Even at the best of times, managing a team can be challenging. However, doing it remotely can invite difficulties that aren't always easy to cope with, either.
The good news, though...?
You're already well-experienced in working remotely!
With years of practice, you and your colleagues have found ways to communicate from the office to the engineers who working out in the field. And, at the very least, who hasn't had the odd office-day at home, answering emails or taking phone calls?
That said, we understand circumstances are different for us all, and while translating that experience from office to home can sound complex, (with a bit of help) it needn't be.
Whether it's text, email, or a phone call: the simple things are certainly still helpful, so keep that up, but there is more you can do to ensure that communication is as clear as it can be. There are a plethora of contemporary (and inexpensive) tech-based solutions, so fear not about spending a fortune either and you can check out Cristina's video for more info.
Remote working may be a challenge, but that's where we're happy to lend a helping hand. Below, we've put together a list of advice, tools, and tips to keep your business moving. With them, you can elevate your communication and the productivity of your business.
Tools and Tips for Working Remotely
- Consider the following free (or cheap) tools
- Share and stay in touch with your colleagues
- Get connected (visually!)
- Make use of Online Portals
- Use Cloud Based Job Management Software
Tools and Tips for Working Remotely
Many of the tools you can adopt are free, or are cheaper than you might expect. As they're software based, it also means you don't have to buy lots of new hardware either. In many ways, these represent a risk free way to test and try out solutions that can impact your business in a big way. Communication is the key to success, whether it's customer, staff, or partners. Take a look at the advice we've listed below to discover what's right for you:
1. Consider the following free (or cheap) tools:
- Slack - (Free for the basic plan)
Do you remember MSN Messenger? Well, think of Slack as a more advanced version of that, for the modern day. It’s a Chat App available on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and tablet. It's a great tool that helps you keep all key communication—whether it’s with your plumbers, gas engineers, or office staff—in a single place. We’ve personally found Slack helps keep conversations organised and focused, even when you split them across multiple channels and teams. Take a look!
- Dropbox - (Free Dropbox Basic, or Dropbox Business, at a cost)
Dropbox is one of the many cloud storage services that’s available for free (although, if you exceed your allotted storage data, you can purchase more) and allows you to get started right away. It’s secure, available on any platform (Mac, PC, Android, iOS), and allows you to share files and folders with the rest of your office staff. Take a look!
- Trello - (Free for the basic plan)
Trello is particularly fantastic for helping you plan your week and better manage your team's tasks. With it, you can create a "board" for every person or project. From there, you can create lists to which you add "cards". Cards can contain check-boxes that let you tick-off tasks in real-time, add tags that help you clearly see what they relate to, as well as view progress bars, add images, and more. It can sound overwhelming, but in my personal experience, I don't know how I ever did without it. Trust me, take a look!
- Google - (Free with purchasable upgrades)
If you're not taking advantage of the many free tools Google provides, I'd be curious to know why. Whether it's Google Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), Drive (file storage), Keep (note-taking), Hangouts (video chat), Gmail (email), Calendar....honestly, if you haven't, you should take a look and see what they have to offer. Easy to use, fast to load, it can really make an impact on your team.
Xtensio - (Free, but with numerous paid options)If you're creating marketing materials to share and distribute, both within and outside of your company, Xtensio can help you. From documents to webpages, to presentations, their collaborative digital workspace allows teams to easily create and share beautiful living documents. Whether you're appealing to your local customers, or working on a larger portfolio for commercial projects, it's worth-your-while investigating ways to enhance your marketing. Discover Xtensio.
Check out Cristina's Top Tips for "How To Work Remotely" in our video below!
2. Share and stay in touch with your colleagues.
Staying social, especially when working remotely, is a priority. Even if it's a quick 5-minute call, it can make teams feel connected, whether you're in different cities or different countries, you can help prevent feelings of isolation and boost morale with a simple call.
Besides: not all jobs will involve regular, direct contact with colleagues or customers, but whether it's running a quick query past your co-worker, or simply checking-in to see how they're doing, it's important to reach out, share, and connect.
The main thing is that communication keeps your business moving. Just because you're in not in the office it doesn't mean communication has to stop, or even slow down!
With that in mind, here's a quick photo of the Commusoft Marketing Team, all working remotely: hello from home! As mentioned in Cristina's video, Zoom is an awesome tool not only just make calls, but to connect visually, as well. With that in mind...
3. Get connected (visually!)
Whether it's through video, voice-chat, or instant messenger: there are oh-so-many solutions you can put in place to help you keep in touch with your staff, whether it's office members who might work at home, or engineers carrying out essential work in the field.
Video may seem strange at first, but it might surprise you how quickly you get used to the idea. It's not a new feature—we've been using Skype and other webcam programmes for well over a decade—but increasingly (and perhaps ironically) as more customer service outlets take place online, customers have shown an interest in connecting via video, too.
For instance, I've held interviews with people as a customer service agent, I've used the video option for a tech service who helped me solve a query without me needing to bring my computer to the shop; even medical facilities make use of video: the NHS and Private Healthcare can arrange video calls that enable GPs to remotely assess their patients.
A similar strategy could even benefit your own staff and customers, especially with basic queries or DIY fixes you think you could walk customers through. This can save time, effort, and money, all at once. It's certainly worth considering the impact for your services.
4. Make use of Online Portals
If you're looking for an easier way to connect to your customers, why not consider Customer Portals?
Easy to implement and accessible on web-enabled devices like a smartphones, tablets, or laptops, they will let you interact from just about anywhere. You can fulfil essential criteria with ease, whether it's booking requests, providing estimates, sending invoices, or even obtaining customer feedback.
By connecting customers to your business via online portals, both sides can benefit from up-to-date information that's shared in real-time.
You can learn a lot more about Online Customer Portals and Crafting Perfect Customer Journeys by clicking here.
Alternatively, you can download a summary with our free infographic below:
5. Use Cloud Based Job Management Software
While there's more to see about a specific software solution for field service businesses below, it's worth mentioning some general points about cloud based software and why the cloud should be at the forefront of your mind.
Cloud Based Job Management Software is all about being able to connect information remotely, all so that data isn't simply held in one place. Well...that's technically untrue. What I mean by that is: all your data isn't held in any one physical system. Instead it's stored in the virtual cloud, which means you can access your data from anywhere in the world where you can get an internet connection.
By storing your data in this way, particularly when data automatically synchronises with the cloud, you can keep your staff interlinked and up-to-date with the data they need. It's added security, can save you space, and is often cheap, as well. By storing your data in this way, you can ensure everyone is on the same page, all the time.
Take your Business Online with a Field Service App
When you’re in the market for software to run your business digitally, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of choices in each category. We've broken down the 6 essential things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing an app for your business.
1. Use an app that’s frequently updated.
If you’re searching in the app store or on an industry website and find an app that looks like a contender, you should always check to see when it was last updated.
If it was years ago, you know the creators will likely not offer on-going support if you have problems with it. At the very least, you want a product that receives regular updates; this demonstrates that the developers are clearly invested in their own product and eager to help you with it, too.
2. Check if it’s easy to use.
You and your engineers are busy doing jobs for customers which means you likely don’t want to spend weeks on a steep learning curve to figure out how to use an app that was supposed to make your life easier: not make it feel like going back to school! Viewing demos or video tutorials can help you discover how easy a software is to use.
3. Find out if there’s a robust knowledge base.
When you have a question about your plumbing app in the middle of the night, where do you turn? If the app developers have created a thorough knowledge base, you can just check it and be done.
FAQs are also a great indication that there are answers to your queries, no matter the time of day or situation.
4. See if it works on mobile.
When you’re on the go, you need apps that work not just on desktop computers, but also on whatever mobile devices you use. This is a given for apps from an app store, but it also applies to job management, accounting, fleet management, and other more complex software.
For example, Commusoft’s field service management software can run on iPhones, iPads, Android mobiles, and Android tablets—and your experience is optimised for whichever device you choose to use.
5. Ask: does it integrate with other apps?
Apps that integrate with software you already use will:
- Help your technicians adopt the new app more quickly.
- Save you the time and money of buying new software that does integrate with it.
- Generally, make your job easier.
Many app websites have an “integrations” page you can check to see if your favourite apps are supported. Commusoft, for example, integrates with the most popular communication platforms, business solutions, and payment gateways.
6. Consider: how well is it reviewed?
Look for apps with mostly positive reviews. It may seem obvious, but keep an eye out for how many they have as well. Sometimes a 5 Star App might only have a few reviews; quality and quantity go hand in hand when it comes to apps, so keep an eye out!
You can tell a lot not only from the reviews an app gets but also the way the company responds to negative reviews. So do check out the negative reviews and see how the app creators handled them.
As you can see, there are many tools you can utilise and tips you can put to use to help your business communicate clearly, effectively, and quickly, no matter where you, your office staff, or your engineers are!
There may be a learning curve, but with the patience, determination and focus I'm sure you and your team possess, you can continue to lead your business to success.
We hope these insights help inspire you to take your business online. If you're looking for a software solution that can assist you, then be sure to consider Commusoft: with your business managed online, you can connect at home, the office, or out in the field!
For additional advice and resources that can help your business to work remotely and optimise performance check out our Complete Guides!