You’ve been there before. You have a dream for your business, a plan to boost your sales, to form partnerships with other companies, and to launch an amazing ad campaign. And yet… you spend hours of your time every day doing customer service instead. In many ways, this isn’t a waste. Good customer service is invaluable, especially early on in your company’s growth. It sets you apart from your competitors and promotes brand loyalty. But it can also seem endless. If you find yourself answering one email, only to see three more come in while you were dealing with the first one, it might be time to start hiring remote customer service.
Just because your run your own business or work from home, doesn’t mean you can’t hire other people to deal with customer complaints and questions. It might seem like a big thing, pulling that trigger and hiring more people, but it will usually pay off. Here’s a few things remote customer service can help with.
Part 1: Why Have Remote Customer Service?
Remote customer service saves time
Despite receiving a crash course in customer service lately, it’s not something you’ve been specifically set up. People with years of experience can more quickly move through tickets, emails, and calls, all while keeping their cool instead of getting worked up over every problem. They’ll also work faster because they can focus on one thing specifically, instead of having their hand in every pot (like you currently do).
Remote customer service gives you a larger pool of candidates
If you are hire remotely, it’s much easier to find people who are willing, eager, and qualified to work in customer service. Depending on the nature of your business, you might also consider hiring overseas freelancers. There are many overseas candidates who have worked extensively in customer service.
Remote customer service saves money
Sure, you have to pay people you hire, and not with just your loose change. But how much is your own time worth? As the person in charge, you can save a lot in the long run by freeing it up and focusing on making your business profitable. And, just like with the above point, you can often find discounts by hiring qualified individuals who work overseas. In many cases, the exchange rate will work in your favor.
Remote customer service sticks around longer
Customer service tends to have a high turnover rate. It’s stressful work, and many see it as a jumping off point for other positions. However, remote hiring brings together a differing set of candidates than in-office work does. Often, those who work remotely might care more about their flexibility than their specific position. For example, you might hire a mother who wants to work while she stays at home with her kids. Because of her unique circumstances, she will be much less likely to leave quickly than your typical fresh out of college service rep. In addition, working from home takes some of the difficulty out of the work by eliminating the commute, office politics, and other stressors. This means hries can save their mental fortitude for expertly handling your customers.
Part Two: How to get top performing remote customer service
Now that you know why you should consider hiring remote customer service, here are the steps for how you should go about building a stellar one. The process is more straightforward than you think, and there are great tools to help you on the way.
Step 1: Document what you are already doing
First, make a detailed list of what you are already doing on your own in terms of customer service. Ask yourself lots of questions, and then use those questions to create your list. Here’s some questions you should be sure to include:
– How many customer inquiries am I answering every day?
– How quickly do I respond?
– What are the questions I get asked most frequently by customers? How do I answer these?
– What kind of “voice” do I use to respond to questions: friendly and familiar? polite and professional?
– What do I do when a customer becomes angry or upset?
– How do I respond to inquiries? Email? Phone? Both? Do I use social media at all?
From these questions you can create a rough onboarding guide for how customer service should be handled at your company. It will help you in the future to set up freelance hires, and it will also help you when you are interviewing candidates.
Step 2: Recruit experienced customer service individuals
Once you’ve prepared your rough onboarding guide, you’re ready to start recruiting. If you are unsure where to find qualified freelancers, we suggest our own website FreeeUp. On FreeeUp, you simply fill out the request form from your free account describing exactly who you are looking for, and we’ll send you a qualified candidate. Then, you’ll have a chance to interview them before you decide whether they are right for you. Not sure about the first person we send you? Simply reject the freelancer from your dashboard and we’ll send you someone else. All of the freelancers registered on our site undergo specific onboarding on communicating remotely and managing client expectations well.
If you have a little more time on your hands and would prefer a more traditional interview process, you can try Upwork. It’s a good place to review a large pool of candidates and work through interviews one by one.
Once you’re ready to interview, you can use the onboarding guide you prepared to help you. What you’ve described in your guide will help you determine whether the candidate you are interviewing is a good fit for your company. Can they work the hours you need? Can they use the software and response methods you prefer? The onboarding guide is also a good way to review what a potential candidate can offer. Walk them through your current process, and then ask them what they would do to improve it. Often, an experienced rep can make great recommendations, and will set themselves apart by doing so.
Beyond looking for experience, you should also evaluate politeness and friendliness in your interview, as well as good problem-solving skills. You want someone who can represent your company right, and you don’t want someone who will need your help dealing with every single question they are asked, even after they are properly set up.
Step 3: Provide onboarding and set clear expectations
Always, always invest in onboarding hires, even if they do have years of experience. The interview and the onboarding phase are the perfect time for you to set extremely clear expectations of what you want out of them. You can begin with the rough onboarding guide you set up. Work with hires to improve it and decide on processes together. This will give them a sense of ownership that promotes better work. Once you have a new draft of the guide together, start your hands-on set up.
Try role-playing different common scenarios with new hires, with you as the customer. Help them understand how to resolve issues quickly, and to know when to escalate them. Once you’ve tried out a few scenarios, start working on real complaints and questions alongside them. If you work on their first few hours together with them, you can be there to answer any questions as they come up. Set up a communication channel as well so that they can easily shoot you a question if an urgent and difficult situation comes up.
Step 4: Set up a schedule so that customer service is being checked regularly
If you find one stellar candidate, it might be tempting to hire them full-time immediately, and stop your search. However, we’ve found it’s usually better to hire multiple people for this kind of position. Hiring more than one makes it much easier to set up a schedule where customer service is being checked constantly. You are also covered in this case if someone leaves the company with little notice.
Aim for a schedule that’s regular enough so that hires know what to expect, but that also allows flexibility for dealing with the unexpected. Make sure you take into account big events, future vacations, and any scenario where someone will not be available to cover their usual work hours.
Once you have remote customer service, you’ll be amazed at how much more time you have, and how much peace of mind you’ve suddenly obtained. As small issues come up along the way, don’t forget to keep perfecting your onboarding guides. Eventually you should have a beautiful document that any hire can refer to for almost any customer service scenario. If you are curious about more of our tips and recommendations at FreeeUp, feel free to check out our resources or get our book.
Emily Bell has worked in digital marketing for seven years, tackling projects for a wide variety of tech and PR companies, as well as a few of Amazon’s top third-party sellers. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Influencive, Addicted2Success, Forbes, and around the web.