AutomationDirect Customer Support Team Handles Staggering Number of Orders
Think your teenager receives and responds to a lot of messages and notifications on their cell phone? If so, they could be a good candidate for the AutomationDirect customer support team. That team processes a tremendous number of orders every day, by phone, email and fax – all with efficiency and accuracy.
Processing so many orders makes for a bustling atmosphere at the AutomationDirect customer support center. But, this team handles it all in stride day in and day out. They pride themselves on filling orders quickly and precisely. Even though many of the company’s orders come in on the website, there are customers who prefer to call in their orders…and the customer support team is happy to help. The vast majority of the calls are working with customers who want to purchase from AutomationDirect but choose to make a phone order. Sometimes they need help with purchase orders or different shipping addresses. As the front line for customer interaction, the customer support team also handles traditional customer service functions as a call center; managing any issue that has to do with the sales or ordering of a product.
A typical day on the customer support team is very busy. Some team members work 10-hour shifts and others eight hours. The early arriving team members begin responding to emails at 7 a.m. (Eastern Time) and enter email orders and provide quotes. The phones open to customers at 9 a.m. and stay open until 6 p.m. That’s the same time the warehouse closes. AutomationDirect guarantees same day shipping for most products, so afternoons tend to be the most hectic with customers wanting to get orders in before 6 p.m.
“Every day, it’s something different. There’s no real typical day on the team since any day could bring a question we’ve never heard before or a tricky shipping situation. Whatever comes our way, the customer support team is confident in handling it because of our training and ability to solve problems,” said Team Lead Joy Williams.
Before taking their first phone call, team members go through extensive training even if they’ve worked in another AutomationDirect department. This preparation entails team-specific training by sitting with an experienced team member for at least two weeks. During that two weeks the trainer goes through the procedures in detail and the trainee listens to customer calls while the trainer is actually performing job duties. The trainer also demonstrates how the team handles emails, team interaction, and other customer-focused activities. Once they’re deemed ready, the new customer support team member is given email orders to enter with the trainer reviewing it before anything is confirmed or forwarded to shipping. All team members also engage in product training either in person or through presentations. That hands-on experience really helps when talking with customers. When needed, a knowledgeable customer support team member can suggest a different product or introduce something new for a solution the customer is seeking.
Everything the customer support team does is based on the team approach. Even the team meetings are used for additional training, to share best practices, discuss new policies and procedures, and to compare notes on how a situation was resolved. Team members feel they can learn a lot from each other. Only after the training and when the team determines the new customer support team member is ready, then they’re able to answer the phones and emails on their own. “We’re very protective of our customers and want to make sure that every interaction is a positive one,” explained Williams.
As a member of the customer support team, each individual brings different strengths although everyone on the team can do the job well. Williams said: “If a team member’s strength lies with taking a large volume of phone calls and solving problems for customers, their primary assigned duties will be tied to the phones. If the team member is exceptional with working through emails at a high rate of speed and accuracy, then that person will have more assignments to the email group.” At times, every member of the customer support team needs to be flexible. For example, when the email volume becomes overloaded, an assigned team member comes off the phones to assist. “It’s all a balancing act. But it always comes back to how we can best serve the customer,” continued Williams.
Customer service doesn’t usually conjure up images of customers who are actually happier after the phone call but at AutomationDirect that’s what happens. It’s on these customer support calls that customers get to talk to someone on the team that has been with the company for 15 or even 20 years. And, these folks, even though they work very hectic days, will make sure that customers are satisfied once the order is placed. For the most part, the customer support team is placing orders efficiently so the warehouse can fill it accurately and expediently. However, if the customer is calling with a customer service question or issue, then they have to listen and understand the customer’s perspective and assure them that the problem will be solved. Whether it’s a small task such as retrieving a tracking number or a larger issue such as expediting a backorder, the customer support team strives toward keeping that customer happy.
This attention to service is part of AutomationDirect’s team approach. Not only are customer support team members expected to treat customers with respect, the entire organization treats customers and each other kindly and professionally. Customer support team members remain positive with customers no matter what. Customer interactions are always pleasant which is part of the company’s promise to its customers. Williams commented: “Our attitudes are very important when dealing with external and internal customers. We want our customers to receive the best we can give. Our team members like working at AutomationDirect and that helps our customer interactions. The company takes good care of us and our families and that positive environment shines through when we’re talking with customers.”
In fact, in a recent survey of new customers, 95% of respondents said that AutomationDirect’s customer support team was above average compared to other vendors. And, 94% said that the customer support team was above average in answering questions related to their order.
The keys to the customer support team’s high rate of accuracy and satisfaction, is experience and always striving to improve. For example, several years ago, the team asked several other internal teams, including logistics (warehouse), accounting, and returns to send them a monthly report of their errors so they could learn from their mistakes. This served two purposes. First, the customer support team’s errors resulted in extra work for other teams which negatively impacts everyone in the company. Second, because the team members are made aware of the errors, everyone can learn and develop in the areas that need improvement.
One of the few recurring customer criticisms that the customer support team hears is that the company ships too fast. Even though one of the reasons customers choose AutomationDirect is their same-day shipping policy, it also can present a challenge to the customer support team. After an order is in the system there is a window of less than 2 minutes to change it. This automation allows the company to ship a huge number of boxes out of the warehouse each day but it can also be perceived as a negative when a customer calls trying to change an order they made just a few minutes before. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often and the majority of customers are delighted that they receive their orders so quickly.