Remote customer support tips tend to focus on hiring and managing. Before you even think about your people though, you need to think about your tools.
Our Head of Support & Success starts each day with a similar routine. She opens Groove. Assigns tickets. Checks Slack. Joins a Zoom call. Follows up with tasks on Trello. Then connects with the rest of the support team.
She’s hired great remote workers. And honed her remote management skills. But the fact that she relies on no less than four tools before even interacting with her teammates signifies the importance of remote tools.
When gathering our best remote customer support tips, I couldn’t overlook the obvious.
Most of our readers are small business owners and support managers who needed a solution yesterday. Hiring takes months. Learning how to be a good manager takes years.
But you could get the software you need to run a remote team today. And leverage those tools to improve your remote processes by tomorrow.
Altogether, the tips act more like a checklist—starting with which tools to get, followed by instructions on how to put it all together. Once you’ve got all these elements in place, you’ll successfully conquer remote customer care.
9 remote customer support tips to set your team up for success
As you’ll see, each tip relies on an online tool that allows us to work asynchronously and collaborate without being in the same place. We’ve been using most of these tools for over five years. They’re tried and true and reliable. And for our startup, they’ve allowed us to scale our customer service experience without adding unnecessary complexity.
These tips are meant for those new to building a remote services team or considering opening up remote positions. Read these tips before stepping into the remote support world and you’ll create a solid foundation to allow your business to grow.
Table of contents
1. Get customer support software to maximize your team’s capacity
Basic email (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) isn’t designed for remote jobs. Invest in customer support software. The ROI is exponential. And as far as SaaS software goes, it’s relatively cheap.
Obviously, we use Groove. As a lean startup, our team leverages the accessibility of our shared inbox. Every department can see customer feedback and reports without any particular customer service job training. We use automations to beef up our small customer team.
We’re able to handle large inbox volume without a huge staff by maximizing our support platform. We rely on features like canned replies, folders, and rules to help our customer service representatives respond faster and more efficiently.
Do not skip this step. If you’re planning to offer remote support (even temporarily) you need customer support software.
Without it, your team will be standing on shaky ground constantly trying to catch up. Proactivity heightens customer experience—it also enhances employee experience. Get ahead of remote customer support problems with the right tool for the job.
2. Use project management software to break down tasks
Again, software software software. When working remotely, you lose the convenience (although, I’d argue inefficiency) of informally assigning tasks to your team.
Someone may pop by your desk and ask for help with a project or to pull some reports. You stop what you’re doing and do it yourself. Or assign it to a team member and let them take it from there.
Maybe you follow up. Maybe you never check-in again after delegating. However you typically work in the office…will crash and burn when working remotely.
With no eyes and ears on the ground of the office, you must rely on written assignments and delegation. We use Trello to help break down tasks, assign them to the right people, and check in on progress.
Frankly (and perhaps you could already tell from my tone), this makes everything way more efficient. Accountability goes through the roof when you actually write stuff down.
3. Use messaging and communications apps to replace in-person chats
Mediums matter. At the core of all these remote tools is the idea that you need to separate home life from working-from-home life.
Use work-specific messaging tools to delineate when you’re talking to managers and colleagues versus friends and family.
Because we’re not only a remote team, but a distributed team, we rely on these apps to keep us in communication regardless of timezone or location.
In Slack, all our messages are saved and we get notified when there’s something new or urgent. With Zoom, we record important meetings for reference and share with other team members who couldn’t attend.
Email is not our favorite communication tool. We get a lot of emails each day and important stuff gets buried. These apps cut through the mess for us and allow us to communicate more seamlessly from wherever we are.
4. Create an internal knowledge base to eliminate unknowns
Remote work removes casual questioning. Taps on the shoulder aren’t as easy. And you can’t clearly see when your team member needs help.
We rely on an internal knowledge base to make sure everything in our head is documented. Our support platform (Groove) includes a knowledge base on every plan, and it even comes standard within our free trial.
Remote work eliminates the constant communication of sitting next to someone in an office or call center. We can’t simply say, “Just come over and ask me if you don’t understand.”
A knowledge base requires you to write down clear answers and directions.
You see where I’m going here. You’ll actually save a lot of back and forth when you document your resources rather than rely on in-office chatter.
Plus, training someone for an entry level customer support job or asking a colleague to step in while you’re away becomes a breeze. The internal resource becomes a source of truth for your entire team and company.
We update ours as often as possible. And since we use it most days, it’s simple enough to edit whenever we see something wrong. If you’re not using it everyday, schedule a review at least once a month to make sure it’s up to date.
5. Create a customer-facing self-service portal to decrease email volume
Remote customer support encourages managers to be more proactive. It’s not as easy to huddle together when new products get released or when the server crashes. So we take all the necessary precautions to get ahead of issues and prepare ourselves for whatever comes down the pike.
Self-service is the remedy here. Again, our customer support software, Groove, comes with knowledge bases included. We just fill in the content and flip a switch. Our customers are able to access these documents and tutorials from our self-service widget and the Help Center on our website.
Above all, this resource reduces email volume. Freeing up our agents’ time to focus on more difficult inquiries or bug reports. And improving the customer experience so they get immediate answers rather than waiting for a reply.
6. Set KPIs to establish transparent goals
Over-communicate goals when working remotely. It’s harder to feel like you’re part of a team working on a common goal when you’re not in the same room. To combat this, we make it very clear and speak often about what we’re all working towards.
We set KPIs at the beginning of each quarter. And show each team member how to check in on them. We use graphs and charts to make them easier to follow. And most importantly, rely on automation to track progress.
This transparency is crucial for remote teams, whether you plan to offer remote part time or full time. It aligns the company and keeps us all motivated regardless of our location.
7. Lay out clear tasks and deadlines for accountability
Prior to working at a fully remote company, I would come in to work everyday unsure of what I’d be doing. My manager would tell me when I got in. Or we’d just see what came up that day. Or someone from another department would come by and ask if we could help with a project.
This may work (sidenote: it doesn’t work) for an in-office workflow. But it’s impossible to run a remote team this way.
We define clear tasks and set deadlines for all our work. Unplanned tasks arise. But we go through the same process of breaking them down and assigning due dates. This allows us to go off into our own remote world and get the job done without any lingering questions or confusion.
You need to be more specific when working remotely. You’re losing nonverbal cues and body language. The written word is all you have.
We use sprints to create and prioritize tasks within two-week increments. Everything is recorded in Trello. We create cards for work, add due dates, and update or move cards as we get things done.
Our product management software keeps us accountable. We can see what everyone is doing without needing to see them all lined up in cubicles.
8. Keep meetings valuable by checking in at the right frequency
Meetings are a hot topic whether you work in an office or remotely. They have a stigma for being wasteful and unproductive. Remote life actually helps with this.
When you set yourself up on the right software, you’ll be more aware of what people are working on, the goals you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re progressing.
You won’t need face-to-face contact to assure you that people are doing their jobs. The proof is in the software.
We aspire to achieve balance with meetings. Giving teammates room to breathe and focus on their tasks. But checking in at the right frequency to make sure they’re not floundering in solitude.
It’s not as easy to see burnout on a colleague’s face when working from home. We do quick daily standups—usually ten to fifteen minutes. And schedule one-on-one meetings every week to touch base on more holistic progress.
During these calls, our support team updates each other on meetings or important information the others may have missed. We also make time to talk about nothing in particular (although usually about our dogs).
If you run a small business, ask your employees what cadence works for them. Some might prefer more face-time, others less. For small companies, you can adjust meeting frequency to work for you. There’s no right or wrong benchmark. As long as your team gets value from the meetings.
9. Collaborate with other teams to keep brand and culture intact remotely
The idea of remote work conjures up the illusion of isolation. Everyone working asynchronously like a cog in a machine. There’s an efficiency to that idea that actually doesn come through in remote life. But it’s missing the full picture.
Collaboration and communication are just as essential as independent work. Otherwise you risk siphoning off your teams. The engineers might be speaking one language, while the customer success team speaks another. They’re both working well in their own languages, but as a company, success lies in the cohesiveness of all these parts.
In some ways, communication is harder to do remotely. But after seven years, the Groove team has pretty much nailed it.
We use Slack for daily chats and Zoom for more complicated discussions. We have a team huddle every day. It spans multiple time zones beyond the United States. My morning is an engineer’s night time. But we all get the reminder on Slack with a link to a Zoom call.
Most days, the call is conversational. Rarely more than twenty minutes. It helps to know our team members on a personal level even if we’ve never met.
Throughout my entire career I’ve leveraged my personal relationships with co-workers to better collaborate on work-related tasks. Remote work has proved to be no different.
Remote customer support software FTW
We’ve enjoyed all the benefits of remote customer support here at Groove. We’re more proactive and productive than at previous jobs working in an office.
But remote customer support isn’t something you can just start doing without any forethought. At least not successfully. The groundwork needs to be there.
Build a solid foundation with the right software. Allow your business to scale. Focus on process rather than individuals at this early stage.
Hiring and managing a remote team is it’s own art. But without the right tools, you’ll be drawing without an easel.
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