The Pros and Cons of Remote Customer Support

Support teams are arguably the most important part of the customer experience. Agents become the voice of the company when they interact with customers. These experiences can lead to repeat sales or a loss of a customer depending on that single interaction.

As a company grows, introducing new features, products, and services, they can find themselves facing an increasing number of support requests. The company might not be able to fill those roles fast enough. To help with this, companies can hire remote customer support agents. These agents can fill in spots and help the company continue to offer excellent customer support. But what are the pros and cons of using remote customer support agents?

Pros

Cost

A large benefit when hiring remote agents is cost. Your company doesn’t have to provide a physical location for remote agents. If the company is using call center contractor, then the outsourced call center will supply the tools needed for agents to complete their tasks.

If you don’t want to use an outsourced call center, you can hire contract remote employees who can serve customers in different time zones. Since these agents are contracted, they can potentially cost less than full-time employees.

Employees are traditionally the largest expense in order to deliver high-quality support. It’s great to have knowledgeable employees about the product, but support agents might not need to know every little detail. As they resolve support issues, they will discover repetitive problems that can be passed to the product and engineering team.

Agent candidate choice

When you’re trying to fill spots in your customer support team, you start by looking locally. But the customer support agent candidate pool might be small. Your business location could require you to pay more for agents locally than in another city.

This is why remote agents can be beneficial. Remote agents might have more experience, the total cost can be lower, and they only need an internet connection to access the customer support platform. Widen your search or work with a recruiter to find agents that wouldn’t be available locally.

Scalability

Scheduling support agents can be challenging. There will be times that customer support is overwhelmed with support issues. These circumstances require a temporary boost in the number of agents.

But what happens after? If you hire full-time employees, once the scramble is over you will have more agents than support needs. The last thing you want is to dismiss employees. Hiring temporary remote agents can alleviate the rush and then you can adjust back to a normal headcount.

Remote agents will know their contract length and understand that once the job is finished, the company will scale back down. Keeping a core support agent team is important and being able to quickly scale is important.

Companies might be worrisome of contract agents, as they might not have the product knowledge properly serve customers. However, placing these agents in low priority queues like returns, simple FAQ answers, or assigning them to traditionally slower hours, companies can staff accordingly without compromising the experience.

Help customers across multiple time zones

Offering 24-hour customer support is a lofty goal. Your business is usually located in a single location and time zone, but you might have customers around the world. Addressing issues hours later isn’t the best customer experience, especially when it might impact your customer’s ability to complete their own business.

Hiring agents across different locations can add to your business’ service hours and improve customer relations because issues are resolved faster. It’s important to note though, reaching 24-hour support isn’t always necessary and depends on the product you offer.

Cons

Product knowledge

It’s important that support agents are knowledgeable about the product. Remote agents may not be familiar with the product and rely on existing support information to help customers. Remote agents can be used to solve lower priority issues, but it could be difficult to solve high touch issues and customers would need to be transferred to an in-house agent.

Unless you offer a detailed onboarding process or the remote agent already has some industry knowledge, it will take time for remote agents to ramp up to offer the best level of customer support for all types of issues.

Agent tracking

Agents must provide a positive experience for every customer. But it’s difficult to know the ability of remote agents on a consistent basis. Unless you’re able to listen to every single call to confirm issues were properly resolved, you have to use other methods like CSAT or CES surveys.

Asking customers to complete these surveys isn’t difficult, but not every customer will complete one. Many might forget to fill it out and customers that do may be offering biased responses. Remote agents are good for a number of reasons, but if they’re not supplying great customer support it may do more harm than good.

Training

Every support agent needs to be onboarded and learn about the company, product, and customer support practices. This is easier when the agent is onsite and can ask questions directly. Remote agents rely on supplied information that may not offer all relevant information for every type of support issue.

This can lead to a negative support experience when a customer is transferred to an in-house agent because the customer assumes the agent they are talking to is part of the primary support team.

Security

Agents access a lot of sensitive customer information like addresses, financial records, and more. This information may be required to resolve an issue and it’s important that every agent understands keeping this information confidential is important.

In-house agents will have gone through rigorous compliance requirements and follow rules to keep this information secure. Remote agents may also complete these requirements, but since they access this information from an outside location you’ll likely want to take extra steps to ensure the privacy of your customers data.

Since many companies access information through the cloud, you must ensure that all access is logged and protected by the latest online security standards. A remote call center might not have the same security levels as your in-house agents and that could be a big red flag.

The customer doesn’t know if the agent is remote

Customer support experiences always need to be positive and find a solution as quickly as possible. Positive support experiences lead to a repeat customer just like a negative experience will drive a customer away.

When a customer interacts with a support agent, they assume they are talking to an internal company employee and won’t distinguish if that agent is in-house or remote. It’s important that the experience is the same from either type of agent.