As customer service and support leaders continue to react to and manage through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming increasingly apparent that disruptions to the status quo (e.g., budget impact, contact volume variance, work from home) will continue in the medium- to long-term.

As we analyze the results of our third pulse survey (conducted May 25 – June 5), however, it is also clear that leaders are planning for long-term change as well, specifically regarding their work from home strategies. As mentioned in my last blog post, a majority of survey respondents tell us that they are planning for permanent, more robust WFH programs moving forward. Interestingly, however, when we asked leaders what would be their primary motivation for bringing staff back to the brick and mortar office, the resounding consensus (71%) is “employee engagement”. Let that sink in for a moment: most leaders are expanding their WFH programs permanently while also believing that employee engagement is best enhanced while staff are physically in the office.

Let’s not be too hasty in the assumption that employee engagement is primarily driven in the office. Yes, there are some people who are simply not cut out for WFH and are counting the minutes until you let them return to the office. However, organizations have an opportunity to create employee engagement programs moving forward that are designed with WFH in mind, rather than as an afterthought.

To better understand the current landscape, we’ve been talking with service and support leaders from around the world to better understand some of the tactics they are taking to keep their staff engaged remotely. Here are a few ideas that we’ve heard:

  • Use internal communication channels (Yammer, Teams, Skype, etc): Participation from everyone is key to success here, so find ways to include all levels of staff. One way to do this would be to ask a few reps to be “champions” of the communication channel who are committed to participating regularly and encouraging their peers to do so as well.
  • Go beyond virtual happy hour by hosting social events with themes: bring your pet, play trivia or Pictionary, do a virtual wine tasting, host live music (one client hired a local ukulele player to perform!), organize scavenger hunts for kids so parents can get work done, etc.
  • Increase frequency of team meetings: One client moved their all-hands meetings from quarterly to monthly and their team meetings from monthly to bi-weekly. In those meetings, use the features available in the technology—things like breakout rooms and chat features can encourage conversation that may not have occurred if people were in a big group meeting. Ask folks to turn on their cameras to maximize face-to-face interactions as well.

In addition, we know that many companies are currently experiencing a drop in call volumes, and are using that time for professional development (job opportunity) and extra coaching, both of which are more effective retention drivers than pay relative to the market rate.

Staff Retention Drivers

When reps feel like they are growing and developing and that the company is investing in them, they are more likely to stay (and of course more likely to provide better service to your customers!). And you don’t have to be in an office to experience high-quality professional development or effective coaching anymore. On that note, if you haven’t visited our Effortless Experience resource hub lately, I’d invite you to jump on over and share the tutorials with your teams—learning can start now.

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff is the Vice President of Challenger's Service practice, Effortless Experience. In her role, Lauren manages several tailored product offerings designed to help companies in their journey to become low-effort service organizations.