I joined the Milestone Americas team over a year ago with more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, most recently as the Chief Information Officer for a regional healthcare system. Interestingly, the healthcare facility I worked for had a Milestone-based video management system in use.
With the continued advancement of networked video and the open platform, this has been a very positive and educational transition for me into the video security space. My move to Milestone has been a great fit because, from an IT perspective, whether it is one system or over 250, you are always trying to service your customers and deliver an excellent experience. This is very much in line with the Milestone culture.
As an IT director, I have been responsible for building network support, desktop support, help desks, application support teams and often worked as a project manager on the infrastructure side of the house. I spent a lot of time building IT shops or cleaning up IT shops, and a lot of the work focused on providing more efficient, effective service to the customers.
Three Aspects to the Call Experience
The customer call experience has three aspects: the actual technical problem that needs to be solved, the soft skills of making sure the customer is listened to and treated properly, and both the efficiency and the way you do the business behind the scenes.
In an IT technical support environment, one service measurement is how long cases are open, referred to as case age. The goal is to close cases with as much efficiency as possible. We have adopted this measurement at Milestone and managing case age is important to us.
In 2017, we only closed 52 percent of cases in seven days or less. In 2018, we closed 78.8 percent of all cases in seven days or less. In total, we had 26,638 cases closed by America’s Tech Support in 2018. If we look at a 14-day period in 2017, we closed 83.26 percent of cases in 14 days or less, and so far in 2019, we are closing 90.96 percent of cases in 14 days or less – an admirable achievement in the IT world as well as in our industry — but we can do more.
Lowering Call Volume with Complete Support
Traditionally, tech support teams often become like call centers that measure success by highest volume of calls handled, with the driving focus to help the customer as quickly as possible to get them off the phone and get on to the next call. At Milestone, we do something very deliberate and different. A unique thing about the way we provide tech support is that we are not solely focused on call speed; Milestone is also looking to reduce future issues by providing complete support.
A successful support call for us, is of course to take care of the customer issues as efficiently as possible, but while we have them on the phone, we also ask related questions to help discover ways to optimize their system or even find other matters to address.
Our goal is to solve the immediate issue and proactively work to reduce their need for assistance in the future.
We also want our support staff to take their time and address issues correctly the first time. And even though we are asking the support team to take time with customers, our average hold time currently is less than 1 minute and 40 seconds. Even so, we are looking to add to our staff to reduce hold time even further.
Benefits of Proactive Care
In line with our policy of taking the necessary time with customers, a significant way to head off issues and reduce incidents is through the use of Milestone Care, which is a suite of maintenance and support services that provide an added layer of protection, ensuring that a video system always functions as it should.
System administrators are busy, and things often do not get applied or upgraded in a timely fashion, so they become more vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. With Milestone Care they can get assistance with complex upgrades. Alternatively, they can contract for our Professional Services team to facilitate and accomplish the upgrade process.
From an IT support service point of view, I highly recommend Milestone Care. It means that end users, partners and integrators have access to a Milestone engineer to assist them if needed.
And as further proof that our services make a very real difference for customers, we consistently score a greater than 90 percent approval rating in our customer satisfaction surveys.
Advancing the Cause
My directive is to continue to grow our tech support teams in Latin America and North America. We are currently looking to hire four more people for our Mexico City office, also adding support staff in our Portland, Oregon, location. By the end of 2019, we should total a staff of 34 in these regions.
As part of our growth, we aim to expand our hours for East Coast customers. Currently, our call support for them begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The challenge is that a lot of customers in that time zone come to work early to avoid high traffic, and they need to get things done. Imagine an engineer who gets to the office at 6:00 a.m. and wants to deal with issues before the business opens, but can’t call Milestone Technical Support until 9:00 a.m. It can be a challenge. We aim to increase our hours to better support those customers.
This may sound a bit cliché — because everyone in service says it — but we really do want our team to be a true partner to our sales and business development teams. When our account managers are in the field discussing Milestone, we want them to lead with our support. Our Partner Service and Support team is a significant competitive advantage, and we want to make sure we are one of the many great reasons why customers choose Milestone.
We can achieve all of this by optimizing our current resources, increasing our staff, extending our hours of operation and by more closely partnering with other departments to reduce customer headaches further upstream.
I have learned a great deal and really enjoyed my first year and a half with Milestone, and I think my IT perspective has been of value. I am very much looking forward to the next year and beyond.
By Michael Gaul, Senior Manager, Technical Services – Americas, Milestone Systems
(Editor’s note: the feature image for this article shows a bunch of the Tech Support guys gathered to talk through and brainstorm on a customer’s issue, pulling from each other’s expertise to get to the resolution. – Courtney)