Recent reports show that the blended workplace is very much a reality. Nearly 1 in 5 UK workers plan to work from home indefinitely, half expect to go into the office every day, and two thirds of Londoners plan to divide their time between the office and home.
While flexible working is well reported to increase productivity by as much as over 10 percent in some cases, today’s hybrid world has taken flexible working to a new level with scope to elevate staff engagement and motivation further still, which will have an even greater positive impact on customer service.
To reap the rewards of this exciting workplace of the future, managers do need to rip up the old rulebook and consider new ways of managing a collaborative, engaged team that is now more dispersed.
Don’t be ‘On Demand’
Start first by looking at your self-management and wellbeing. Working remotely can mean the chance to be more productive but only when managed correctly. Virtual leaders can easily fall into the trap of becoming the ‘on demand’ manager, as employees assume that outside of the normal day to day office distractions, managers are more easily and readily available.
Gone are the visual cues of the office that gauge when to hold off from approaching your manager – like head down at the desk, on a call, or having just finished a long meeting.
It’s too easy in the virtual world to think you have to join every Teams meeting, reply to every email and answer every call, which ends up being unproductive and can make you lose focus of your own leadership goals.
Instead, use the benefits of being virtual without the office distractions. Control how responsive you are to your team. Book space in your diary to focus on your own tasks, goals and demands, and when teams know you can’t be disturbed. Allocate time to reflect and think, and to coach individuals.
Your team will soon realise that you don’t need to be involved in every minute customer service problem and teaches them good virtual working habits. It shows trust in your team to handle matters while giving them greater responsibility and authority to make decisions. This in turn boosts morale and leaves you to handle the more complex and strategic activities.
Fostering a culture of trust is essential to delivering excellent customer service in a virtual world. A place where employees are given the autonomy and authority to make key decisions wherever they’re working and without manger input. Where employees are accountable for their decisions without feeling like they’ll be chastised if they make the odd mistake, but rather learn from it. Where employees are responsible for where, how and when they work in order to get the best results for the business.
This all leads to not only a more engaged workforce but one that has the flexibility and freedom to resolve customer enquiries quickly and effectively.
At Olive, when faced with a challenge, our Operations Leaders will regularly come together in a self-facilitating coaching session to share experiences, assess results and ways customer service could be improved. This learning and innovation culture requires trust and respect to succeed; a culture where leaders can confidentially share mistakes or acknowledge where things could be done better to refine our service delivery which at the same time draws out innovation and ideas from people whether working remotely or not.
There are also measures you can put in place to see how well your blended workplace is performing. Team productivity can be assessed through objective led measures, such as how professionally were customers enquiries handled, virtual or not? How slick are company processes such as the time it takes to refund payments? And what are the overall service levels like – from customer holding times to time needed to resolve a query?
Is your technology suite supporting a better connected blended workplace? How agile and effective is your customer service platform to support customer and employee regardless of location or device? Are you able to use chatbots to resolve some of the more commonly asked questions to relieve employee time?
One front line person isn’t the only customer touch point. Sales, finance, and technical experts, will also be customer points of contact so check your technology effortlessly bridges these teams through secure access to share customer data and conversation threads so your teams can collaborate swiftly to seamlessly resolve customer queries from anywhere, any time.
Return to the office
When employees are asked to come into the office for any reasons, ensure you keep communicating and reassuring them. Be mindful that some will be nervous about coming into contact with colleagues for fear of Covid-19.
Be clear on the new office Covid safety measures and workplace policies. Something we did at Olive was to introduce a ‘Back To Work’ plan including health & safety videos to show staff the changes in place, required temperature checks and sanitisation on arrival, and a ‘Welcome Back’ pack to make employees feel comfortable and safe. For those with heightened anxiety or stress concerning Covid-19 offer a counselling service if possible.
The blended workplace is the future workplace but it will take time for some employees to adjust. With the right support, management leading by example, and secure communications technology infrastructure in place, businesses and their customers can reap the rewards fairly swiftly.