Sharing expertise: interview with Eseye’s Technical Customer Support Expert
Robert Craig leads Eseye’s IT and Technical Support team across 96 countries and has been with Eseye since 2013. Client-facing technology and major back-office support are key areas for Eseye, and part of our unique approach to 24/7 customer support. Innovation and technology deployed for best in class service delivery for our customers are the heart of this strategy. Robert admits his position comes with some challenges but welcomes the way these make his role unique and insightful. “Customer focus is always important, but even more so during their product development and deployment phases”, says Robert, “Sometimes, before we implemented 24/7 support team, we would receive calls as late as 10pm from customers testing their devices in very remote locations, needing information about data transmission and we’ve found that spending 5 minutes giving them the support that will allow them to keep going with their activities makes such a big difference, even if we’d rather be doing something else. Today the phone is routed directly to the support team on duty”.
Q: Does supporting immature and mature clients differ?
A: Yes, of course. Customers who are new to the IoT market are often first at attempting to put a particular connected solution together and therefore more often than not require a great deal of our support to supplement their own staff. With these customers, we spend a lot of time figuring out how we can manipulate the GSM communications aspects of their solution to make their devices behave in a particular way on the cellular networks, often as a compensation for some still-to-be-developed features. Tools like our cloud based SIM management portal and custom APIs mean that they can support themselves to a certain extent but often it’s a case of showing them how to do it first time around. The portal and its associated diagnostic tools are invaluable to field and development teams as they provide debug options for devices including those with, limited display or where behaviours are not well established. It is also very helpful when there is a need to troubleshoot a device that has stopped communicating for an unknown reason often allowing more mature customers to troubleshoot their own issues within their own support team(s).
Q: What if the devices aren’t working?
A: Once a device is in deployment, my team continues to troubleshoot and identify whether there is a problem with the modem/router or if it is the SIM/cellular network. Knowledge about the device’s normal behaviour (which we get from Device Verification testing prior to deployment) helps. However, despite the high levels of technical competence within our customers, and with varying levels of communications technology expertise, I sometimes have to ask bafflingly basic questions such as, “Are you sure the device is actually powered on?”.
Q: What is the most outrageous query you have had during your tenure with Eseye?
A: I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever received a really outrageous support query. The closest one was just after Orange had merged with T-Mobile to become EE and were starting to turn off certain masts where they thought they had redundant cover. One of our customers had one of our “early-days” single net Orange SIMs in their device and when Orange turned off the mast, the device stopped working because it couldn’t roam onto the T-Mobile mast. The customer then requested that I demand of Orange to switch the mast back on and turn off the T-Mobile mast instead. As much I do my best to keep our customers satisfied, unfortunately, as anyone dealing with mobile network operators will know, this was something completely beyond my control or ability to influence. It did make us all smile though, once explained.
Q: Customer satisfaction is important in your job. Are you able to gauge that somehow?
A: During any pre-deployment customer trial, which normally lasts for 90 days, we always conduct a satisfaction survey. At the moment our results run at averages of 98-100% complete satisfaction. I think it is because of the quick responses we provide and the amount of time and consideration we put into each request. That, by the way, gives us a good understanding of the customer’s unique product. Currently we are striving towards a new goal – to get our total average response times down to below 3 hours. We do understand that when a customer has an issue, they want it resolved with urgency, and this is what we deliver.
Q: Do you have any recommendations about what a prospect should ask a potential connectivity supplier during the deployment?
A: If the application has anything like business critical connectivity then the first two I would ask for are an excellent level of technical competency to understand the wide variety of IoT devices and 24/7 support. A supplier needs to understand how a product works or be interested in finding out. This knowledge empowers them to more effectively make informed decisions regarding the support of a device. Then, depending on the nature of the business, it is important to know at which times a member of the support team can actually resolve the issue and how long a potential wait it may be. When it comes to connected retail payment terminals or parking meters, for example, the problem often needs to be resolved immediately as our customers have “customers waiting”. Hence it is crucial to ask the supplier whether 24/7 support is available.
One last thing I would ask for is “help-yourself tools”. Very often our customers can control and manipulate their devices and data transmissions themselves, without contacting our Support Team and it may be a quicker way of resolving a query… even though we are always happy to help.
Q: So, come on, is IoT really that difficult? Surely it is just like connecting mobile phones and we have all been doing that for decades…
A: In the world of IoT devices often need to be made to be extremely small. It’s easy to imagine connecting your phone to your fridge or washing machine in order to check stock levels or to schedule the next wash when you are out of the house for example, however some of our customers have devices which quite literally get implanted into animals. Can you imagine implanting your smart phone into a race horse or a dog to track location and vital signs such as heart rate for example?
Often this means that sacrifices need to be made on the amount of processing power available, storage/memory capacity or available power capacity for example. Each of these can have a knock on effect on the overall performance of the device, limiting the power available will have an effect on the maximum transmission power meaning that it will only be able to connect to a cellular mast within a much more limited range. So where your mobile phone might connect in a reliable fashion for an occasional voice call, or SMS or data session, bear in mind that this IoT device could be less than a 20th of the size and in some cases, needs to be connected 24/7 with an active data session transmitting data in real time, potentially from a very harsh and remote environment.
When you have a problem with your smart phone, often you can simply reboot it to resolve that problem. Many of the devices we support however are extremely difficult to get to. One of our favourite examples are connected street lights, in some of these cases, in order to be able to perform a device reboot this particular customer would need to close the road, hire a cherry picker to get to the device, and then replace the device (because there is no reboot button and the device is in a sealed container).