Providing good customer service in times of crisis is a special challenge. Many companies and customer service departments have had to experience this in recent days in a very concrete and practical way.
But What Exactly Are the Difficulties That Support Teams Face Today?
In order to learn about important questions and problems, ways of working, and approaches to providing service during a crisis, we zoomed in on the everyday life of the OTRS Group Customer Solution Team. These colleagues work every day to find solutions for our customers through their professional commitment, technology skills and a lot of personal engagement, satisfying customers to the maximum. More and more complex applications of our software have meant a steady increase in the number of tickets and thus constantly growing challenges.
In times of crisis, entirely new requests have started to roll in.
These days, people are mainly talking about working from their home office. Many companies have been forced by the current COVID-19 events to relocate large parts of their staff to the home office without having had any preparation time.
All of a sudden, elementary questions began to arise:
- Do all employees have a suitable computer? Is the use of private PCs technically possible and legally secure (data protection, GDPR)?
- Do all employees have a company mobile phone? Is the use of private devices technically possible (compatible with the telephone system) and legally secured? Are customer numbers allowed to be called or stored, for example?
- Is the IT infrastructure designed for a sudden increase in remote access? Are there sufficient VPN capacities? Are all operationally-relevant applications web-based or otherwise remotely executable?
- Do the employees have sufficient Internet connections?
- How will home office employees be helped with IT problems?
- How will the previously-held team or departmental meetings take place? Are there virtual meeting points instead of meeting rooms? How does communication work if you can’t find anyone “right now” in the office next door and can’t reach them by phone or email?
In addition to these technical and legal requirements, of which there are many more, the employees involved also incur considerable organizational effort.
In addition to these technical and legal requirements, of which there are many more, the employees involved also incur considerable organizational effort:
- Is there a suitable workplace at home for spending an entire workday? The laptop on the kitchen table is just as unsuitable as are most kitchen chairs, especially when ceiling lighting is reflected in the display.
- Is the workplace in the apartment a rest area for roommates, visitors or pets?
Perhaps in the past few days you have heard from friends and acquaintances who are having more or less difficulty regarding these and other problems. You are certainly not alone in this.
Given many years of operating from their home offices, the OTRS Group Customer Solution Team has addressed several of these issues already and shares the following tips.
Tips From Professionals Who Are Experienced With Work at Home Solutions
The Customer Solution Team was designed to work virtually. This makes it suitable for a home office structure. All of the technical and organizational questions mentioned above have been resolved for years. In contrast to many other companies, the topic of “working from the home office” did not have to be introduced suddenly and unexpectedly, but had already been integrated into the team’s DNA, so to speak. Because of this, they offer the following tips for success.
Tip 1: Double Check Necessary Hardware.
Every employee on the Customer Solution Team has the hardware they need including laptops and softphones or other VoIP devices.
Tip 2: Agree on Communication Guidelines.
Communication within the team, across departments and, above all, with customers is clearly regulated. Every colleague knows when each communication channel is to be used. And there are many needed:
- Telephone for 1:1 communication or virtual audio meetings
- Software tools for video calls (1:1 and in groups)
- Remote training tools
- Chat systems (useful when you have to check-in with someone fast)
Everyone knows how to reach colleagues or customers as well as what the best method for doing so is.
With the help of OTRS, our service employees record all incoming inquiries (portal, email, phone, chat, social media) and assign them to the correct departments (queues) or employees (agents).
Tip 3: Use a Service Management Solution.
The Customer Solution Team uses OTRS service management software to organize their tasks. With the help of OTRS, our service employees record all incoming inquiries (portal, email, phone, chat, social media) and assign them to the correct departments (queues) or employees (agents). No request can be lost and the forwarding of tasks is reliably overseen. Taking ove a task from a co-worker is much easier. The processing of tasks or inquiries is prioritized.
Tip 4: Centralize Access to Important Data.
In OTRS, customer data such as contact details, active tickets, prior tickets, equipment and other customer data are available at all times. Nobody has to manage phone numbers or email addresses in local address books, tables or even on paper.
In addition, an extensive knowledge base with FAQ articles helps answer customer inquiries.
Tip 5: Implement Shared Calendars.
When you aren’t sitting together, it can be hard to know who is available vs. who is busy. The Customer Solution Team uses the OTRS calendar for planning customer appointments, internal meetings and absences. This offers all teammates a view on what must be done each day and how much time is available for new requests.
Tip 6: Leverage SaaS Solutions.
It is particularly helpful in these times if you can find solutions that do not require in-person setup and configuration. For instance, no client installation is required for OTRS. It is a browser-based single page application that runs on every PC, tablet or cell phone.
Remote Work Opportunities Offer Relief
With everything that most of us currently have to do and organize in our personal lives, from the provision of essentials to helping relatives and neighbors, it is a great relief for employees to be able to work from home.
For me, home office is basically the best of all opportunities to work. But it has to be organized, introduced properly, conscientiously, with foresight and professionalism.Harald Eisenmenger, Service Engineer OTRS AG
Consider Harald Eisenmenger, one of our colleagues from the Customer Solution Team. For him, working from a home office is basically the best of all opportunities to work. He emphasizes, however, that it must “be organized, introduced properly, conscientiously, with foresight and professionalism.”
Today, companies that were not prepared to work from home offices suddenly have no other choice. Hopefully, these adverse circumstances will at least have a positive effect on how businesses approach future plans and team structures. It’s an opportunity for companies to test out remote work practices and consider useful technology solutions, such as service management software. Long-term, this will increase the quality of customer service, even in difficult times…