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[INTERVIEW] SELECTEL: TECHNICAL SUPPORT AS CUSTOMER
SATISFACTION GUARANTEE

Alexandra Shiryaeva
Chief Customer Officer at UseDesk
Before the interview, it always was a mystery for me – how the hosting-providers that shoulder tons of responsibilities manage the heavy workload. When your words 'please, hold on, we are working to fix it' cause a serious panic and directly affect someone's business, there is nothing left but to take the work of the technical support very seriously. The quality of the support influences the level of customers' loyalty and trust, along with the volume of sales in a long-term perspective.

The technical support manager and Product Manager at Selectel shared experience of building a good support operating in crazy 24/7 coverage. They explained what to do when nothing works and customers threaten you; how KPI is measured in the data-center world; how support is important to a business in general, and how it turned out that Tyrannosaurus became Selectel's lucky charm.
Balakirev Anton
Product Manager
Savelyev Alexander
Head of Technical Support Department
ALEXANDRA:
How to create a work schedule for the support team operating 24/7/365 and to avoid situations of working overtime or burnout?
ALEXANDER:
To provide technical support 24/7/365, 12 hours work shifts were implemented. Since the flow of incoming requests varies throughout the day, we added an additional 8-hour shifts during peak hours.

Special attention is given to the analysis of the flow of incoming requests: in addition to determining the periods of increased load, we monitor the reasons behind increase in number of calls and identify the tasks of the same type, the solution of which can be automated. Doing this limits the growth of the unprocessed requests queue and unloads the technical support.

It cannot be said that burnout is the number one problem as new services and new tasks are constantly added. In addition, the team members get professional and career development, and we encourage this as much as we can - we offer additional training programs, participation in conferences and hackathons.
ALEXANDRA:
What is the importance of providing a good support in your field?
ALEXANDER:
Support greatly affects the customer experience. Its role is not significant, I would say, only at the stage of sale. After the project has been launched, the customer forms an idea of the service quality based, to a large extent, on the experience of communicating with the support team. This experience also affects decisions on further cooperation or increase in the services used. Standard scenario: a customer places spare capacity with a provider, he solves the problems, realizes that he is comfortable with the level of services and support, and then he transfers a major part of the infrastructure to a provider that delivers better support.
ALEXANDRA:
How Selectel's support is different from other hosting-providers' support?
ALEXANDER:
The main goal of technical support is to help a customer but not all companies remember this. Even when the problem is not in our area of responsibility, we consider it our duty to advise the customer what to do to resolve the problem as painlessly as possible.
ALEXANDRA:
Can you tell about any case when the whole work was paralyzed?
ALEXANDER:
Back in 2012, we had two extremely difficult days. On September 24-25th, we experienced the longest downtime in the company's history. That was caused by multiple factors that added on to another. The most unusual one was the interruption of connection over the fiber-optic channels. The emergency team found out that the cable was damaged by hooligans who fired it with an air rifle. Actually, this is how our mascot T-Rex was born.

In situations like this, the most important thing for support team to do is to take the initiative, to lead and control the direction of the conversation, and not to be influenced by customer's emotions. That's important to make it clear that we are all working on the problem and we are also interested in solving it. To manage working in difficult situations, we develop soft-skills in our employees through special trainings.
ALEXANDRA:
When a customer cannot do something on his own, he can use Service Administration feature. Is it a sort of preventive measure that helps to avoid customer's frustration?
ANTON:
Not really, it's a service for those who want to save time and resources on infrastructure maintenance while getting high-quality service.

We are responsible for the server's software and we guarantee the operation of customer's services. As part of the service, we install and configure software, add key components monitoring and set up data backups. This allows quick detection of unusual situations and gives time to resolve them even before a customer reaches out.
ALEXANDRA:
What is the difference between b2b support and b2c support in your segment?
ANTON:
Like elsewhere, b2b-support remains very conservative. This work includes many formal procedures that require a complicated paperwork and extremely high level of accuracy in responses and actions. An individual focus is important because sometimes a customer is not ready to run the standard diagnostics in case of failures or follow the general practices of interaction with the support.
ALEXANDRA:
How to assess the performance of the support team?
ALEXANDER:
We are not inventing a bicycle when doing our job rather we focus on the classical indicators:

  • time of reaction to requestе
  • average time of useful response
  • customer satisfaction

These indicators are incorporated in KPI of the support services. At the same time, an initiative and focus on customer needs are valued and encouraged.
ALEXANDRA:
ЧIn order to manage the support of a complex IT product, does the manager need to know the product? Or it does not play a key role?
ANTON:
It depends on the "cultural code" of the company. There are different approaches and they all bear fruit.

Being a leader is not an easy task. In my opinion, the most important thing for manager is to feel his team. If that requires an ability to build "Gentoo from the source codes", then you need to learn how to do it yourself.
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