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Why working remotely is the future with John Riordan of Shopify

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Shane Nolan of IDA Ireland sat down with John Riordan- Director of Support from Shopify Ireland for a fireside chat during our Future of CX Work event to discuss scaling a global customer support team in 2020. Ideas such as how remote work environments can help you drive customer advocacy and provide best-in-class support were featured in practical and insightful ways. John highlighted the virtues of remote support as a base function of a company's evolution by bringing real-life examples of how remote support has changed his life and will alter work as we know it.

There’s a lot to learn about remote work from Shopify

Today, the support agents working at Shopify number over 2,000- with all of them working completely from home. Since 2017, the team in Ireland has tripled in size, continuing to prove that it is not only possible to run a successful CS team that works from home, but that they can truly thrive.

At Shopify, the benefits of this remote work dynamic are numerous. From the employee perspective, work-life balance can be vastly improved and their productivity will quite probably reflect that. When working from home, you’ll have the opportunity to focus on your well-being and work responsibilities with less stress in a more flexible atmosphere helping improve performance. An additional benefit from an employers perspective like Shopify is that they’ll be able to save on corporate office costs and actually make their company more competitive in terms of attracting top talent who are specifically searching for a remote work position.

Tips from Shopify's "guru" playbook about optimizing employee performance in a remote work environment

Tip #1 - Have a transparent conversation from the start

When hiring new employees, ask direct questions about their tendencies and personality as opposed to talking directly to their CV. You’ll gain insight into their behavior and personality instead of receiving a corporate mask of technical responses. This style of interviewing and communication should continue throughout the hiring process and will give HR the ability to base a new employee's work relationship on genuine trust and transparency. This approach helps you gain an authentic understanding of who this person is and will be like as an actual employee.

Tip #2 - Choose the right person for the job Remote work is not for everybody. The truth is that the personality traits of your employees can provide insight into their ability to work well remotely. Social introverts tend to thrive in a remote environment, while extroverts are best seen to perform in group environments. Those who have a strong desire to work from home are the people who will most likely be most successful. When starting your remote support team, focus on hiring those who will thrive in a remote work environment to keep your churn rates low and your customer satisfaction score high.

Tip #3 - Onboarding and technology are key WFH employees need a rock-solid remote onboarding procedure if they are to be expected to perform successfully. They should also be provided with adequate technical gear, so they can utilize the tools needed to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities efficiently.

Tip #4 - Readjust to remote work in order to thrive Don’t forget about the need to readjust from an office environment to working from home. John spent seven years working with 6,000 people in an office. He personally experienced the difficult transition from being in an active and bustling work space to being alone all day with his screen. The amount of reconditioning and deprogramming necessary to become comfortable in such a drastically different work scenario is vast. There are certainly some struggles when transitioning towards remote work, but if you're able to develop emotional stability in your new surroundings, you’ll be able to flourish.

Tip #5 - Focus on the mental health of your agents Mental health and a well-balanced approach to the work/life routine is pivotal. If you can establish a method to remotely allow your agents' work to flow in a convenient way, you're going to get better performance, polish and poise from your employees. At Shopify, they check in almost every week with their employees with the intention of asking “How are you doing?” and actually meaning it. They also have a great initiative, where every few months they set up a “pop-up office” in a shared working space or hotel conference room, so everyone can periodically have that in-person work experience together.

“If you lead with the mental and physical health of your employees, you're really going to get rewarded.” - John Riordan

Your support department will see long terms benefits from strengthening its remote support team

John and Shopify's success throughout the years is closely related to their progressive approach towards remote work and how their employees stepped up to that challenge. When you build out a remote support team properly, it helps improve your employees' work-life harmony, eliminates unnecessary commuting and allows your team to be composed of the most talented people around the world.

In fact, having remote support agents in different time zones around the globe improves their ability to offer each and every customer the best support experience possible. As Shopify wrote on grow remote’s blog:

“We scale our teams by ensuring employees work hours within their own time zone, what we call, 'following the sun.' With 600,000 merchants in 175 countries around the world, building remote support teams ensure we are giving our merchants the best experience.”

It is apparent that developing a remote work team as Shopify has so successfully done can improve your employees experience and in turn your company's success.

As time goes on, work trends will always change and people will reinvent the conventional practices of what work can and should look like. What’s exciting to consider is that in 2020, an employee can find a way to grow with a company without ever having to step foot into a physical office. You can earn your position and advancement by displaying a consistent work ethic and positive metrics to prove your value. The future of remote work is here- if your company takes the plunge and begins to adopt some of these approaches, we’re certain you’ll see good things down the road.

Watch The Future of CX Work event on-demand!


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