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Opposing Viewpoints: The Support Team and Helpdesk Take on Global Service Delivery

Note from the editor: The helpdesk and support team play very different roles within the contact center. As such, they approach and see things differently.  We want to explore those differences in a featured article each month. 

In today’s global market, contact centers must be prepared to deal with customers across many languages and time zones. This presents different challenges for every department. How does the support team deal with these challenges, and how is that different from the approach of the helpdesk?  We’ll explore the differences in this edition of Opposing Viewpoints.

Global Service Delivery from a Support Team Perspective

As the Manager of the Premier Support team, I can safely say that we deal with customers from all over the world and from every time zone.  Unfortunately, my team members don’t speak multiple languages and we’re only available from 8am-8pm, so we’ve had to come up with other options to assist global customers with specific support needs. 

About six months ago, our only Spanish speaking support agent was promoted to a new team, leaving us with no one to handle Spanish interactions.  With the majority of our non-English speaking customers being Spanish speakers, we began the recruitment process for a replacement.  During that time, agents got creative and started utilizing Google Translate in order to assist non-English speakers via email.  Unfortunately we couldn’t assist via phone or chat, but we did our best to communicate that the customer could email us for a quick response in their native tongue.  Since utilizing this resource, we’ve supported customers in a variety of languages, including Portuguese, Italian, French, and German, just to name a few.  With each response, agents always include that they’ve used Google Translate, which helps to make sense of any errors in the grammar, spelling, etc. 

Regarding our hours of support, and the needs of customers on the other side of the planet, we now offer level one support from 4am until 10pm in an attempt to cover as many hours as possible.  While we have yet to take the leap into 24hr support, our customers overseas have become accustomed to our hours and know that they can call us at 4am on the dot if need be.   We’re always happy to help and we encourage email requests if they have non-urgent matters during off hours.  While we are unable to meet special requests for off hour phone/chat support, we do ensure that we stick to our daily scheduled hours in an effort to maintain consistency, quality, and availability.  The goal has and will always be to provide outstanding service regardless of what’s required. 

Global Service Delivery from a Helpdesk Perspective

As part of the helpdesk team, our interactions with customers in other countries often come from special, one-off call requests. If a client in a different time zone is having a technical issue that other means of support are unable to resolve, then my team may schedule an outbound call with a client, utilizing screen-sharing software such as GoToMeeting if needed. In terms of hours, my team has a little bit more flexibility to make outbound calls than the frontline support team. The customer-facing queues that my team operates are only open from 9 am to 6 pm, but I do have at least one agent staffed between 8 am and 8 pm in order to assist internal employees. Thus, we have been able to make outbound calls as late as 8 pm, even though that is outside of my team’s standard hours for speaking with customers. This has worked out well in situations where the client was a full 12 hours ahead of us and thus not able to practically call within our standard hours. In order to respect our agents’ existing schedules, we don’t offer calls outside of the 8 am – 8 pm window; however, this is a broad enough timeframe window that we have yet to encounter a scenario where we weren’t able to find a time that suited both parties. We have even utilized this approach for outreach to unsatisfied customers in some cases, which has proved to be very successful.

Generally, when it comes to customers who can’t speak English at all, our current framework is that these customers will usually go through our frontline support team and if they have any technical issues that can’t be resolved, support will escalate on their behalf to my team. We will troubleshoot and triage the issue and report our findings to the support rep, who can then communicate back to the customer. This is partly due to practical considerations, as I don’t currently have any bilingual agents on my team, but it also is our normal policy for English-speaking clients as well. In the majority of all escalated support cases, we will not speak to the customer directly, but rely on the support agent who initially spoke with the customer to pass on any of our findings. Since the issues that we do tend to handle are usually more technical in nature, this model also works quite well for our non-English speaking customers. Additionally, although our customer base does extend across multiple countries, the majority of even our foreign customers do speak English, so we have not yet encountered a scenario where a non-English speaking customer required a level of technical assistance that our current model was unable to accommodate.

How does your contact center handle the challenge of serving customers across many languages and timezones?  Do your policies vary by department?  Share your comments below.