Hacking Productivity Across a Dispersed Ecommerce Team

Ecommerce customers expect 24×7 service across email, chat, call, and social media. Online shopping today means your customers can be anywhere and reach out to you at any time with questions about a purchase, shipping or credit card issues.

This “always-on” requirement translates to a need for a dispersed workforce. Today, this need is being addressed with remote workers who may be far from your central office. Remote workers present new challenges. You must find ways to support these workers in their daily activities, and ensure they’re in touch with your mission and feel part of your team.

In my experience building ecommerce companies with a remote team, I’ve learned a few things about ensuring customer satisfaction, optimal productivity and an engaged team.

Monitor for Customer Satisfaction and Security

I pay attention to my team members’ online activity to see how they’re interacting with customers and handling company data.

Your service team members are the first touchpoint for your customers. For remote workers, you have fewer options to monitor interactions and ensure a quality experience. Through employee monitoring software, I get reports detailing email usage, files transferred and chat activity. While this information helps determine productivity, my primary purpose is to get insights into communication quality.

Today the consequences of one poor interaction with my service team has the potential to spread far and wide through social media. By periodically reviewing communications, I get advance warning of employees who require additional coaching.

Your team members have access to very important customer data. When they’re not all in your office, it becomes more challenging to achieve a comfort level about your information security.

If large companies such as AT&T can be impacted by call center employees selling customer information, it certainly makes sense for me to take an active role in security monitoring.

Online monitoring and behavior alerts help me ensure data security. I pay attention to outgoing emails with large file attachments, large file downloads and access to sensitive data repositories that could signal an insider breach.

Analyze Productivity

What denotes high productivity across your teams? Is it number of service tickets closed, orders fulfilled or accounting transactions completed? Whatever the metric, how are you tracking productivity?

I actively monitor team members to see how they’re using applications over time and the percentage of their time spent in applications I consider productive. Tracking provides an added benefit by logging hours worked, automating timesheet creation.

I’ve often found that less-than-expected productivity levels – or a productivity falloff – had nothing to do with an employee’s ability or effort level. After digging into data and watching an employee activity playback, I saw that a process we’d established, or the software, caused challenges. I used this insight to streamline the process or provide additional training on the software.

When I see dramatic differences in productivity across members on the same team, I see another opportunity to dig deeper. If Sally is consistently exceeding goals but Jen is often struggling, what can I learn about the approach Sally uses that could be shared with Jen? With remote workers this is a great opportunity for mentoring and bonding: Peer-to-peer coaching is less threatening and serves to connect remote workers.

This approach to productivity monitoring provides a very objective view of performance, supported by data. I’ve found this is key to implementing a fair compensation approach.

Foster Collaboration and Communication

With a dispersed team you must be creative to ensure a cohesive group. Without a central location for meetings, you need to provide team-building alternatives.

I try to anticipate questions and provide answers when assigning tasks. Especially if your team members are separated by multiple time zones, this technique ensures an employee is not waiting until the next business day for an answer.

I require my team managers to have regular one-on-one meetings with team members, either in person, via phone or by video chat. I also try to schedule yearly all-employee in-person events.

Whether it is email or a messaging platform like Slack, pick the tool you want your team to pay attention to. In addition to the historical record that Slack provides, I found a big positive of Slack is its integration with a variety of other applications, including project management apps. This makes it easy for employees to use one destination for access to other required tools.

Provide your entire workforce with guidance on using your chosen messaging tool. Are there times when messages are discouraged? How should an urgent need be indicated?

Using Skype or a similar solution has allowed my teams to develop more personal connections.  Project management dashboards like Asana give me easy access into task progress and individual activities.

Isaac Kohen is the founder and CEO of Teramind


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