The remote sales force and customer service team is officially here.
The last decade has seen a staggering rise in remote work. Per Gallup, the size of the remote workforce has nearly doubled in the last few years. A whopping 43 percent of U.S. employees reported working remotely all or some of the time in 2017, compared to just 23 percent in 2015 and 19 percent in 2003, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The rise in remote work has created new challenges and opportunities for managers tasked with leading geographically dispersed teams.
Sales and customer service teams are not immune to these larger trends. According to FlexJobs, customer service representatives, account managers, business development managers, and client services directors all rank among the 14 most popular remote positions held by Americans in 2018 (with the latter positions ranking #1 and #3 respectively).
Benefits of Remote Sales and Customer Service Teams
The breakout growth of remote sales and customer service roles is happening for a multitude of reasons. Recent statistics support the benefits of using remote sales and customer service reps on your team. For example:
- 65 percent of workers said that remote work would give their productivity a boost.
- 86 percent said that working alone allows them to hit maximum productivity.
- 95 percent of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention.
- 80 percent of employees consider telework a job perk.
Gallup also reports that workers who spent 60-80% of their time away from the office had the highest rates of engagement, which supports the notion that a well-run, disciplined, and motivated remote sales or customer success team can lead to staggering achievements.
Potential Challenges of Managing Remote Work
Running a successful remote sales team requires 3 things:
The challenge with managing a remote sales force or customer service team is in maintaining and organizing a team with geographically-dispersed members, holding team members accountable, and coaching and training reps who are not in your office frequently.
Fortunately, there are several proven tactics that managers can wield to lead their remote teams with the aid of technology.
How to Track and Drive Remote Customer Service Productivity
Creating a productive remote sales team is all about establishing the rules of engagement for how reps conduct their days, holding them accountable, and coordinating and coaching through technology.
Follow these steps to coach, communicate, and collaborate with your remote sales and customer service teams more effectively.
Step 1. Codify and Communicate the Rules of Engagement
Ambiguity is the enemy of success for remote sales team and customer service reps. You should establish clear guidelines and playbooks for them to follow that leave as little guesswork as possible in the equation.
For example, remote sales reps need a really strong grasp of the guidelines for responding to an inbound ticket. You should create detailed flowcharts for remote customer service reps to follow that show how to respond to common issues and resolve them as quickly as possible. In addition, you should provide guidelines for proactive customer outreach, upselling an existing customer, and pushing an issue up the chain to management.
For remote sales reps, it’s imperative to drill crystal clear understanding of territory assignment, outreach protocol, and targeting and follow-up processes. Bringing new remote reps into the office for in-person onboarding and training is worth the time and expense, since it affords reps the opportunity to get face-to-face instruction, shadowing, and live call coaching. It also builds trust – a must for any functioning team.
Step 2. Measure and Publish Results
Your remote sales and customer service reps need direction and clear expectations in terms of daily, weekly, and monthly output. Measuring and publishing rep activity is a moral imperative.
The right way to track rep activity is to set clear benchmarks and KPIs for them to hit. For example, you might set a daily goal for customer service reps to resolve 30 customer tickets or proactively check in on 5 major accounts.
With the aid of modern cloud communication tools, you can automatically log every action a remote rep takes throughout the day, from making a call to setting a meeting to sending an email.
A great manager will take steps to publish, incentivize, and reward rep achievement. Sharing daily activity levels and wins is a great way to social engineer positive feedback loops and reinforce behaviors that lead to positive outcomes for your sales and customer service teams.
Step 3. Source and Provide Frequent Feedback
The third key component for managing a remote sales team is through steady, consistent two-way communication. Your reps need to hear from you frequently and vice-versa.
Taking steps to create effective lines of communication to hear and send feedback to your remote team is the first order of priority. Once you have codified the rules of engagement, it’s important to clearly reiterate them through the duration of each rep’s employment.
Weekly meetings with your remote team via phone and video conferencing are a great way to keep everyone in the loop. You can also direct reps to online learning centers such as this article on customer service tips to assist with continued learning and development.
How Do You Lead Remote Sales and Customer Service Reps?
Here at Nextiva, we manage a massive group of award-winning sales and customer service teams spread throughout the world. And we’re not the only ones.
We’d love to hear how you track and drive productivity for your remote sales and customer service reps in 2019. As the remote workforce continues to grow, there will be an infinite opportunity for creating new strategies and tactics to lead your remote teams more effectively.
Share your best ideas and strategies below – and help your fellow sales and customer service managers lead their remote teams more effectively in 2019.