Employees from Babtec Support receive around 40 queries per day. In order to serve all customers reliably and with skill, even when the number of customers is growing exponentially, the Babtec Support division has been completely revamped. Martin Büschel, Head of Support at Babtec, tells us what’s behind this development
Mr. Büschel, you started completely renovating Babtec’s Support division a few years ago. Why was this necessary?
Our Support has grown hugely over more than 20 years, just as Babtec itself has. More customers and projects mean that Support also receives more queries, and more complex queries at that. In order to be prepared for the future, we needed to rebuild ourselves from the ground up. Centralization was our main focus for this process. Previously, there were employees in the individual branch offices that would have taken care of what we call “first level support”. Second level support was responsible for resolving more complex problems, and they were located away from it all, in the headquarters in Wuppertal. With the new concept, we now have a central point of contact for all customers, no matter what their question is. It’s important for customers to have a clear contact person to speak with.
This renovation can’t have been easy. What was the biggest challenge you came up against?
One of the biggest challenges was standardizing the working methods in the team. Everyone had developed their own routines and procedures, which is the perfect way to ensure misunderstandings in the team. We changed that; now, the basic process for each query is the same.
What does this process look like?
On average, an employee gets through six customer queries per day, and about half come via telephone, the others via e-mail or, more recently, via our ticket system in Babtec Qube. It’s important to us that customers get through to a human, which, in the end, is what this job is all about. Therefore we always try to be available by telephone. A lot of queries can be resolved the first time someone contacts us. The time taken to process the query, whether it’s two minutes or five days, depends on the individual query. To achieve this, we often use remote maintenance. We can access the customer’s computer, work together with them on it and are constantly in dialog with them the whole time. This visual method is particularly well-suited to solving very complex queries.
Of course, customers want their queries to be answered as soon as possible. Why do some solutions take several days to implement?
Often, it’s very difficult to find out the exact cause of the problem. This is because when our software is used in manufacturing by the customer, we can’t simply fiddle around with it or restart the system. In these cases, we bring the customer’s entire infrastructure to us, as is: We can reproduce the system in a huge test environment. We then incorporate the Software Development and Product Management departments. As soon as we have found the solution, we can test it at our premises and then implement it at the customer’s premises, and also initiate all the necessary measures.
So which measures does Support use?
That depends entirely on the query. We have four different categories of query: Technical questions, requirements for our software, software errors and services. We can generally resolve the technical questions ourselves immediately. Technical questions also constitute the largest proportion of all types of query, around 75% of queries thus remain in Support. Customer requirements for the software are also taken up by us and are sent to Product Management and Software Development for technical assessment. Our colleagues there then decide whether the requirement will be implemented or not. Software errors, or bugs, are directly eliminated by our Software Development team. When it comes to service queries, we generally recommend attending a workshop and act as a mediator between the customer and the project manager responsible.
Can you already see an improvement since you’ve renovated the Support division?
Definitely. The work across different interfaces has improved enormously. The way that Support cooperates with Product Management, Software Development and also the branch offices is far more structured and fluid now. Each customer can now check which stage their query has reached at any time using the ticket system in Babtec Qube. This means that we achieve a high level of transparency in communicating with our customers.
How does the ticket system work? Why did you introduce it?
The ticket system has a lot of advantages. The customer can submit a query at any time, they just need to log into Babtec Qube. Both the customer and ourselves can track which stage the query is currently at, as the path is clearly defined and documented. In the long-term, I hope that this system will replace e-mail as a contact option because it is so much more straightforward for both sides. We have established an end-to-end process with the ticket system: It is the customer who completes their query, not us. The customer thus has complete control. If the customer is dissatisfied with the solution, they do not close their ticket and it will go back to Support. This feedback loop ensures that no more interruptions go unnoticed, throughout the entire processing chain. Another big advantage is the assessment function. Here, we receive feedback on whether the customer is satisfied with the manner in which their query was processed. This means that we can understand the customer better. We are always delighted to receive praise and see criticism as an opportunity for further improvement.
What does the future look like for Support?
Honestly? We’re already living it! I’m convinced that support, in its classic form, will always exist. However, we believe it’s important to constantly be looking to improve: We want to identify solutions for our customers faster and more precisely. Completely new fields of activity are created around this core business activity by digitalization, in the form of the Babtec Qube. This is going to be an exciting time. In terms of the future, we’re on the right path: The foundations for support that is more customer-oriented and more transparent have been laid.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Büschel.
The post was first published in 2018 and updated in 2020.