In a recent survey done by the Support Driven community, 24% of companies said they outsource some or all of their support and 29% say almost all their support is remote and not in-office.
The difference between remote and outsourced support:
Remote locations: These offices 100% belong to your company, but are in another location.
Outsourced locations: Paying another company that specializes in support to answer tickets on your behalf, while educating them on your material.
A big part of growth inevitably is about scaling different departments. Remote support locations can be utilized for both medium and larger businesses. In many cases, it becomes a necessity not just due to location and language but primarily budget. And the great thing about remote vs outsourcing is that you still have full control. You make all the decisions, making sure that the people you hire are up to your standard with proper training, upkeep of company culture and alignment of expectations.
Creating a new off-site location can be a challenging transition. There are multiple factors to consider. Such as processes you’re currently taking for granted, like in-person communication within the same time zone or managing a team in close vicinity.
Managing a team that’s not physically close to you can be really hard. How do you guarantee that the right processes are being used, the quality stays the same but also that no one feels neglected?
We spoke to several site managers, who shared their experiences managing a remote location and how they efficiently deal with these challenges.
1. Company culture: If you’re not in the same location, it becomes far more difficult to be aligned with company culture. Be open to not forcing your own idealized office culture onto another site. You may have a great thing going for you, but keep in mind that manifesting company values is what’s of the highest importance. Each site will bring their own flavor to the company. Allow them to develop their individual personality while taking onboard your core values. As Karyna Shmatko, one of two site managers at Wix.com’s Kyiv offices points out, the Kyiv office has a young working environment. With an “average age of 26/27, many don’t have to rush anywhere after work, are willing to stay and hang out after work or when guests come to visit go for a night out. HQ, on the other hand, has far more employees with families that are of course their main priority. However, in terms of attitude to work, colleagues, and passion for the product, values are maintained.”
2. Quality alignment: How do you maintain the same quality over multiple sites and realistically assure this stays consistent? At first, this may take quite an effort, but keep in mind that it’s worth putting the resources towards this at the very beginning to make the new site self-sufficient. Karyna Shmatko, Kyiv Site-manager, shares that “when our site was opened we constantly had experienced agents come from HQ to train us and share their knowledge until we became self-sufficient. Now that the quality of knowledge is high we are trusted to take care of our own operations, we are completely aligned.” The key here is, to make sure in the early stages to set the precedent, making sure to hire highly motivated people that are trained according to company standards and are then responsible for the next generation of employees for that Site.
3. Communication is key between HQ and remote locations: How do you up-keep communication when you’re not in the same location or even time zone? There are simple ways you can immediately deal with this challenge such as video conferences, meetups, providing the opportunity to visit HQ and consistent online communication through channels such as Slack. This might seem basic, but it can be hard to stay on top of these on a day to day. It’s important to establish channels and processes ahead of time to make sure you’ll use them when the time comes.
Align expectations: You all have a different opinion on what’s getting a task done quickly or how it should be done. In order to avoid frustration and misunderstandings, expectations need to be set for all parties. Clear guidelines on how you want a task to be done and of course deadlines.
Channels for easy communication: Whether this is Slack, hangouts or something else, find what works for you. Email is not the right thing to keep communication flowing between sites. For meetings, it's better to be face to face, even if face to face is via a camera.
Update everyone at the same time: Use boards, such as Monday or Jira, to keep everyone in the loop at the same time, so no one will feel like they’re the last to know.
Distribution of tasks: This is a delicate subject. It can be really easy to give a task to someone that’s physically close. But, keep in mind that another site wants to not just be kept in the loop but they’d like some of the action and your trust too. Make sure if there’s a project to consciously distribute it evenly so another site won’t feel left out and feel that HQ is getting preferred treatment.
Respond as fast as you can: Remote agents and managers have to feel that you have a virtual “open door” policy and that you’re making yourself available. Don’t make the remote team feel “frozen-out”.
Offsite retreats: If it’s in your budget, we’d recommend organizing an offsite for different members of your teams to build relationships, get to know each other and brainstorm.
Site visits: Alternatively, have some members of your team’s travel to remote locations and vise versa. This is a program Wix.com runs with its product experts, especially for the quarterly roadmap. It’s an amazing way to show you are willing to invest in your agents, for them to contribute to the roadmap effort and to partake in brainstorming sessions.
Create a community: Create a digital community that recognizes major events such as birthdays, births and milestones within the company. This will create a sense of community and connectedness and inspire communication between remote and local agents.
Remote offices can be fairly time and energy-intensive to create and run. Keep in mind that remote locations are a long term strategy and investment. Once the site is self-sufficient, it can massively pay off. From a financial perspective, as well as improved operating hours. And a new set of people with an entirely different culture that can provide a fresh set of eyes to your business.