by Benjamin Schmidt | April 4, 2020
A lot of people are currently being thrust into the murky waters of communicating purely via different apps. It’s dangerous. I’m Australian, and to me, the perfect analogy would be diving head-first into a muddy river on a scorcher of a day. You don’t know how deep the water is, if there are gigantic rocks to thump your noggin on, submerged branches to snag yourself on, or if there might even be a slumbering saltie waiting for a snack. You’ve got to know the risks, and when you do, you can still take a dip and cool off, but you can do so in a controlled manner and keep everything, yourself included, out of the danger zone.
We take so much for granted when it comes to communication. We don’t even realize how much we take in and process during a conversation. Sure, we know we’re listening to words. But we hear tone, we watch facial expression and body language, and we even read into the context of where we are, the situation, who’s nearby, and what time it is.
Consider: It’s 9.00 PM, there’s only you and two others in the office, and your manager walks up, exasperated look in her eye, and says ‘What are you doing?’ She’s telling you to go home. Or, it’s 8.20 AM on a busy Monday morning, you’re standing by the coffee machine with five others, and she says the same thing. She’s probably telling you to get to your desk and quit the chatting.
But now, consider this: You’re a remote worker. Your manager works in a different time zone to you. For you, it’s 10.00 PM, and you receive a message on your internal communications platform: ‘what are u doing?’ How do you interpret this?? What time is it on her end? What is she referring to? Is she angry? Is she just checking in and being kind? Has she seen something you’ve done earlier and thinks you’re still on that task? It’s a minefield. A real digital minefield.
In my role as Engagement Lead, I offer anyone and everyone in our organization the opportunity to reach out for a ten-minute confidential chat. And I mean anyone. Why? Because when you’re working online, there are no water-cooler moments to blow off steam after an intense interaction with a colleague. There are no co-workers sitting nearby for you to conference with about the latest bizarre email you received with unclear instructions. There are no serendipitous bump-ins when on a break where you can discuss the last meeting and the parts you didn’t quite follow.
You have to create them, or at the very least create a space for these interactions to take place. We need to create what’s missing for the benefit of everyone. But when you flip this and apply it to communication, this artificial creation is the opposite of what you need. When you communicate via text, you can read that text in any tone of voice your mind puts the words in. This is dangerous. When you communicate purely digitally, how do you read someone’s facial expressions? You don’t, you invent them in your mind. This is dangerous.
Half of the ten-minute chats I have with people normally revolve around this very topic. Someone has been in a (text) conversation and have walked away feeling as though their manager hates them, that their job now hangs in the balance. They call me up (video call, always) to vent and blow off some steam. Normally they end up showing me the messages, and I read them aloud in a different tone. At this point, I can read the surprise on that person’s face. They’ve been so caught up in interpreting those messages through their own lens that they are blown away when they realize it can be seen differently.
Sometimes in an organization, there are policies that confuse you or you find hard to understand. But here at 5CA, there is one policy that I love. Literally love, no exaggeration. I throw myself 110% behind it, stand by it, insist on it. It’s our video call policy – that if ever you call someone, it has to be a video call. If I had one criticism of this policy, it’s that I wish it were stronger, that all communication had to be done on video call (though I do concede that this would be entirely impractical).
A video call is not the same as face-to-face interaction, but it’s a pretty excellent substitute. You see a real human being with all of their facial expressions, all of the tonality in their voice, all of their personality. It humanizes the interaction, removes a whole lot of room for misinterpretation, and creates a real relationship.
But a video call is not always practical, so here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:
Habits form quickly. The key to becoming a master at communicating in a digital age is locking yourself into good habits as soon as you can. If you can take those tips and make them your commandments, then “mate – you’ll be right as rain”.
Ben works as Engagement and Communications Lead from our Utrecht office, a far cry from the sunny beaches of his native Western Australia, but he makes up for it with a frustratingly sunny disposition. When not busy engaging, he disengages by exploring Europe and binge-watching scifi.
Following on from National Customer Service Week, our Chief Customer Officer Rob van Herpen reflects on the journey that customer service has undergone in the last decade, and the role it plays within the wider scope of the whole customer experience.
I started working for 5CA back in October 2019. Currently, I’m working as a Gaming Technology Support Agent in Spain. My job as an expert on the products of the company I'm supporting is to offer support to customers and get them up, running and happy in no time.
2020 is set to be a blockbuster year for gaming. In particular, mobile games that don’t need the player to invest in a console or any other equipment. One of the effects of the stay-at-home and quarantine orders during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been that people have needed to find things to keep them occupied.
The white paint lines on the road crept passed ever so slowly, like my life tricking away.
I tapped the steering wheel with my nails, trying to release the pent up stress and irritation while the radio mindlessly droned on. Then the tears came, right on time, same as usual.
When you look at how many people searched for ‘work from home’ in the past year, you see the chart soars in March 2020 just as many national governments were applying stay-at-home orders and quarantines to help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. This is no surprise. Every company that could possibly keep functioning with remote workers asked their people to go home.
It’s often said, ‘people are the weakest link in cybersecurity’. I get that and I agree that we must seek to minimize human-related threat vectors. But I believe that if we view our people, our teammates, as our greatest security asset, then we start from a position of strength.
Have you noticed how many companies and senior executives are now experts in building a work from home strategy? According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10.000 hours of individual practice to become an expert at anything. Have those 320 business hours since the 1st of March really made everybody an expert?
Across the world, business journals have been endlessly reporting of the heroic efforts of companies with large numbers of office-based employees managing to switch to a work-from-home strategy. This has particularly impacted the contact centers because they have a large number of people in a small area and this is no longer acceptable because of the social distancing required to keep us all safe.
For almost two decades, 5CA has been perfecting our work from home customer service model. The latest version, where we only ever hire agents to work from home, has been around since 2015, so it is clear that for us this is very much business as usual.
A few days ago I participated in a webinar titled ‘pioneering contact center quality working remotely.’ The title makes it clear what the focus was, but I was pleased to be joined by our Lead QA Analyst, Sylvia Mattl, and Derek Corcoran, CEO of Scorebuddy.
A few days ago I participated in a webinar titled ‘pioneering contact center quality working remotely.’ The title makes it clear what the focus was, but I was pleased to be joined by our Chief Customer Officer Rob van Herpen, and Derek Corcoran, CEO of Scorebuddy.
My experience with starting to work remotely has certainly been one of the very best opportunities I’ve had so far. It changed my life, for the better. I’ll gladly tell you the short story of how I went from an in-office agent biking to the station every day, to exchanging my bike for snow boots when I reached my new home.
Companies across the world are racing to get their team all working from home to protect them. During multiple global lockdowns citizens are expected to practice social distancing, therefore it is essential for companies to operate with as many people as possible working from home.
95% of our team works from home and we have been working this way for over 15 years, where we truly understand what it is really like to build a work from home strategy with a huge focus on quality.
I've been working from home for a full year now, and no working experience can compare...
At 5CA working from home is just business as usual. 95% of our team is based at home so we have been watching the sudden focus on work from home business models, especially for customer service, with some interest.
It sounds kind of obvious, but training and developing your remote workforce is essential to improving their skills and performance. It encourages them to be more engaging within the workforce of your company while working from their home office, which leads to happy, effective and great employees that are here to stay...
I saw the situation, and I went for it. 2014 was going to be a decisive year. It was to be the year I got laid off from my well paid corporate job and the year I decided to study Permaculture and reunite with nature again!
Because 95% of our team works from home and we have been working this way for over 15 years I feel confident that I can help people to understand what it is really like to build a work from home strategy.
A lot of people are currently being thrust into the murky waters of communicating purely via different apps. It’s dangerous. I’m Australian, and to me the perfect analogy would be diving head-first into a muddy river on a scorcher of a day.
Many management consultants and business experts are advising executives to move their workforce home with laptops until the crisis is over. What they are not saying is that this is now business as usual - the new normal.
Companies across the world are facing an unprecedented wave of disruption at present. One of the specific outcomes from this is that many people are suddenly working from home. Many have no experience working away from the office and so the business journals are full of tips on how to make it work.
Companies across the world are finding their business extremely disrupted at present and it looks like things may get worse before they get better. During this time there has been a strong focus on the need for people to work from home...
“I’m on break, it’s my turn to hold him!” This is just one statement many fathers don’t get to say to their significant other as they usually do not have home based job...
I have to say, the first time leading a team without ever being in the same room is quite a unique and unsettling experience in the first few weeks...
I have to say, the first time leading a team without ever being in the same room is quite a unique and unsettling experience in the first few weeks, but I have found that it makes you work a lot on your communication skills...
Workforce engagement is a buzzword. And like all good buzzwords, there’s a lot of hype around it, but something really valuable at the heart of it too.
Consumer support over any channel, in any language, at any time: 5CA’s successful contact center as a service is possible because we use technology to make planet Earth our talent pool...
Consumer support over any channel, in any language, at any time: 5CA’s successful contact center as a service is possible because we use technology to make planet Earth our talent pool. It also presents an intriguing challenge: How do we balance flexibility, productivity, and security?
Consumer support over any channel, in any language, at any time: 5CA’s successful contact center as a service is possible because we use technology to make planet Earth our talent pool.