Remote Work At American Express, World Service
New York, NY
VIRTUAL TEAM MEMBERS - World Service
American Express Team
Victor Ingalls, Vice President, World Service for both the Salt Lake City service center and our Home-Based population
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We’re a global services company that provides customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Each day, American Express makes it easier, safer and more rewarding for consumers and businesses to purchase the things they need and for merchants to sell their goods and services. An engine of commerce, American Express provides innovative payment, travel and expense management solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. We help our customers realize their dreams and aspirations through industry-leading benefits, access to unique experiences, business-building insights and global customer care. We enable our customers to do more and achieve more.
What does your virtual team do within the company?
World Service is the American Express global servicing network that delivers a unique Relationship Care® service experience. We focus on turning every customer interaction into a personal connection and helping customers get the most from their American Express relationships. World Service has been recognized as a service leader in many markets around the world. In particular, the home-based customer care team is a committed, engaged and high-performing group of employees who bring our service vision to life every day.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
At American Express, we’ve been serving customers for more than 165 years. As the environment and our own business have evolved, we’ve been receptive to new ways we could deliver our customers the superior service they’ve come to expect from American Express. While American Express has had a number of virtual roles for some time, our focused effort to expand the remote telephone servicing team began about a half decade ago.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Our mission is to become the world’s most respected service brand. To do that, we must be able to attract and select the very best talent, people with a passion for service. Having a remote workforce allows us to cast a wider net, reaching prospective employees who may not live within commuting distance of one of our brick-and-mortar customer care locations. We also can attract people who have the right profile but who have specific needs that make virtual work a good fit, such as parents, students, veterans and their spouses, and people with limited mobility.
Having employees across time zones and with a more flexible working model also helps us respond to volumes and be there for our customers when they need us.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Having a remote workforce allows us a much deeper talent pool to select from as we look for world-class people to deliver our unique brand of world-class service. It also provides us with more flexibility in terms of managing the volume across our servicing network. We’ve been able to offer more part-time and even split-shift options because those flexible work arrangements appeal to many of the employees who work virtually.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We are intent on finding people whose skills and passion for service would make them a great fit within our Relationship Care culture. We’re excited to present home-based opportunities for people whose location or personal situation may not allow them to apply for one of our jobs at a service center.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
Our entire talent acquisition process is handled remotely. Interviews are all conducted via telephone or video, and then employees are prepared for their role in a virtual learning environment that blends self-directed learning with group discussions in a video classroom.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We ask specific questions about virtual fit when we speak with prospects. Some people like the idea of working remotely, but are more successful in traditional settings. We try to ask questions to help people be self-aware about their personalities and work styles.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
Broadly speaking, our profile for customer care professionals is the same: we’re looking for people whose passion and personality will make them excellent at delivering our Relationship Care brand of service. We do ask some specific questions about virtual fit, including an ability to self-motivate. Some people like the idea of working remotely, but are more successful in traditional settings. We try to ask questions to help people be self-aware about their personalities and work styles.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Our home-based team members are often separated by hundreds of miles. We rely on technology to bring our people together and harness the power of personality that is so important to our Relationship Care culture.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
As with all of our customer care professionals, the primary measure of success for people in our virtual organization is how they deepen the relationships with customers. Recommend to a Friend – or RTF, our own service-specific version of the popular Net Promoter Score – is the primary metric we use to recognize and reward our front-line employees. This helps turn our customer care organization into a group of passionate advocates for our customers’ needs, and it reinforces our service ethos, which states that every interaction is an opportunity to deepen relationships with Card Members and merchants.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
We’ve had the most success with employees who came into the experience with a realistic understanding of the nature of the job and what it’s like to work remotely.
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
Because of the type of work our customer care professionals do, they must be logged into a secured workstation to address Card Members’ inquiries. Many of the leaders and support professionals in our home-based team have the option to access e-mail and calendar on a personal device.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
While American Express has had a number of virtual roles for some time, our focused effort to expand the remote customer care team began about a half decade ago.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
Broadly speaking, our culture is based on the Relationship Care approach to servicing, an ethos that says service is a people business driven by the power of human interaction. To that end, all of our employees receive constant coaching on how to connect with customers and deepen loyalty. While the form factor may be slightly different – virtual side-by-sides as opposed to in-person coaching – the approach is the same.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Some companies view a remote workforce as a means of reducing operating cost. We view it as an investment in finding the very best talent so we can deliver the superior service our customers expect. We continue to invest in better tools and unique ways to engage our very committed team of home-based employees. For example, every single employee has a webcam, and we encourage them to connect face-to-face for team meetings, feedback sessions, reward & recognition and other events. Similarly, we have invested in the right technology, data infrastructure, equipment and reporting to put our employees in a position to be successful.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
At first, we there was a definite shift we needed to make to ensure that our virtual employees were always part of our thinking as we discussed service center initiatives. With time, it now comes more naturally. When we have company executives visit the service center, we even schedule a virtual stop where they can drop in and meet some of our home-based team members via video.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We ensure that our leadership team is visible and our Relationship Care values are reinforced in multiple channels. Every employee in our home-based service team has a webcam, and we use those not just to connect for team meetings and feedback sessions, but also to communicate progress and recognize individual achievements.
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