As the country moves in to lockdown in more states, there are more people than ever working remotely. There are enough posts online with helpful advice for those transitioning into remote workspaces for the first time. What about those of us who are managing a remote workforce for the first time?

Challenges that a remote workforce presents

This can be an especially challenging transition for managers who now don’t have the option of “walking the floor” and catching issues quickly. It adds a large administrative burden and requires a commitment to regular auditing, (you’re going to have to work more hours after hours to support the same number of agents). Let’s not start on the challenges of sending people home with corporate computers, who aren’t that tech savvy.  You also face the challenge of trying to keep them organized and motivated while they work in environments that aren’t necessarily optimized for working from home.

Sick days still happen. Technology issues still happen (If you’re an MSP,  you’ll be able to solve that issue better than most businesses, so you’re ahead of the game!). People having terrible days with a lack of motivation will still happen. And now, kids are home from school.

All of this combined can make for a particularly challenging workforce to manage – whether you have one agent or fifty. Our Las Vegas call center team didn’t have the best work-from-home environments, but we also couldn’t afford to close our business down — our clients pay for calling hours. If no one is calling, we can’t bill — so back home we all went.

If you want to hear some of the unique issues we face as a company who hires out of workforce readiness programs, give me a call. This week we dealt with “building being evacuated because of a car bomb going off in the parking lot” so if you’re dealing with even weirder things, call me. To follow along with our work-from-home adventures, come on by Twitter. My Twitter handle is @coldcallcarrie and I post about our biggest challenges several times each day.

Keeping the business at its best during a transition to remote working

Our managed services outbound call center was distributed for the first in three years. At our “remote workforce peak” we had almost 50 FT and PT outbound remote agents, all working on similar, but not identical, projects. We were still in startup mode back then, and for a time we believed we would remain distributed permanently.

When we adopted the Traction/EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) approach to managing our business, we decided that to create a cohesive, core-value-focused team, we would need to change how we did business completely. We slowly phased out our remote call team by replacing agents that churned with in-house agents only.

Now we are back where we started: operating a fully distributed call center. We are fortunate that the same leadership team that was running our call team remotely is still here now. While we don’t like that we’ve had to move everyone home again, it beats the alternative and at least we know we have the skills to support the team.

The drawback is that all of our leadership members who have  previously managed our remote callers have moved on to different roles. Ashley Battel, who managed the Managed Sales Pros outbound managed services remote team for five years, has moved on to build and manage our mergers and acquisitions practice. He can’t take his eyes off of that to come back to manage a call team. Tracie Orisko is now the President of Managed Sales Pros, and the Chief Revenue Officer of our US call center, Everywhere Managed LLC. Even I had effectively retired from our day to day operations and was building a new business when this hit. So that leaves me with the most amount of free (or I suppose available) time on my hands.

Many of us are experiencing the same remote working pains

This article series is as much a reminder for me as much as it is a how-to guide for you. There are things that I’ve forgotten in seven years, but I’ve been working remote for most of the last 15 years. Let’s go through what I’m brushing up on right now. Right now, I’m preparing to onboard brand-new remote agents who have not worked for me previously, who don’t work on my computers or in the CRM system we’ve spent 7 years optimizing for data mining and outbound workflow, and who aren’t experienced telemarketers.

Sounds daunting? It’s really not. If you want to hire new sales support agents right now, please don’t let the current workforce climate stop you — there are more and more agents becoming available to you every day. The one thing I think we’ll see through this challenging time is that people who previously might not have considered an entry level calling role will be more open to taking a job that may not be their dream job. You may not keep them forever, but you won’t keep any telemarketing agent forever.

If you can get 120 days of calling out of talented agent through this — do it. This series of posts will focus on one aspect of remote workforce team management per week for the next four weeks. Let’s hope we’re out of lockdown by then.

Want an accelerated overview? Email hello@managedsalespros.com to schedule a time to chat about how we can help you support your outbound sales development process. If I can help you with a quick chat, I will! If you need help changing process or managing your team, we offer consulting engagements — from one hour to unlimited support — to assist.

Here are the topics I’ll focus on for the next four weeks:

    1. Recruiting remote sales agents.
    2. Interviewing remote sales agents.
    3. On-boarding and training remote sales agents.
    4. Supporting and managing remote sales agents.

My first piece of advice? Brush up on employment laws in your state, and if you don’t currently have a lawyer and an accountant that you can ask questions to through this turbulent time, find them fast. You’ll want counsel prior to hiring anyone in this climate, and I only understand the HR laws that existed up until this started, and only in one state. I own a call center, I’m not a lawyer.

Photo: Milles Studio / Shutterstock

Carrie Simpson

Posted by Carrie Simpson

Carrie Simpson is the founder of Managed Sales Pros, a lead generation firm dedicated to providing new business opportunities for MSPs. Carrie teaches IT firms how to build, manage, and grow their sales pipelines. You can follow Carrie on Twitter @sales_pros and connect with her on LinkedIn. 

14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Sharon Vanhoose April 7, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    More and more great people are going to be without jobs so the time is great to hire great people if you can afford it. Love these tips

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    You learn something new every day.

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Another great article.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for the positive feedback – best of luck to everyone through this!

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    This holds some good info and advice!

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Great information and very timely article

    Reply

  7. Avatar
    Eric Goldstein April 9, 2020 at 10:53 am

    Extremely Helpful and relevant material!

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    This is a difficult time for sales, but as far as IT service goes working from home is a great situation.

    Reply

  9. Carrie Simpson

    Derek – that assumes that you have a home office and internet – not everyone does – do we just stop hiring people who don’t have the ability to work from home? It’s complicated.

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    Haven’t personally experienced any issues, but good article regardless!

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    The best thing you can do is communicate to feel a greater sense of inclusion.

    Reply

  12. Avatar

    As an MSP I think we had it easy since we’re setup to work remotely from anywhere. Our clients on the other hand… stay tuned

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    Interesting. How will distributed call centers that send their employees home with or without a computing device fare? Add in the fact that many sport softphone clients and there are restrictions in center call centre environments that the public facing IP must be on a sanitized list; else the call center agent will not be able to perform their tasks on the customer’s portal. AWS is tinkering with this now.

    Reply

    1. Carrie Simpson

      We had our MSP move us using their recommendations.

      Reply

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