Emergency. We need this working right away – stat! This may sound like a hospital ER, but when a customer’s technical system isn’t working properly, it can feel like an emergency situation. They want answers and solutions immediately to fix the problem right away so they can get back to work as quickly as possible. That’s how the tech support team works at AutomationDirect – like an ER situation. Customer calls come into the system where a customer response associate who, like a triage health professional, quickly assesses the situation and routes the call to the “best” available tech. The tech support team member then diagnoses the trouble and, sometimes with the help of others on the team, finds the solution and helps the customer regain the health of the product.
The official mission statement of the tech support team is to “provide the industry’s best technical support and application information to internal and external customers, in alignment with ADC’s value chain, customer promise, core values, and profit equation.” Quite simply, the team’s function is to answer questions about the company’s products and offer solutions.
To accomplish this, the majority of the team are techs, plus a small group of customer response associates. Field experience for the techs averages 6-8 years. The tech support team doesn’t use a “checkbox” approach. No one is reading from a script in an attempt to find an answer. These techs have been in the field and understand the difficulties of troubleshooting equipment. The techs are also cross-trained as much as possible which lets them consider the customer’s problem at both the component level and at a higher system level. This allows the techs to determine if the problem might not be what the customer thinks it is, and then help the customer find the actual problem.
The techs first rely on their own knowledge to help a customer. If that’s insufficient, they will usually check AutomationDirect’s vast documentation and then search the call ticket tracking database. If needed, other techs can be brought in via chat and/or the tech can access a “problem” database that has stored in it a myriad of product issues and questions the techs have encountered over the years. In some cases, the appropriate product manager/engineer will be called in to help the customer. The tech support team will work hard and take as much time as they need to answer customer questions. Technical Support Team Lead Bruce Perry explains: “A tech support call is successful only when the customer says so. We don’t determine when the call is over, the customer does. Our team will go to great lengths to provide what the customer needs … that could even mean a different product that is better suited for their application.”
To successfully answer customers’ questions, the tech support team participates in different types of training. First, their rotating shift times incorporate time off the phones for dedicated training (unless call volume gets too high). This training is intended to allow techs time off the phones to train on whatever product they feel they need to, or when a team lead feels the tech needs more training on a specific product. The second type of training is when AutomationDirect releases a new product. That type of training can include 1 hour of introductory training for a simple product, to several days of structured training, followed up by hands-on training at the individual level. All this depends upon the complexity of the product being released.
“There is no substitute for hooking things up,” said Perry. “True understanding of a product only comes from using it. The techs have access to as many of our products as they need or want. The ability to quickly simulate what the customer is describing is the fastest and most accurate means of finding the customer a solution. If we find a product problem, then this testing allows for better information to be provided to the product manager/engineer which in turn results in a faster solution being found or implemented in the product.” Indeed, the tech support team’s area offers what some in the tech support industry would consider a “playground” of products that support team members train on and use to troubleshoot what the customer is experiencing … providing a hands-on solution in real time.
The tech support team has developed an internal system to provide this type of exemplary customer service. The team is available by phone from 9 a.m. EST to 6 p.m. Team members arrive at 8 a.m. to catch up on outstanding issues, perform tests, or train on a new product. The phones go “live” at 9 a.m. which receives customer calls routed to them by the customer response associates. Some techs will also handle live chats and emails during this time. The day is extremely hectic with the team handling early calls as well as the later West Coast calls. Live chats go offline when the call volume is heavy to make sure every call is answered. Any customer leaving a voice mail will receive a response within 1 hour. Every day, the tech support team handles hundreds of calls as well as dozens of emails and chats. Many of the calls are to simply guide customers through selecting products and serve as pre-sales assistance.
The team sends out customer surveys the day after a ticket is closed. The customer is asked to provide comments about the team’s 4 major areas of focus: accuracy, thoroughness, response time, and courteousness. Any customer/tech issues that come up are elevated to a team lead as fast as possible to resolve the issue in a timely manner. The team consistently scores 4.5 to 4.7 out of 5 stars with accuracy being the highest priority for most customers. This impressive 90% approval rating soars above the industry standard of 60%. This high approval rating has also earned the AutomationDirect tech support team industry accolades with most of the awards they’ve won from Control Design magazine. In a blind survey with no vendor names listed, customers had to remember and write in a vendor name as best technical support company. ADC has consistently received first place awards in multiple categories for 14+ years.
Team Lead Bruce Perry sums it up: “Mostly, we just try to provide a consistent support level so customers know what to expect. The technical expertise and knowledge of the team makes us award winning but it’s the personal touch that keeps the customers happy. Unlike any other engineering department I’ve ever worked in, ADC’s tech support team members are genuinely eager to help out the customers … and each other. The dynamic nature of this is impressive, and it results in a level of cross training and customer satisfaction that would be difficult to achieve anywhere else.”