
Problem:#3 Not Being Able to Contact Colleagues and Managers Quickly Enough
Even those who are the most adept at working from home need input now and again from co-workers and managers. Employees and managers may prefer different means of communication. Some respond more quickly to emails, whereas others may be easier to track down by Whatsapp. This can delay crucial communication, especially when a customer is waiting for an answer.
Consequence: Not having the ability to communicate with a manager when a problem arises with a customer complaint or a question can be stressful and might affect the customer’s quality of interaction.
The Solution: Every department or company should agree on a software solution that will centralize communication. All employees should agree to post questions or issues on a forum, and there will be notifications when relevant questions are published. There should also be a list of procedures for dealing with common problems when a manager or a co-worker is not available for immediate assistance.
Problem #4: Interruptions During a Shift
Flexibility and the ability to address family duties and do errands during the day are considered significant advantages of working at home. However, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword. Things can come up at home in a way they wouldn’t when the employee is working in an office. These events can interfere with the workday and create significant disruptions.
Consequence: The problem of life disruptions impedes in many types of jobs, but particularly customer service work that requires availability for questions and discussion.
The main consequence of this disruption is that work will not get done. It will be performed hurriedly and carelessly, or customer service professionals may have to work later hours to compensate for lost hours. The main cost of this is efficiency, which impacts the employee, customers, and the company.
The Solution: Treat the at-home schedule with the same commitment as if you were at the office. Work at set times and refrain from scheduling appointments or errands during that time. If something comes up, schedule a time to make up for the loss. Productivity tools keep track of time and focus on how much work you are getting done in the time allotted. This will keep efficiency at a high standard.
Problem #5 Feeling Overwhelmed
Working at home may feel like it is fulfilling the work-life balance. However, if it all meshes together, instead of balance, chaos can result. Instead of seeing one’s way through the issues and organizing time, work, and other obligations can cause one to feel overwhelmed.
Consequences: Everyone has days that are difficult and stressful, but often issues can be cleared up, papers and time can be organized, and efficiency can be improved. However, the feeling of being overwhelmed can lead to further disorganization, concentration difficulties, and mental and physical health issues.
The Solution: Sticking to a schedule and staying ahead of one’s workload can prevent one from feeling overwhelmed in the first place. Rest breaks and self-care are also essential. Skimping on sleep can increase feelings of anxiety. Adhering to a balanced work schedule, relaxation, family time, and creativity can improve mental and physical health and work efficiency.
Work at Home Success
Working at home as a customer service professional can be a challenge, but the flexibility provided by this situation can be rewarding. Having the right tools, adhering to a set shift and schedule, and finding ways to communicate with colleagues and employees effectively can make working at home a positive development.
About the Author
Efrat Vulfsons is the Co-Founder of PR Soprano and a data-driven marketing enthusiast, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.