Support Talks: Remote Working and Future Trends

Welcome to the next episode of Support Talks! Let’s discuss a new phenomenon of remote work & future trends.

Scott Markovits, Head of Support & Customer Success at CloudApp, has been working remotely for 10 years and lauds the way it has changed and improved his life.

We sat down together to chat about this and the future of work and support to help bring ideas for your teams to remain competitive and address the concerns of our new working models.

Craig: Let’s start with your current view of the landscape. All companies have been disrupted over the past couple of years with the COVID pandemic.

Where are we now?

Scott: The biggest thing we have learned is that it is possible to live the life you want to live…and work is just a part of that. The biggest piece is a change in the quality of life. We used to live to work, now we work to live. The script has been flipped. We are heading towards a more harmonious life.

I stopped my 80-minute commute each way and realized the value of saving or better yet, repurposing that time. I also realized that we can focus on hiring the best person regardless of where they live. There were some companies that pre-pandemic caught that trend, companies as Basecamp, InVision, Wildbit, and Automattic.

We couldn’t hire the talent that Facebook and Google could because we were not based in those cities, so remote offered us the ability to hire that caliber of talent.

What did people get wrong in the haste to move to remote work?

Scott: In 2020 the world changed overnight. Israel, where I am based, shut down instantly. Most of these companies then took their office models and kept it as they moved remote. This is the exact opposite of what you should do. Everything you do in a remote environment has to be intentional.

Most companies did not know this and didn’t adapt. How you engage with people, how you collaborate, and how you do 1-on-1 feedback all need to be thought of differently. Many still haven’t embraced these months or now years later. We still see companies pressuring employees to get back to the office or making hybrid models, like three days in-office and two work-from-home.

These models have been shown to not work well and definitely, won’t work without an intentional design. Remote work used to be a benefit to attract the best talent and now it is essentially a requirement.Customer experience concepts

What are the next trends you see?

Scott: The next big trend, what I call Remote v3, is the true hybrid model. Where companies replace a central HQ with hyper local micro-spaces that are a perk. I can work there, it is there for me if I want to use it, but I don’t need it if I don’t want to. Another one of the big trends is companies moving towards the four-day work week.

The number of companies piloting this is growing, CloudApp is moving to this model shortly. Studies have shown that, in an eight-hour day, typically 3-4 hours are productive and the idea is to pack that productivity into four days. So you can have a better work-life balance and do what you want to do.

We are seeing the slow growth of this wave. This too will also become a requirement.I don’t believe this is the end-game. I see the end-game is actually how remote work started, which is based on the freelance model.

At my previous company, the most successful hires were freelancers. There was no ‘added bonus’ on the job description for the previous remote experience.

“People who are used to getting stuff didn’t like having someone looking over their shoulder.”

They were able to prioritize their time and were able to do their work when they needed to do it without supervision.

These were our superstars. I see a future where most work is done in this model. Goals are based on outputs or deliverables. “I need this thing by this time.” And how you get there and how long it takes is up to you. It will be difficult in a support team.

Finally, another big trend is that asynchronous communication has to be a default. This is important to aid the four-day work week. I am working on this with my Support and Success teams. We’ve shifted all 1:1s and team meetings to asynchronous and any synchronous time is used to have fun and build relationships.

As we move to deliverable work as the goal it removes the need for daily stand-ups and synchronous weekly meetings, as that time can be used to get actual work done. This will help leaders have more time to be helpful to our teams.

Craig: You mentioned that this will be difficult for Support teams and I absolutely agree.

How do you plan to accomplish this with a customer-facing team?

Scott: Starting to think about the four-day work week in Support. It’s clear that just because the company is closed, doesn’t mean our customers are closed. We are looking at a rotation. For example, a person will work on Friday, and then get Monday off meaning they get a 3-day week and someone rotates into the Friday.

Support cannot get around this. Success will have the same impact. You need to be available for your customers. It’s absolutely not reasonable to say that Support doesn’t get the same perk as the rest of the company.remote

Craig: further to that, you commented on freelancers. There are companies that treat support like a bounty. Anyone can solve a support ticket, and the company pays per ticket. Gig economy for support.

Is that part of the future you envision?

Scott: That’s a fantastic question. I look at it on both sides. I recently had a conversation on one of my podcasts about where companies in the future will look like Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs).

Where you have a central core founding people and then you will have small project teams that will come in and tackle a specific issue and are there for that period of time and then leave to their next project.

On the other hand, I have never been a fan of the outsourced support model.

“One, I think they will never understand the product as well. But most importantly they often don’t care as much about the company or space.”

If you view every support interaction as a sales and marketing opportunity, you want people to have the best experience so they will promote you on social media or compliment support. With outsourced teams, they may not have their finger on the pulse to do that.

I see this working though: If you hire a team around the world, there could be fewer shifts or working odd hours. Run a bug bounty type model where the goal is to empty the queue or clear expectations of a certain number of tickets. This could maybe be done in fewer hours, and support the work-life balance. I don’t think we are there yet. For example, how do you make sure SLAs are concerned?

What happens when you miss these trends?

Scott: We already saw some of this: It’s employee engagement, retention, the great resignation, etc. We will see this with the four-day work week, people will realize they can work less and make the same. Also, asynchronous communication. If you don’t have the opportunity to get your work done because of meetings, that will be a problem. This will cause burnout and people will go to companies that support you, your family or friends by improving work-life balance.

Craig: Similarly to concepts like “unlimited vacation,” the cynics will say it just won’t work. Even though often those policies fail because of implementation problems or poor leadership and execution, not because the idea is bad.

How do we combat the cynics when trying to catch these trends?

Scott: You are completely correct. Cynics will just say it won’t work, just as they have with unlimited vacation policies. Being able to take time off is great! This issue is that we don’t see people take the time off. As a leader, you need to support your team.

I make it a policy that my team has to take one continuous week off per quarter, and if they want more, they can, but that is the minimum. I want them to fully disconnect from work. Leadership has to support these things. Most times we see managers who are used to the older ways of working and don’t know, or are not trained on, how to enable these new ways. It’s the same with a four-day work week.

You have to be intentionally asynchronous and embrace it. The leaders who don’t do this will be the cynics. The leaders who do will disconnect themselves, share vacation pictures, not check their email. This will show their teams they can as well.

Someone on my team had moved recently and tried to get their kid into a new school. Every day they came on and said they needed to take a few hours off and wanted to work late to compensate. I told him to just take the time.

Take care of your family and you don’t need to ask permission or forgiveness. Just focus on the outputs. This will lead to happier customers, a better retention rate, and great CSAT.

 


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Craig Stoss Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport

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