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How Our Support Team Works from Home (and Stays Sane)

MATHEW PATTERSON - MAY 7, 2010

While most of the Campaign Monitor team is in our Sydney office, some of the most public and crucial members work from their homes in Canada, Norway and the USA. These are our remote customer support team, headed by Diana along with Travis, Stig, Davida and JD.

Why do we have remote support staff?

The majority of our customers are located far away from our home town of Sydney. While we’re working, you’re sleeping or catching up on Mythbusters. During your business day we’re likely doing the same. A couple years ago, Campaign Monitor was getting popular enough that there was a significant number of support questions coming in overnight.

That’s when we hired Diana, our very first international team member, and she immediately made a difference to the quality and speed of our support answers. Now you could email during the US day and get an answer back almost immediately, and I could sleep guilt free, waking up to a manageable number of questions.

Since that time Campaign Monitor has grown considerably, and so has our support team. We’ve added two more US staff, one Canadian and all the way over in Norway, the Stig. We actually snagged Stig from our own forums where he’d been already been a very passionate contributor. Every member of our support team is an experienced web designer so they’re already on your level.

What’s it like working with a distributed team?

It’s certainly a challenge to run a team where you rarely meet face to face. From my perspective as the team manager, I can’t be around most of the time to really see what’s happening or to offer immediate help.

So it is critical that we have independent, experienced and smart team members who are capable of making decisions on their own. I need to trust them to do their job well without much input a lot of the time. So the people we’ve hired have reduced a lot of the potential problems.

Communication across timezones and continents

Spread across 24 hours a day, our support team deals with a lot of different problems, tools, processes and feedback. We’ve had to work very hard to make sure that we’re all dealing with the same information and taking the same approach.

“I feel like I know everyone on the support team because of Campfire and the face to face chats”
-Davida in Portland

It is easy to feel isolated, left out, or that nobody is listening to you when you’re sitting on your own at home. In the Sydney office we’ve learned through experience to almost over-communicate all the little bits and pieces that come up in a normal office, recording them and sharing them with the remote team.

We rely heavily on a few communication tools to reduce the feeling of separation between the team:

Company culture and the remote team

At Campaign Monitor we concentrate on building a business that is a great place to work, with catered lunches and team activities.

It is definitely trickier to do that with a team spread around the world. Realistically working on the other side of the world, you will have a different experience of the company than someone who is in the office. We can’t pretend to replicate the experience, so instead we try to create a different facet of Campaign Monitor culture that makes sense for remote staff.

Our US team are pretty close geographically, so they have their own social events. We also try to bring new team members out to Sydney for their initial training, and to get a feel for the company culture.

We’ve made ‘happy birthday’ videos (including some rather disturbing Marilyn Monroe impressions from a certain systems administrator) and sent surprise gifts just to let the remote team know they are part of the company. This is another area of constant growth and improvement, and we’re learning from both sides what works.

Tips on effectively working from home

I asked our remote guys and girls what advice they would give to anyone considering working from home, and they came up with a few key tips:

Recently Jeff Atwood wrote a great blog post on remote work, but specifically for developers, and that’s worth reading too.

Interested in joining us?

As Campaign Monitor continues to grow with more and more great designers getting into email newsletter design, inevitably we need to grow our support team to keep providing great service. Right now we’re looking for a new UK/Europe based team member to work from home with us.

The person we are looking for will be web savvy, with great communication skills and an interest in helping web designers send fantastic email campaigns. Sound like you?

View the full job description and get your application in.

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