Provide Remote Employee Care to Impact CX During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic forced service and support leaders to reassess their approaches to remote work, be it expanding their established capabilities or just starting a program out of necessity. Fifty percent of service and support leaders surveyed said they had moved at least 75 percent of their workforces to work from home (WFH) within just a few weeks. There are three key areas of concern from employees resulting from these new WFH requirements:

  1. Environment — Most employees are sharing their new workspaces with other roommates, spouse/partner and/or children who are also competing for internet bandwidth, hardware, and attention. It might be challenging to find an undisturbed space to work.
  2. Engagement — Feelings of isolation are common as employees are removed from their peers, managers, and support staff. Changes in communications and frequency might cause employees to withhold concerns about their well-being or anxiety due to the impression that work-related topics take priority.
  3. Expectations — Some service employees are experiencing abnormally long talk times from customers who might have been on hold for more than an hour due to the unique nature of customer needs during this time. Operational metrics are often a key measure of employee performance, creating stress for the employee over potential repercussions for poor results in these areas.

Service and support leaders who had very little to no experience with WFH are facing the new reality of managing remote employees, leading to concerns regarding control of customer experience delivery. Leaders must take care of their employees' needs in these areas where they are challenged. By making efforts to address employee well-being, employees can focus on taking care of customer needs, alleviating organization concerns about not delivering the desired customer experience.


Leaders should be flexible with employees to help them. Allow adjustments to schedules, including split shifts, to allow at-risk employees to visit grocery stores during early hours or to accommodate home schooling needs. Accept that normal WFH procedures, such as a quiet workspace and no childcare responsibilities, might not be possible during this time. Set employees up for success with ergonomics training, exercise tips that can be done at their desks, or advice for structuring work and off time. Most importantly, service and support leaders must trust their employees during this time and not micromanage. By providing the resources needed to do their jobs and defining clear expectations, leaders can demonstrate confidence in their employees’ ability to achieve performance objectives.


It is critical for leaders to initiate two-way communication more frequently. Perform regular check-ins with employees, preferably through video, and listen to their needs. Block time during each call to encourage employees to speak freely regarding their challenges and concerns, while ensuring they feel safe sharing their emotions. Create cross-functional collaboration to remove silos and improve innovation. Make time to have fun through the week with virtual coffee breaks, pet picture of the day, trivia competitions between teams, and other creative remote social events to provide stress relief and engagement.


Service and support organizations must determine business priorities, such as focusing on drivers of customer loyalty, and clearly set those expectations with their employees. Communicate whether operational performance targets will be adjusted or removed. It is important to continue reward programs that recognize employees who are demonstrating desired behaviors or providing recommendations for process change to solve current challenges. Focus employee efforts on customer-centric outcomes instead of how they achieved them since processes and policies are being modified during the crisis.

Service and support leaders who take care of their employees' needs during the COVID-19 crisis will not only positively impact employee experience and retention, but the improvement to their well-being in these key areas enables them to focus more on serving customers.

Deb Alvord is a senior director analyst in Gartner’s Customer Service & Support Practice.