If you don’t have great processes to gather and store important information across your entire company, remote workers are really going to hurt your bottom line.  Here’s how.

One of your employees picks up a ringing phone (at home, of course; we’re still in the age of COVID-19). The person on the other end identifies herself as a customer, and she is not happy. She was told last week that you would get her the package she needs to move her company into its new office no later than yesterday.  She just learned it didn’t arrive.

The odds are pretty good that your employee will know if the company this “customer” claims to work for is really a customer of yours.  But is this call legit or is it a scam?  If the call is legitimate, who owns this problem, and is that employee available or are they stuck at home with kids today?  If they’re unavailable, who can get this call back on the right path? 

Your employee needs to find information – and if they want to salvage the relationship, they need to find it quickly.  But they are not in the office and their primary resource for this sort of question isn’t picking up the phone.  Where is it stored?  Most likely, it’s not in your CRM.

CRM Software – the Enabler, and Destroyer, of Great Service

The first customer relationship management (CRM) tool was built by Siebel Systems in 1993.  Since then, CRM software has become extraordinarily powerful.  Large companies spend millions on their CRM so they can spend less money than ever before on human beings to provide actual service.

Small and mid-size companies, on the other hand, like to provide actual service. That doesn’t mean they don’t use a CRM.  They might use a CRM like Salesforce or Zoho, or they might use a line-of-business application with customer relationship management built-in.  It just means the CRM isn’t hand-holding your employees through every action they’re taking while they’re on the phone with a customer.

The CRM also can’t make employees take notes on every important interaction with the customer.  It can’t make them take those notes in the place that everyone expects to see them.  Unfortunately, you can’t manage customer relationships unless you manage the knowledge you have about those relationships.

Knowledge Improves Action

Of course, knowledge management is useful beyond managing customer relationships.  Documenting, analyzing and acting on data leads to better decisions across all parts of a company.  That sounds easy – but it’s not.

Your employees are busy trying to do their job, and in most cases, documentation is pretty far down their job description.  As they’re trying to do their actual jobs, they’re getting all sorts of requests to gather some piece of data that seems useful to someone this week.  There’s no start or end date for the request, and they don’t have a firm grasp on how it’s being used.  It’s just another task that will fall off their task list if they wait long enough.

Working from home has compounded this problem.  With so little time dedicated to team meetings, and videoconferencing so much less effective than in-person meetings for training, requests like this are likely to land beside a bullet point in an email.  On top of making the request seem unimportant, that leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation.

Processes Improvement Leads to Better Data

Many businesses rely on across-the-hall requests for information far more than they realized before everyone started working from home.  For many businesses, process improvement will be required to gather and store data used for important decisions in a work-from-home environment. 

First, each employee needs to know what information is important for them to gather.  Data gathering requests should not come outside of the formal chain of command and managers should know exactly what their employees are responsible for collecting.  They should train their employees on exactly how to gather the data – but they should also protect their employees from “nice-to-have” requests that aren’t used to make important decisions.

Next, the data should be analyzed regularly, and actions should be taken on the data.  If data is being gathered, but it isn’t being analyzed or used, you’re probably doing a disservice to the employees responsible for gathering it.  They should quit gathering it and do something more important instead.

Finally, employees should receive feedback on their collection efforts.  Letting employees know about how the data they gathered impacted business decisions will make their efforts feel worthwhile.  Sometimes those decisions are sensitive information and can’t be shared.  In these cases, a senior manager should periodically reach out to employees gathering data they don’t use directly, thank them for their efforts, and let them know that the information is valuable when making important decisions.

Better Knowledge Management Leads to Better Remote Work

Going back to the story at the beginning of this article – will your employee find the shipping label in your CRM?  If it’s an important package, and it was shipped to a client recently, that information should be in the CRM, along with a tracking number.  If employees have been trained on how package information is stored in the system, the employee taking this call will know exactly where it’s supposed to be. 

Hopefully, the tracking information is there – and the person who shipped the package should hear about how storing that information in the CRM helped save the day.  If it isn’t there, it might be time for more employee training, or it could be a scam.  Either way, your employee will know that they should proceed with caution until they can validate this “customer’s” identity – another important process in this day and age.

To learn how WingSwept can help you create a seamless experience for employees, no matter where they are working, call us at 919-460-7011 or email us at Team_WingSwept@WingSwept.com.