My name is Lindsay and I am a remote-working Customer Account Manager for Create.net, a Brighton-based company that enables businesses to build their own online shops and websites.
I have only been working remote for the last year. But over that time period, it’s become apparent to me that more and more modern companies are adopting remote workers for customer services. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on working remotely in what has always been, and should continue to be, a job that requires a close connection with people.
Whether you are an employer or employee there are definitely some misconceptions about working remotely in customer services.
“Working remotely is lonely”
Maybe true in some industries, but not at all working in customer services. Customers are not a ‘to-do’ list. They are people who need your help. Connect with them!
If you were to paste standard replies to a list of enquiries all day, you would be bored and lonely but speaking to and conversing with real people is the opposite of being lonely, it’s being social. I promise you being sociable will not only make your customers happier, but make your days much more enjoyable.
“My employers won’t trust me”
Even when you are working from afar, results you deliver will still speak for themselves. 87% of managers reported increases in productivity of 5-25% as a result of remote working.
Working from home can be more productive for so many reasons, including lack of distraction in the office, ability to work a bit longer if you want to, being more relaxed etc. As long as you are focused and passionate about your job and your customers, your employers will trust you.
“A team that’s apart will never work as well as a united team”
Gone are the days when working from home meant missed calls and fax machines (fax was ridiculous ,wasn’t it?). Modern tech makes it painfully easy to gel with your team. I collaborate daily with my co-workers via iMessages, email and FaceTime.
Make yourself a presence, voice your options, actively be a part of the team. If you are working in customer services, you should know how to get on well with people from afar. Utilise Skype or FaceTime – having a quick conversation with a colleague face to face will be a welcome addition to your day.
When you find yourself no longer in the office environment, you will naturally find some startling changes, and problems may arise from your new-found independence.
Challenge – the Internet
If anything happens to your precious Internet connection (that fine line between working and not working) you’re stuck and it will drive you crazy. Firstly, make sure you have the best connection possible. Shop around, do your research and get the best, most reliable internet service provider you can afford.
Then have a back up solution. I have three! I have two mobile Internet dongles pre-loaded with credit on two different providers. The last one (it’s a cheat, really) is an account ready with a pay-per-day wireless connection in my area. You can also scout out local Internet cafés and businesses offering free WiFi. Try those out if you can and see if their connections are stable. Nothing will frustrate you more than having your lifeline go down and being unable to reach your customers.
Challenge – being up to date with other parts of the company
When I first started working remotely, I’d often miss out on the bigger picture. You are the face and voice for the business to the customer, so the more you know about who you are and what you do, the better.
Ask your team leader about upcoming company news, chat about new features with colleagues, read through the project management software, make sure you read emails that go to all staff and read the company blog. You may not have access to all of those things but make it part of your routine to be up to date – not only will it make you feel more included but you’ll always be briefed on what’s going on in the office.
Challenge – working too much
Yes, it’s true. With any job, there is always more work to do. It can be so easy to work far more than you would if you were in the office. Whilst I think it’s great that you care about your job enough to work more (and indeed have the luxury of doing a bit more if you enjoy it), it’s really important to establish a routine. Not just for you personally, but for the quality of your work and for your long-term health.
In the office, you would be encouraged to take breaks from your screen, so make sure you do this at home. Perhaps have a time in the morning when you get up to make a cup of tea and have a look out of the window while the kettle boils. Take a proper lunch break, try to get out of the house every day. If you are overworked and stressed, you might make yourself unwell and this will almost definitely reflect in the quality of your correspondence with customers.
Finally, let me say this, remote working is not for everyone. I have talked to people who have both loved it and hated it. It works good for me, but only because I am looked after by an awesome company and a team of great friends. If you want it, you have to make it work. Here’s my top tips for working remote.
You weren’t expecting that were you? It is dangerously easy to eat junk food when you are stressed at home and that, quite frankly, will make you feel worse. Have healthy fruits and veggies in the house – food is your body’s fuel. You will work and focus better on a healthier diet.
Get up, get ready.
As if you were in the office, get up, have a shower and get ready to ‘go to work’. This will not only make you feel ready for work, but more productive. If you roll out of bed and start work tired, you won’t wake up for the rest of the day.
Be an expert.
If you are reading this article, you are no doubt keeping your customer service skills honed. I am constantly keeping an eye out for tips and opinions in customer services, but also the e-commerce industry on the whole. As a remote worker you need to be great at your job so that you don’t get left behind, so invest time as part of your routine to grow and improve. It will keep you on everyone’s radar and you will benefit your customers with your expertise.
At the end of the remote day.
Working remotely happens to really suit working with customers, but it takes dedication and passion in what you do. If you plan your days, concentrate and stay happy, you can offer a 5-star service and still go to the beach on your lunch break!
Carolin Geissler says
You forgot to add “working too little” as a challenge, Lindsay 🙂 Because the working hours go both ways. Many people that loathe remote working (that I’ve talked to) name not being disciplined enough to actually get the work done as a very large factor. There are just so many distractions when there’s no dedicated work area (or there is and it’s in your home).
I think everything is just a matter of habits. Earlier this year I went ‘un-remote’ after working for about six years from home. The whole experience of going back to an office based position has been quite unpleasant, and I still find it much harder to concentrate when at the office…
Chase Clemons says
I know the feeling! When I head to the office, it’s fun to work around the team for a few days. But I still need my space to concentrate sometimes. I’m glad we’ve got the smaller conference rooms where I can get away.
Chase Clemons says
I know people like that too. I also recommend looking at their work rather than time spent. If their work isn’t cutting it, they need to add more hours or head in to the office for some accountability.
Hi Carolin, that’s very true! 🙂 I do mention that remote working is not
for everyone and I think if you are not disciplined, it’s not for you. If
you cannot let go of home life during office hours (which is hard) then
you are probably best suited to an office environment. However I also think that doesn’t mean you should give up if you are new to remote working, it may just take some some little time to settle into – perhaps starting out part time and working to full time? I, like Chase, actually enjoy both home and office for work. I wonder if there are many more like me us there?
Carolin Geissler says
I absolutely like the idea of doing it both ways. This way, you can see which works better and/or prepare stuff for your home hours that work best with your situation.
Yes, it really does help! Nothing beats the comradery of getting together face to face with your team. Inspiring stuff. 🙂
Chase Clemons says
I know lots of the 37signals team in Chicago does just that. They’ll work at home in the morning then head into the office in the afternoon. Or the office in the morning and a coffee place in the afternoon. Best of both worlds!
Kate H says
Great tips – especially get organized, get rid of distractions, and take breaks. If you’re looking for remote work tips from a company that is 100% distributed, we just published a blog you may be interested in: “Remote work tips from Chargify’s distributed team”
If you have a chance to read it, would love to hear your thoughts!