The COVID-19 global pandemic forced companies to change in numerous ways. The most dramatic changes were likely felt by customer facing-teams, especially those accustomed to providing technical support directly alongside customers.
To get a closer look at how customer-facing teams adapted, we sat down with Philip Jäger, Head of Technical Support at Hamilton Bonaduz AG.
Mr. Jäger, how did the ongoing pandemic change your team’s work? What challenges did you have to handle with you support efforts?
Philip Jäger: We were already doing many tasks remotely and the team was familiar with decentralized working, so I felt we were better prepared than not. The small internal team at the Bonaduz headquarters started working from home, which was unproblematic since we have already had the necessary technology such as laptops, webcams etc. The other team members have been working remotely all along in the countries they support.
How did the support process change? What changed compared to the time before COVID-19?
Philip Jäger: The majority of customer inquiries reach us via email or phone, so there was little change there. The biggest change were measures taken by our customers that prevented our field service technicans from providing on-site support. Instead, we pivoted to doing more video calls through Skype and Microsoft Teams. Since the process sensors are not as complex as robotic platforms and automated storage systems, no remote control of our products is needed. It is our goal to see what the customer is doing on-site and to give instructions and support accordingly.
How was the customer’s willingness to cooperate? Were there any reservations regarding the remote maintenance?
Philip Jäger: No, on the contrary, our customers were eage to get our help via remote platforms. Our customers often work in heavily regulated spaces where certain PC systems are not integrated into the network or that screensharing is not possible. And yet this is still no problem for us, since we can address our customers technical difficulties by means of video chat via mobile phones or webcams. In addition to that, our customers are very enthusiastic to solve the problem themselves without a Hamilton employee on-site. Until now, we can draw a positive summary regarding the co-remote maintenance.
What challenges are you still facing and what could be optimized?
Philip Jäger: Hamilton employees share a strong interpersonal culture and we like to work side-by-side with our customers. So it was challenging to have a limited social component maintain a sense of collaboration on the team.
In every crisis, as in this one, we learned each other work habits and found ways to better distribute tasks. This worked well for tasks on clearly defined projects.
On the other hand, the day-to-day operational activities were more difficult. Informal task delegation does not work well when you are not working in the same space. So we learned to be more clear and precise with our communication and role definitions. We also learned to be more delicate and careful when it came to handing difficult situations remotely.
At the same time, I was very surprised that the team members, who are from four different generations, were all able to handle the change to remote working very well. I believe that is because everybody has a affinity for technology and teamwork that allows for future-orientated solutions.
What safety measures did you take regarding repairs and investigation of goods that were sent back from customers – were there any particularities?
Philip Jäger: We definitely invested more into the safety of our employees as it relates to product returns and decontamination. We also had to communicate to customers that investigations would require additional time to complete because we limited the amount of technicians working in the office each day. We made accomodations where necessary to ensure that customers were not burdened by our longer timeline, like offering free replacement devices while the product investigation proceeded. In this way, the user did not have long downtimes and we had satisfied customers.
Many thanks for the interview and all the best for the future!