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Culture and the Remote Agent

As someone who works remotely from our corporate office, I know all too well how removed I sometimes feel from our company culture. I must say though, that ICMI does a great job at ensuring we all feel "like part of the team", and that everyone is included in joint initiatives. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Weekly community calls
  • Onsite strategy sessions
  • Multiple communication channels
  • Shared Google docs and collaboration tools
  • Brainstorming activities
  • Team dinners whenever we are together

I also know how hard it can be to manage a team of at-home contact center agents, as they come with their own unique set of challenges. They need efficient escalation paths back into the company, channels for troubleshooting and instant advice, and remote access to all tools and applications. They ALSO need to feel like they are part of the corporate culture, so they can convey the right attitude, personality and tone to their customers. Chase Clemons from 37signals and Christa Collins from Squarespace recently talked about this, and a myriad of other great call center topics on a podcast for Support Ops.

Here’s just a little taste of what Christa said about the Squarespace remote customer support team.

"When they are working from home, it can be very difficult to feel like you’re a part of something greater than yourself. It’s so easy to sort of hide with your computer screen and forget that there is a bigger picture here, so I do like the team to come in at least once a week and just say, 'don’t forget, don’t forget that we are all here together, and for the same goal.'"

We followed up with Christa after this podcast and asked her a few more questions about how she keeps the Squarespace culture flourishing with her remote team, and here are some of the highlights!

ICMI: How would you define the corporate culture of Squarespace?

Christa Collins: Our culture is definitely social and collaborative. While we've grown well past 100 employees, we still have the environment of a close-knit company where people don't just work together, but have friendships that extend past the end of the work day.

ICMI: Apart from bringing agents in once a week, how else do you keep that culture resonating with your remote team?

CC: We definitely try to meet in person as frequently as possible, and email, chat, text, and call all the time if there are ever any questions or issues, or just to touch base. We also like to have staff get involved with other department meetings so they can see how other groups function as well as get valuable information about what other people are working on -- it helps to keep them in the loop but also reinforces that everyone is working on different parts of the same platform, as one team.

ICMI: How has technology helped with that? You specifically mentioned Hipchat in your podcast.

CC: Hipchat is definitely important and allows us to have group chats (which can range from issues that are popping up in tickets, to completely OT chatter, and lots of YouTube video links) but we do use Skype and Google hangouts so we can see each other’s lovely faces! :)

ICMI: What technology tools do you wish you had to assist with your remote team and the integration of the corporate culture?

CC: Honestly I wish we had something that could support multiple video chat in conjunction with screensharing so that our staff at home could feel more connected when we have meetings or conference calls. All the programs we've tried only support a limited number of video chats, or were too laggy to be effective.

ICMI: You yourself were once a remote employee, how did you overcome that feeling of "not being part of the team"?

CC: Lots of phone calls with bosses and my co-workers. Also, it was really important that I was looped in on many email threads so I always knew what everyone was working on.

You can listen to the entire engaging conversation between Christa and Chase right here:

We really appreciate Christa taking the time to share more insight on remote employees and corporate culture with the ICMI community!

Sarah L. Stealey
Editor-At-Large | ICMI, International Customer Management Institute

 Sarah is the Editor-at-Large for ICMI, where she is responsible for the editorial content and community strategy for icmi.com. She’s a writer, blogger, and social poster, and often speaks on Customer Support and Emerging Channels at national events and through webinars.

Sarah can be reached, followed, liked, or shared through:
Twitter: @sstealey
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/sarahstealey

Christa Collins is the Director of Customer Care for Squarespace. She was the third employee of Squarespace and has been with the company for over six years. Previously, Christa worked in retail management and legal administration in Southern California. She loves sewing, is addicted to coffee, and reads everything she can get her hands on. Christa resides in New Jersey with her husband, four daughters, two dogs, two turtles, a fish, and a guinea pig.