By Richard Lawrence-Allen
The world of business never truly sleeps. Trade across the world, through various nations and time zones, all thanks to an ever increasing global community, means that 24-hour and 7-day a week operating hours is becoming more and more necessary. For some of our larger clients, the sun never sets on their customers, so a 24/7 customer support service is vital. One such client that we work with is the very well-known, luxury alcohol brand Moët-Hennessy, with whom we handle the customer support for their direct-to-the-public brand, Clos19.
To better understand the challenges facing a 24-hour service, we spoke with Stephen Willis, our Account Manager for Moët-Hennessy to learn from his experience. Stephen has managed 24/7 teams for 6 years now, both in single and over multiple sites. He has worked with RSVP for just under a year now, and his expertise has been invaluable in making the account the triumph that it is.
Moët-Hennessy has achieved its success thanks to a vigilant commitment to delivering high-quality, luxury products and customer experiences alike. Reflecting the client’s rigorously high-standards in our customer support work is vital to ensure that each interaction with a customer has with the company not only meets but surpasses their lofty expectations, helping to cement a continuous client-customer relationship that will stand the test of time. Moët-Hennessy is of course a widely recognised global company, and so a 24/7 service is needed, but maintaining this necessary high standard of service 24/7, isn’t perhaps as easy as we make it look.
The exceptional is promised and the exceptional is delivered.
Stephen explains that “[c]lear and transparent communications are key to the success of any business and delivering concise communications to a 24/7 team when you don’t have scope to see each team member as regularly as you’d like has the potential to cause errors with regards to new processes”. This communication is so important, as Stephen points out that the lack of needed information can create a great deal of stress for employees, affecting the standard of work, “as working within a role without up to date knowledge can cause confusion, disengagement and a lack of trust in a workforce.”
Stephen here, all suited and booted, ready for a client meeting.
Stephen identifies the need for finding the correct communication tools to use to overcome these challenges. He says:
“When choosing a tool you need to ensure it is fit for purpose in that it meets your needs as a manager and that it also meets the needs of your employee’s. In my experience, a combination of tools is sometimes the only solution to this. Memos and instant messenger are good for short messages regarding minor updates as you can quickly get a message to everyone, additionally, emails are also useful when sending larger messages along with documentation. Though there is also often a need to keep information readily available to employees so they have it for future reference. Email is not a bad tool for this but things can get lost or deleted. Utilising FAQs or an intranet is a good solution for keeping messages or documents as they can be easily navigated and you can also utilise features for leaving questions and feedback.”
Of course, utilising these methods is incredibly helpful, however, Stephen also likes to follow up messages in person as he states that it gives the employees “the opportunity to ask any questions and have their thoughts and concerns heard and addressed”. This is important as an employee must feel comfortable and confident in their tasks to provide the best customer service work that they can.
However, when your account runs 24/7, as we know, finding face-to-face time with your employees regularly can be a challenge. Difficulties aside though, it is important, particularly when it comes to performance management and coaching if it is to be effective. This means that Stephen is very careful in the shift patterns that he works, allowing peak staffing and commitments to dictate his schedule. Stephen notes that “[m]aking the time to see everyone in the team regularly is essential to achieving consistent levels of feedback and coaching along with maintaining a high level of engagement and trust in the team.”
We are lucky at RSVP in that our 24-hour accounts are able to work effectively over a single site, however, complications in terms of time zones, different markets, systems and sometime language barriers add further challenges to multisite operations. Utilising video conference and telephone technology such as Skype and Facetime are, according to Stephen, ideal methods in helping to manage this. Stephen explains: “My approach has always been to make time at the extremes of my shift and to leave enough time so that I’m not rushing. Utilising tools such as Skype also enables you to share your screen or documentation in real time which can aid the conversation/meeting.”
Stephen also identifies resourcing and recruitment as one of the greater challenges that he is faced with in managing 24/7 businesses. Recruitment, particularly when a high-level of multilingual skills is required of a role, can be a frustrating process, but using internal contacts and establishing relationships with colleagues in other sites to expand your network and increase quality staff referrals.
Resourcing issues arise when faced with short notice absences, particularly when it happens during the middle of the night of your own time zone. To accommodate for this, Stephen tells me that “Ensuring you are working to a resource model with all shrinkage factors considered will set you up for continuity of service and has always served me well. Additionally, you could consider a call out protocol if you do not have the luxury of a budget that will accommodate absence as a standard. This is not something I’ve ever needed to do but if the need should ever arise, my main consideration would be on my employees and managing their expectation from the offset. You would of course have to establish a timely procedure for this and there may also have to be a consideration on salary, so ensuring your employees are fully aware of the implications of this and what my expectation is would be of great importance.”
While the challenges are there, but the rewards for running a 24/7 account are great too, Stephen highlights this by telling us: “The diversity I see in the difference between my day staff and committed night staff; the cultural differences between the varying nationals and overcoming the above mentioned challenges and developing my skills as a manager are what I thrive on and what a pleasure it is to be working in such an environment.”
It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here Stephen and we are very grateful to all you do to help with our on-going success. A huge thank you for taking the time out to talk with us!