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The challenges and rewards of providing world-class customer support

3 February 2011 No Comment

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Having started my career flying fast-jets, I am always a little apprehensive these days at parties when people ask me what I do now and I say; “I’m a customer support helpdesk manager for a scientific instrumentation company”.  To which the response is nearly always; “don’t you miss the excitement?”

As a customer focused organisation Malvern Instruments recognises that our customers, who see ‘Malvern’ as a premium brand, expect a high level of service.

Malvern’s Helpdesk team

The Helpdesk team consists of a mix of mainly graduate/ post grad scientists and engineers with the technical knowledge needed to handle the majority of our customers’ questions; from instrument maintenance to new applications.  We have a UK-based team who not only work with UK customers but also act as the point of contact for the other helpdesks around the world; from Europe and America, to China and Japan.

This week I find myself appraising my team and in parallel running interviews for a German speaking Engineering Specialist to strengthen the team’s skill set.

Not just a call centre

Many people think of us as a call centre, but we have to be much more than that. So when I describe to these potential new recruits what it is like to be on the Malvern helpdesk I explain:

I find the job challenging. Whereas other jobs in the company require people to become highly specialised, my team needs to be knowledgeable and informative about all the products in our ever growing portfolio.  Each team member has one product area in which they specialise and act as the central reference for the global support network.  In this product area they champion customer requirements at the Product Quality Meetings and make sure that other business needs do not get in the way of what the customer deserves from us. They are trained to understand customer needs which, given the wide variety of industries we serve, is no easy task.

No two days are the same. When we get in the office, from the first time we pick up the phone, we never know what questions will come our way. This morning whilst Lisa was answering an email from a university PhD student about the differences between Mie and Fraunhofer theory, I heard Richard on the phone supporting a European engineer who was performing his first Operational Qualification at a pharmaceutical customer’s site.

Like other companies, Malvern Instruments finds itself challenged by all the new technologies we now have available to serve our customers’ needs.  Our instrument users expect ever quicker responses to ever more intricate questions.  Some just want to be able to pick up a phone and speak directly with an expert, others want remote support or self service. And why should they not want this?  I certainly expect this level of service from the suppliers of my personal mobile and other electronic goods.

At Malvern Instruments our products are innovative and we need our support offerings to be so as well. So my team find themselves involved in developing our world class website, adjusting our service contract offerings to reflect new industry demands, and connecting our helpdesks across the globe to achieve seamless support whatever the customer’s time zone or language.

We have an above industry standard “total satisfaction” response to our support surveys and nobody on the global support team wants to be the one to see that slip!

A challenging role

When I explain all this to my potential employees I can tell which ones are as excited as I am by the challenges of the role and will therefore have the determination and self-pride to succeed.

Clearly I cannot explain all this to my new acquaintances at the Saturday night dinner party, to whom nothing seems as exciting as flying at 250ft over the ground and 500mph! To them I just laugh and say, ”It has its own challenges and rewards!”

Our Helpdesk is available at helpdesk@malvern.com