Written by Nathan Meunier
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to go remote with your customer support team, you’ll want to put some thought into creating a plan for what you want your team to look like, how you want it to operate, and what types of work and support channels you need covered. Wrapping your head around the bigger picture will help you out later on in the process.
Here are some steps to get you started down the path to building a great remote team.
The ability to work remotely is a skill in and of itself, and the most successful remote workers typically come from freelance, startup, or related contract worker backgrounds. Beyond any necessary role-specific traits you need, you’ll also want to look for potential hires who are self-starters, independent workers, able to prioritize the most important tasks, and eager to work.
Top qualities to look for:
Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried suggests taking the time to actually do the job you intend to hire someone for. This gives you intimate hands-on knowledge of the ins and outs of the type of work you need done, and it makes it a lot easier to evaluate a potential hire’s abilities and see how they’ll fit. While he handled customer service for his company for two years before hiring someone for that work, you could get by with just a week or two of hands-on time. This also helps out tremendously in the next step.
An ideal work description has a few key components, but to make yours truly shine, it’s important to craft it in a way that showcases your company, brings your underlying mission to the fore, and attracts the right professionals to promote your brand. Beyond simply attracting candidates, you want to help them quickly identify that your company is the kind they want to work for.
To create a great work description, make sure you:
Posting your job listing with a great description and hoping for the best isn’t enough. You’re likely to get some decent candidates initially, and maybe even some with great potential, but you should also take the initiative to seek out potential hires that might be in the market for this kind of position. Spend some time researching potential candidates who have the right expertise for the gig and the right remote working experience, then approach them directly to see if they might be interested.
Expect to receive a potential deluge of applicants. Not all of those who apply will be a good fit for your needs, but it’s important to identify the top candidates and reach out to them promptly. Having a detailed list of the top qualities you’re looking for in a candidate will help during this process and make it easier to quickly identify your prime applicants.
The best remote talent out there is likely to be in-demand, and you want to pinpoint your best prospects early on to engage them before someone else does. That’s where the speed of creating an online team can be beneficial over the slower traditional application process.
When it comes to hiring remote team members, Zapier co-founder Wade Foster suggests you should pay close attention to how your top candidates respond during the interview setup process. Because excellent communication skills are so vital to a successful remote team dynamic, it’s helpful to see how candidates respond when setting up a video interview.
If candidates suggest potential dates, times, and time zones, or offer different options to connect, such as Skype, phone, or Google Hangouts, then that’s a good sign, he says. On the other hand, if they’re bad at following-up in a timely manner or aren’t flexible, then that’s a red flag.
During the interview itself, aim to get a feel for how a candidate will work with your company’s brand identity, how well they’re attuned to the specific work you’re hiring for, and any additional skills that might make them a good fit as a remote team member. Additionally, Baremetrics founder Josh Pigford has two key questions he includes in interviews relating to customer service:
Regardless of your specific on-boarding process for new hires, you’ll want to consider covering some very important bases to help set your remote team up for maximum success. Here are some quick next steps.
Meeting the team: Once you make a new hire or finish assembling your virtual customer support dream team, you may want to facilitate some kind of group meeting to get everyone acquainted and on-board. This can be helpful for setting the right tone and initiating collaboration across your team, which is something that can take effort to build given the fact individual team members will likely be scattered around the world.
Resources: Making sure all team members have access to the right resources to stay in touch and make their remote work easier is critical. In addition to your on-boarding program for your hires, make it a point to verify that everyone is set up with communication tools and knows how to use them.
Outline goals and expectations: Taking the time to establish clear expectations and set goals for your remote team from the very beginning will leave no doubt about what you expect from your team. Having this all clearly defined up-front will help avoid miscommunication and potential conflicts.
Create an advancement path: While you may start your team off on some smaller assignments, creating pathways for future advancement can be a great way to build incentives and rewards for your agents to continue working with your company. They might start out handling support tickets, for example, then move to tickets and text chat, then onward to phone chat support, and eventually into more of a leadership role.
It can take time to put your top-notch remote customer service team together and get everyone on the same page, but once you’ve got your A-Team assembled and running smoothly, you’ll be primed to boost your customer experience in a big way. The good news is that it’s often a much quicker and smoother process than the traditional hiring approach.