When working remotely, engagement levels are crucial to success. Find out how to boost engagement and make working fun for customer service employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the customer service industry operates forever. After almost a year of lockdowns and social distancing, working from home is no longer a novelty. In fact, it’s starting to take its toll on those who are used to office environments and thrive on the social aspects of going to work. It’s difficult to maintain connections and a feeling of unity when everyone is working remotely.
The key is to make an extra effort to keep those lines of communication open properly. This effort needs to come from the top down. Bosses, managers, and department heads need to show the rest of the team how to stay in touch, and that it’s okay to have fun with colleagues during office hours—the same way you would when in the actual office.
When work from home setups first started, companies were all about making sure they had video calls all the time to keep the face-to-face feel in the remote setup. However, Zoom fatigue started to set in. Employees soon stopped wanting to attend the daily video check-ins or the TGI Friday online socials for the entire company. It was difficult to have proper conversations in those kinds of setups because only one person can talk at a time.
As 2021 kicks off, it’s time to readjust your communication strategy with your customer service staff. Face-to-face time is still as important as it was when remote working became commonplace. Now, however, the way it’s done has to change.
Don’t Forget About Regular Conversations
The biggest difference between working from home and working in an office is those spontaneous conversations with colleagues in the kitchen, elevator, bathroom, and coffee shop. In a remote setup, you no longer bump into people and have a quick chat about something that isn’t work-related. Conversations tend to only be about work topics, with the occasional question of “how are you doing?” thrown in at some point.
It’s essential that you find a way to encourage these types of conversations between members of staff. Without it, the bond will loosen, and it’ll be harder and harder for people to collaborate effectively.
You can encourage these interactions through a variety of methods.
A group chat that’s just for non-work-related topics comprising all members of a team or even all members of your company would be great. People can share memes, interesting news articles, and personal updates here. You can create daily topics to increase engagement and foster a feeling of unity too. For example, on Tuesdays, everyone needs to take a selfie with their lunch and post it to the group. This may feel forced at first, but in time, everyone will become accustomed to this new version of water cooler chat.
Encourage Side Projects
Try out a percentage program to encourage innovation and creative thinking amongst your employees. You can give each staff member between 10 and 20 percent of their work time to focus on personal projects aligned with what you do.
Big tech companies around the world have been utilizing concepts like this for years, and some major innovations have emerged. The customer service industry has changed dramatically since the start of COVID-19, and who better to offer insight and ideas about it than those who play an active, client-facing role?
This freedom to work on new ideas shows that you value your staff and their thoughts. It also gives them time to have free rein on what they’re working on, without sticking to strict deadlines or following specific procedures all the time.
Show Your Appreciation
This goes back to the lack of personal interactions when working remotely. It can be increasingly difficult for someone to be sure if they’re on the right path, or if their work is being seen. Employees may begin to feel like they’re becoming invisible and their work doesn’t matter.
Now more than ever, a quick message to say well done on a particular job, or to say that you see the dedication from the team member, can go a long way. Not everything needs to be a big song and dance or a public message of appreciation—although those kinds of acts can be good if they’re warranted.
Taking a moment each week to check in with different people to make sure they’re happy and that you see the work they’re doing can make a tremendous difference. A simple check in and acknowledgement boosts morale and increases motivation—and it’s a sign of good management.
Give Staff The Right Equipment
For those who went into remote working quickly after the lockdown first started, there wasn’t a lot of time to get set up properly. There are still many companies working this way, and employees don’t have all the equipment they need. It’s frustrating and can be demotivating for employees if they aren’t able to work properly due to a lack of equipment. It’s even harder when dealing with customers, as the right tools aren’t available and can affect service levels.
It’s important to check in with staff and see if they have everything they need. You can consider giving them a small allowance to help set up their home offices, as this will help them feel like they’re still part of the company. Alternatively, you can arrange for the delivery of computers, portable printers, headsets, desks, and office chairs directly to their homes.
Remember Holidays And Special Occasions
Birthdays, work anniversaries, and holidays can be lonely when working remotely. Even more so in the current climate, where social distancing is the norm. Make sure you have a calendar marking all of the occasions you need to celebrate or remember, so that you don’t miss any of them.
You don’t need to have a company-wide video call for each birthday, but it’s a great idea to send out a company-wide email with a special wish. You can do the same for any customer service staff reaching career milestones. An email CC’ing everyone will reinforce the feeling of being a team.
For holidays, you can have dress up competitions or ask employees to decorate their desks accordingly. You can judge costumes and décor remotely, and award prizes as well. This adds a feeling of fun and a healthy spirit of competition to the mix.
While the future of customer service operations remains uncertain, what is certain is that cultivating engagement is essential. If staff are happy and still have fun, the virtual workplace will be a much better, more productive one. Everyone will benefit, including the company’s bottom line.