As we kick off 2016 at Blacklane, my 2 year work-anniversary also appears on the horizon. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here that long already, and time has flown by, much like a Mercedes Benz on a German Autobahn.
In late 2015, we started doing rotation days, so that new Blacklane staff members from other departments actually get to experience our customers and drivers in real time, their questions, issues and praise on the multiple channels that we provide. This in turn increases their understanding of the needs of both groups, as well as the daily tasks and challenges within Customer Care, which benefits everyone. The rotation days are always finished with a feedback session, and one of the questions we generally always hear is “why isn’t Customer Care like other companies I’ve worked for?”.
This in itself tells me we’re doing something right, and the efforts we have put in place over the past years are bearing fruit. But what exactly is it that we do, that makes us different? I’ve been trying to distill that and put it into writing over the past days, and I think this is more or less the essence of it:
Diversity, recruiting and onboarding: We tend to prefer motivation and character over experience where possible. That doesn’t mean that we disregard experience at all, but if someone can show us a bubbly attitude in an interview, and a clear desire to solve an issue, then that goes a long way to convincing us. While we do have many people on board that have previous experience in either Customer Care or other guest facing areas (hotels and catering being the classic), it’s the combination of the above mentioned points that can get us excited about onboarding someone.
Furthermore, we take time onboarding our team members. In general, we aim for 2 weeks, however that can be extended if necessary. After those first weeks, the new colleagues are teamed with an experienced agent, so that questions can be asked as and when necessary within the daily operations. For a team of 70, having 2 full time trainers is also above average, and they have both worked in all areas of Blacklane Customer Care. Additionally, we don’t onboard more than three colleagues simultaneously. This makes the training extremely individual and realistic than a normal “classroom training” based on theory alone. The bubbliness of the two trainers is an additional advantage 🙂
Another advantage that we have, is that based in Berlin, we have the opportunity to hire some of the many people that move here from abroad. Being one of the only organisations that doesn’t need German speakers, our hotlines are English speaking, and the 70 people within Customer Care are from 27 countries. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a diverse team in my professional history!
KPIs: Of course we measure KPIs, as in probably every Customer Care organization around the globe. We don’t focus on productivity though, at least not on an individual level. If it takes 10 minutes to solve an issue, then the team knows they can take those ten minutes. Setting an AHT target (average handling time) will only serve to add pressure to a situation, where the aim should be a solution and not a target in minutes and seconds. While I realise that this is becoming more and more common, and spearheaded by Zappos, it makes for a much more comfortable environment for those folks that are spending 8 hours of their time on the phone handling inbound calls.
This can be challenging for the team leads and managers, especially if we see a peak in volumes. We tend to battle that by supporting the colleagues on the phone (getting them drinks, taking over other tasks) rather than imposing AHT targets. Of the 5 individual metrics that someone of the first level team has, 4 are qualitative and only one is quantitative – Availability on the phone lines. These metrics, as well as other team/department related metrics, influences their monthly bonus payout.
Time for each other: As with most companies, Blacklane also provides events for team building and outside activities. Apart from monthly Lottery Lunches and weekly Freaky Fridays, we have quarterly team events, and we always get the Customer Care team to organise them themselves, without any guidance from me or the team leads. These events have resulted in an afternoon rafting down the Spree (Berlins’ main river), Laser-Tagging, Bubble Football (see above) and of course the occasional late night in a club or 3. However, due to the nature of our diversity, the team tends to find friends within Blacklane much faster than within a normal company that has a much lower level of cultural differences.
As an example, many people who join us are in a temporary residence when they first come to Berlin, and then need some time to find their own apartment. Once in late 2014, someone found a new flat, and after mentioning this in the office, had 5 volunteers to help her move before the day was over, and she hadn’t even asked.
Another example would be everyones’ love of foreign food, especially sweets, cakes etc. With such a large team, there tends to be someone on vacation a lot of the time, and although not all may travel the world, many visit their families back in their homeland. It’s become a tradition for people to bring back local delicacies after having been away, and our “feeding corner” is generally well stocked with a variety of delicacies from around the world. The email threads that follow such announcements are hilarious, and ensure that we are all aware of a new taste waiting for everyone to try.
The team breaking out in a cheerful “Happy Birthdays” song is just as common as is a chorus of Lionel Ritchie impersonations when someone walks into the office and says “Hello” in a slightly singalong fashion, and as we have a few colleagues from southern European countries, some hellos and goodbyes take a few minutes more than just a handshake.
Over the next weeks, 4 people from the team will be introducing their areas within Blacklane, and will also outline what they think makes #BLCC unique. You’ll get the chance to read insights from Lina (from our newest team that takes care of Events), Juraj (who works in Service Control), Maida, a senior agent from the Service Quality team and Tai who is one of our 1st Level team leads.