Perhaps you find, like us, that the constant back-and-forth debate regarding the merits of remote work is getting tedious. The silver linings of the heavy cloud that is Covid-19 might be slim, but flexible working conditions have been a pandemic gift to many.
We think remote work is pawsome, and its appeal is nothing to hiss at…
58% of job seekers want a fully remote job. If you open the (virtual) doors to applicants wider afield, you welcome happier workers. In an industry with notoriously high turnover, this spells good news for the longevity of your smiling support team.
We’ve covered the AZ of customer support onboarding before, but for colleagues who work in different towns/cities/countries, a little tweaking is required. Whether they work from home, a co-working space, or by all means a cat cafe, we’ve got a plan to encourage newcomer success from day one.
If communication is lacking in your work environment, colleagues will feel disconnected from each other, and stress over workload will only intensify. Make proactive efforts to keep these downsides at bay so there are no chinks in your team’s armor. This starts with robust onboarding.
Klaus has been a remote-first company since day one. Not to extol our own virtues, but in fact our employee turnover rate is 2% is likely no coincidence. Of course, it could also be the cat gifs.
How to onboard customer service agents remotely:
➡️ Download the free checklist template
➡️ Read on to learn our secrets!
Welcome to the team
Strong communication sets the foundation for the learning process. Combat any feelings of loneliness that newbies may encounter by extending a warm welcome into the team.
Establish the company communication style and help the new colleague feel comfortable enough to contribute. Feeling included from day one safeguards against the feelings of isolation your agents are more at risk of, as remote workers. It also makes them more productive from the outset. You want a team of busy bees, instead of lone wolves who stray from the pack.
The Klaus welcome:
- Slack welcome
Having a new colleague should not come as a surprise to anyone. Every newbie is announced and welcomed into the fold on the company-wide channel. They are also encouraged to join the relevant Slack channels, both professional and those for fun.
- Team lunch
For each new hire, an online team lunch is organized. We zest up our Zoom call with a question-and-answer session to get to know new colleagues. Although being put on the spot might seem aggressive, it breaks the ice faster than a polar bear and is a helpful break in the product and process training that takes up much of a trainee’s first days.
Team settings aren’t an easy place for your new arrival to put faces to names. Our new employees are encouraged to organize 1: 1 video calls, or virtual coffees, with each person in their team and any other colleagues they will work closely with. Boost team synergy and caffeine consumption in one fell swoop!
Customer support is a team game. Building a new colleague’s comfort and confidence starts with communication.
Coaching and mentoring
Oldtimers usually know workarounds and resources that they can share: helping newcomers is also a motivator. Your team thrives and learns best when working together, so foster a remote environment that encourages this.
We find a combination of coaching and mentoring now effective:
Coaching is one of the most effective ways to teach new agents about their job. Assign senior team members as their coaches to share first-hand experience and knowledge about providing customer service through scheduled 1:1s.
- Klaus’ Pins for Coaching
This feature is fantastically worthwhile for customer support onboarding purposes. Pin chosen conversations to highlight as examples during 1: 1s for targeted feedback and to track trends.
Mentoring helps new agents settle in the team. While coaching focuses on learning about the daily roles and responsibilities, mentors usually help newcomers with a broader range of topics like planning out professional development, introducing the right people to talk to specific issues, or even just talking through the best home office set-up.
- Klaus’ Buddy System
Every newbie is partnered with a buddy. This fellow Klausian is on hand for advice on anything from Slack protocol to looking good in Zoom meetings. Klaus buddies people up with someone outside their own team – this improves interdepartmental familiarity and lets newcomers branch out from their inner circle of coworkers.
Coaching and mentoring require only a few tweaks to be just as effective remotely as in person. Utilize your online communication channels by checking in via chat and arranging regular 1:1 sessions to make sure all bases are covered.
How to train remotely
Support agents are on the frontline: their product knowledge has to be flawless. Meticulous product training is integral to successful remote customer support onboarding (and your customer service quality assurance program!).
There are now a plethora of tools and platforms for remote workers. The best ones are simply the ones that best match your team and your processes.
Best Practices for Remote Training
Video killed the radio star
Online tutorials are easily made on products like Loom. Slack has also launched the ability to send recorded videos via chat to record explanations, and newcomers can replay whenever they require a refresh. Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams are the major players in remote video meetings. Leverage these tools, and perfecting a product demonstration is a piece of cake.
It’s taking part of that counts
Remote interaction is only clunky for the inhibited. People often learn by doing, and they definitely need to ask questions. Leave your trainees feeling confident about new tools and products by giving them full access and the capability to experiment with the product by themselves. Schedule regular meetings throughout their first week to open the floor for discussion and questions.
Strike the right note
Documenting anything and everything of value in an accessible, open workspace is a vital resource for new recruits and a time-saver for their coaches and mentors. Remote working lends itself very well to individual learning, where trainees can explore and learn at their own pace. At Klaus, we use Notion to store and share guidelines, common goals, tasks, and updated information. Klausians can also make private notes there to keep themselves or make public when desired. A file server to store all things useful is also a must-have. At Klaus, our Google Drive catalogs everything from meeting notes to past blog posts to cat illustrations.
The dog ate my wifi
Things happen, but laying out some ground rules will at least safeguard against avoidable interruptions:
- Equip your agents with quality headsets to preserve sound in call/video training.
- Implement an internet speed requirement and ask that employees conduct a speed test if signing on from somewhere new. (We recommend 10 MB/s, at a minimum, preferably 20MB/s.)
- Stay on mute in large group conversations.
- Update your software.
- Practice using any new features in advance, even for the basics like screen sharing on a video call.
- Technology issues are inevitable. Just like a fire alarm may disrupt an office day, Slack will occasionally be down; Zoom may slow to a crawl. Do not place all your eggs into one basket, and ensure you have several communication channels so that productivity does not have to grind to a complete halt.
Download the Remote Agent Onboarding Checklist
You now have all the ingredients to cook up a delicious onboarding experience for your new agents
But, word to the wise, onboarding is only Step #1. As a customer support leader, your responsibility in cultivating a thriving remote working environment is an ongoing affair. Incorporate regular check-ins and training for your team to perpetuate productivity.
Now, as one historical leader once said, go forth and prosper!
Read more about improving your remote customer support team:
How the Famously Remote Company Automattic Makes Peer Reviews Work