Working Together, Apart : How the Fuze Technical Support Team Collaborate from a Distance
By Carlo Beckman, Senior Director of Technical Support
We have what I consider to be one of the most important jobs in the company; we work directly with our customers to support them in their use of our product. This includes technical troubleshooting, walkthroughs on the product and prioritizing work around bug fixes and feature enhancements.
On remote teams.
Three of our employees are remote. The biggest challenge of managing an employee you are not in direct contact with is building rapport. It’s easy to do when you see someone every day, a little more difficult when you don’t. This is why I decided to fly down and meet with all my remote employees as soon as I could. I also brought them out to the main office so they could meet with other employees and executives. While we can do a lot with Fuze, I feel that real life interactions can help a team gel more cohesively. The other issue to watch for is your remote employees not feeling “heard”. Weekly 1:1s and team meetings can ensure this doesn’t become an issue.
Chat and Fuze are the ways we keep in touch the most. We have a chat room where everyone is connected. We share problems and issues, along with stories and jokes. We use Fuze for 1:1s and team meetings. I find it invaluable to be able to see remote employees’ faces and Fuze proves an invaluable tool in this regard.
Tim Villegas, a team member based out of Hawaii explains;
"Having almost all of Tier 1 working remotely certainly doesn’t make me and my current situation any special. The only real difference there is between me and some of the other team members is I work from my home! Working from home has its challenges. The biggest is communication. With tools at my disposal like Fuze, HipChat, and Gmail, I’m able to stay well connected with all members of the team."
To ensure our remote employees feel a part of the company culture, I try to get them to attend our all-hands meetings in rotating shifts. I also feel it is good to bring remote employees into the main office at least once or twice a year where feasible. The basic premise is you should do as much as you can to make your employees feel valued and establish explicit goals so they understand how they contribute to the “greater good” the company is trying to accomplish.
Jesse Villapando, part of the Technical Support team is based in Santa Barbara;
"Although I am considered to be a remote employee, I can say it doesn't feel that way to me. There is constant communication with the team whether it be in chat or in a Fuze meeting. I know my teammates' names, and am enjoying their sense of humor. Although I may not comment back on some of the hilariousness that goes along in the chat, I do read it. If only you could see my grin from ear to ear.
In the eight years that I've been with the company I'd like to think that every day I've made our customers feel less apprehensive about calling into support whenever they may need assistance. I think to truly understand another person's situation, I try to look at things from their perspective. I understand that all days are not going to run smooth as silk, but it's about those times that you can make the extra effort to solve their problem, troubleshoot the situation, find the answer that will get them through. There's definitely a feel of accomplishment and teamwork, and that's what I enjoy and look forward to everyday," says Jesse.
The biggest misconception about remote work is that these employees don’t produce as much work or aren't as efficient as non-remote employees; this is simply not true. As long as employees have goals that are clearly communicated and understood, this should not be an issue. If it is, and you are their manager, you may want to ask yourself if you’ve done your best to set your employees up to be successful.
My one must-do for any manager with remote staff is simple. Keep in constant contact with your people. Make sure they have clear goals and objectives (I know, I sound like a broken record at this point). Provide them with feedback and do your best to make sure they understand they are a valuable part of the team.
Make them feel like they sit right next to you even though in reality they may be many miles away.
Top tips for using Fuze
Connect an Audio Headset: Hear and be heard with the best clarity. Use an external corded or bluetooth headset instead of your laptop microphone and speakers.
Connect a High Definition webcam: Use an external webcam to get the best live HD video quality. Dedicated webcams often provide better optics, and enable you to position your Webcam in an optimal position slightly above eye-level.
Schedule your meetings via Outlook or Google Calendar: Our Google Calendar and Outlook integrations make your meeting experience that much more seamless: simply add a meeting to your existing Fuze application straight from Google Calendar or Outlook. You can now schedule meetings quickly, accessing your colleagues' availability and create new, edit and delete existing meeting invites.
Connecting as a group of people: For a small group joining a Fuze meeting from one location, mute all but one microphone to prevent audio feedback.
Add an extra display: Collaborate and present more effectively with extra screen space. Share specific monitors or specific application windows in your Fuze meeting. Undock parts of Fuze, such as the chat window or participants video panel.