Implementing a hybrid customer service strategy: five tips for success

The concept of spending five days per week in the office is dead. Employers who’ve mandated a full return to office (RTO) risk competitors stealing their employees

While senior leadership might threaten serious consequences for not complying, employees aren’t afraid to call their bluff. 64% of employees said they would quit their jobs if they received a return to office mandate. And with high turnover plaguing customer service centers, holding on to talent is vital. 

Yet, nearly one in five employees say they struggle with loneliness while working 100% remotely. So what’s the right balance?

Hybrid work has been declared the winner of work arrangements. Several studies show that it benefits both employers and employees. However, 72% of companies struggle with creating a hybrid work strategy. Below, we go over what hybrid work is, how it benefits your company and how to create a hybrid customer service strategy for your business. 

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What is hybrid work?

A hybrid work model requires employees to be on site at least one day per week. And this specific work plan seems to be a perfect compromise in the tug-of-war between 100% in-office work and working remotely.

Many well-known businesses, such as Apple, Google, 3M, Lyft and Intel, are already implementing hybrid policies. And the number of companies offering hybrid work will only continue to grow. 74% of companies say they either are currently using or plan to implement a hybrid work model in the future.  

Why hybrid work matters

Hybrid work is no longer a “nice-to-have” for your business. Over 83% of employees want a hybrid work arrangement. And 53% of those employees want to work from home three days per week. That means that hybrid work is an absolute must to attract and retain top talent. 

And amidst the Great Resignation, prospective contact center agents have plenty of options. If you don’t offer a flexible work arrangement, they’ll choose to work for someone else who does. 

The benefits of adopting a hybrid customer service model

Hybrid work isn’t just good for employees. It also offers numerous benefits for businesses. Below, we go over a few examples of how adopting a hybrid customer service model can help your contact center. 

Enhanced employee performance

The flexibility of hybrid work allows employees to have greater control over their schedules. This, in turn, has huge benefits for your business. Employees who work a hybrid schedule feel more motivated than their fully in-office counterparts.

However, it’s also important to note that allowing employees to work from home a few days a week doesn’t hurt employee (and, therefore, company) performance. Research has shown that employees who work from home 75% of the time are the most productive. 

Reduced employee turnover

Employee turnover is a huge problem for customer service and tech support departments. The average contact center attrition rate is 45%, nearly double that of other employee departments. 

This is where a hybrid work model can help. The National Bureau of Economic Research found hybrid work reduces employee turnover by a third. Reducing contact center agent attrition saves businesses a lot of money in the long run, considering it can cost up to twice the employee’s salary to replace them. 

Additionally, a study by Cisco shows that employees who have hybrid work arrangements are happier and more satisfied with their work. This is because hybrid work allows employees to reclaim an average of four hours per week. And over half choose to spend this time with family and pets, with 73% saying hybrid work has helped them improve family relationships. 

The bottom line? If your employees are happy, they’re less likely to leave. And that makes hybrid work a good business decision. 

Significant cost savings 

Hybrid work isn’t just good for your employees; it’s also good for your bottom line. According to Global Workplace Analytics, implementing a hybrid work model can save businesses an average of $11,000 per employee. 

The same study found employers could collectively save $500 billion annually if they switched to a remote work model. This is because a hybrid work arrangement allows companies to reduce the amount of office space rented and reduce costs in areas such as cleaning services and utilities. 

In fact, one company cut office space expenses by 30% and saved $1.2 million annually by switching to a hybrid model. Additionally, Cisco reported that switching to a hybrid work model saved the company more than $500 million. This means hybrid work could be a potential solution if your company wants to reduce unnecessary business costs. 

How to create a hybrid customer service strategy

So you know your company can reap a lot of benefits from hybrid work, but how do you implement a hybrid customer service strategy for your business? Below are a few general tips for implementing a successful hybrid work plan.

Create a framework

Start by working with your human resources team to create a basic hybrid framework for your company. First, determine the balance between remote and in-office work days. For example, do you want employees to work from home three days per week? Or is working from home two days each week more effective?

Additionally, you’ll also want to establish proper guidelines for employees. Be clear when setting remote work expectations and etiquette. Clarify if employees can work a flexible schedule on days they’re working offsite or if they need to be available during certain hours. 

Also, lay out the best ways for them to communicate with their team and policies regarding basic communication etiquette. Should they avoid emailing team members after six o’clock? Or are there different Slack channels they should use regarding specific issues (i.e: escalating a serious tech support problem)?

Overcommunication is key

Effective communication is vital since contact center teams will be working remotely for part of the week. With a hybrid work structure, overcommunication is critical to success. 

Implement tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams that empower your agents to communicate and collaborate from the office or home. Provide general guidelines on professional communication and how to use each communication tool effectively (i.e: Don’t use email for an issue that requires a more immediate response).

Additionally, give teams regular updates on company news, shifts in business goals or objectives and any policy changes. Establish regular team meetings to ensure teams are collaborating effectively, connecting with one another and meeting expected key performance indicators (KPIs). Be sure to also schedule regular one-to-one meetings so team members can ask questions, receive guidance and address any performance issues.

Provide agents access to a digital knowledge base

Many contact center agents rely on libraries of physical devices for training and assisting customers with tech support issues. However, physical devices break and can quickly become outdated. Additionally, a library of physical products isn’t well-suited to a hybrid work model. 

A better alternative is providing agents with access to a digital knowledge base. Virtualization, otherwise known as virtualized tech support, can provide more effective training for agents without the expense of fixing hundreds of iPhones, tablets or other technology. 

These virtual devices simulate the same functionality as physical ones. However, unlike a physical device, agents can switch between multiple versions of that same technology. This ensures your agents’ knowledge is always up to date and allows the agent to provide more personalized customer service. 

Virtualization provides numerous benefits for your company. It increases agent confidence and provides more accurate training. Additionally, companies who use virtualized tech support enjoy higher first call resolution rates and improved net promoter score (NPS).

Create an effective onboarding program

Your contact center agent onboarding program is vital to your employee retention strategy. Research shows that if your agents don’t have a positive onboarding experience, they’re twice as likely to start looking for a new job.

When done right, an onboarding program can reduce agent turnover by 82%. Here are a few best practices for onboarding agents in a hybrid workplace:

  • Schedule regular check-ins with managers and teams.
  • Create a 30-60-90-day plan.
  • Ensure they have the appropriate tools to collaborate remotely.
  • Keep training materials up-to-date.
  • Consider assigning a more experienced employee as an onboarding buddy.

Evaluate the success of your hybrid customer service strategy

It’s vital to set and evaluate goals to help you understand the success of your hybrid work strategy. Be sure to define appropriate KPIs for productivity, employee satisfaction, team performance and more. The specifics of your KPIs will depend on your company’s size, industry and individual needs of your business.

There are many tools available to help you collect relevant data to understand the efficacy of your hybrid work plan. Based on that data, iterate on your strategy as needed until it's optimized to empower both agents and your company.   

Hybrid work is the future of customer service

The future of work is already here, and it’s happening now. Many experts and industry leaders know hybrid work is essential to retaining top talent, and are modifying workplace policies accordingly. By following these best practices, you can craft a hybrid work strategy that’s a win-win for your employees and your business. 

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Are you looking for the right digital tools to help your hybrid or remote team effectively scale their tech support? As a leader in omnichannel customer support software, Ozmo is trusted by Google Fi, TELUS, Appalachian Wireless and more. Learn more about the future of customer service today!