As world events push employees towards a remote working model, people are looking to technology to help bridge the gap between day to day communication and business operations. The coronavirus crisis is triggering a new way of working entirely, but for some workforces, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
For businesses that rely on gig workers, remote working has been a way of life for some time. Think beyond Uber and Deliveroo: gig workers cover a huge variety of occupations, including graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, and the thousands of customer support workers supporting brands globally. Businesses have been employing these people, on demand, to provide remote support for many years. Between the technology they use and the methodologies they put in place, businesses that are fuelled by gig workers can teach the new generation of remote workers a thing or two about what it takes to make remote working a success.
The following is business advice from the front line of the gig.
Be proactive and adapt your customer support
Managing customer expectations is critical in times of serious disruption, and most people are aware that there are some reductions in service out of their control. However, those organisations which can operate with this highest level of business continuity will naturally see less long-term impact on their bottom line. Adaptability and a willingness to adopt new ways of working to ensure business continuity is key.
By now, many, many companies have already moved their current workforce to remote working due to self or forced isolation, and this includes customer support. However, the way we think about customer support, as well as the technology we use to provide it needs to change.
Firstly, communicate to your customers on how you are redesigning support, so their expectations are being managed at all times. Secondly, it’s essential to make sure your customer support staff are prioritising their workload and deprioritising tasks that are not business critical. Look to your technology to make sure support tickets are being ordered according to these priority levels.
If you have a platform in place, can your workers access it easily from home, and securely? And can you provide continued support if your workforce has reduced capacity due to illness?
This may be a time to consider moving entirely to digital support through chat or messaging, providing 24-7 digital support through gig workers. This may be well received compared to fragmented telephone support with long wait times. During longer periods of isolation, some businesses may experience an increased demand, which will mean an increase in customer service queries. So, ramping up customer service capacity and getting the right technology in place is a business operation improvement.
Get savvy with online engagement
Online engagement skills are essential: most gig workers may never meet their managers, but they need to feel close to the businesses they support to be successful. Providing them with instantaneous support and all the tools and coaching they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability is critical. Personalising the engagement is key, don’t just send long one-way memos, build out a way for them to engage in conversation in a scalable way.
Do you have a knowledge base and the ability to add and answer frequently asked questions? This may be made available via collaboration tools. It will be a cornerstone of ensuring that a majority-remote workforce feels connected, rather than a loose group of workers.
Managers in the gig economy know that they need to keep remote workers incentivised in order to retain them. This is often done via gamification, which usually involves creating status levels to promote progression, or rewards.
Gamification can also be used in social media sharing tools, and employee engagement platforms. These platforms can also be used to amplify messages of how you are supporting your employees and customers. It’s critical that brands are seen to do the right thing by all their stakeholders, and those that do that well will weather the storm.
One of the most difficult parts of managing a gig workforce is making remote workers feel valued. I’ve long believed that the best way to make remote workers feel valued is to connect them. For example, there are gig customer service platforms, which enable the customer to provide instant feedback on their experience with the gig worker. This “thank you” has an incredible effect and really spurs gig workers on to continue providing amazing service.
By putting similar technology and measures in place, businesses may find that they adapt well to having a remote workforce, and that remote working becomes part of a new operational model going forward, particularly surrounding customer support. With the gig customer service economy flourishing, there are plenty of great examples to go by, and as we navigate uncertain times, plenty of potential to improve the way we work, communicate with each other and serve our customers.
Megan Neale is COO and Co-founder of Limitless