The customer support department is something HotelTime Solutions is really proud of. Our clients can entirely rely on the support team and regularly appreciate their work. The department provides support in several languages. It is possible to contact them in Czech, English, and other specific languages used in the areas where HotelTime operates, namely for example in Thai, Slovak, or Sinhala.
The customer support department has undergone several changes during history and is constantly improving. Thanks to that and thanks to the people who create the team, it is now truly one of the (many) benefits that HotelTime Solutions bring to its clients.
The customer support team is managed by Martina Durtova, who is celebrating her 10th anniversary at HotelTime this year. During that time, she has built a great department.
In an interview, Martina explains the secrets to the success of the HotelTime support department, speaks about how it all started, and about the current team’s plans.
Before we start talking about HotelTime customer support, tell me, Martina, how did you get the position in the first place?
At first, I worked in a hotel, which was a very time-consuming job. I left that position and started to work for a cosmetics company which put me on the other side of the barricade. I stopped working in hospitality and became a host in hotels. Then when I wanted to move forward again, I wanted to go back to the hospitality industry. At that time, HotelTime was looking for someone for the support team, I liked it, so I applied and they chose me for the position.
Was the whole customer support department being created?
It already existed but at the very beginning we only had a small office, and we dealt with every little thing our clients needed. We were providing support during all the stages of implementation. There were just two of us at that time and we had no system at all, no established internal procedures, so we had to communicate with each other practically non-stop. But it was a pleasure to work with my colleague, I learned a lot from him.
What did you learn? Some technical knowledge for example?
Yes, the technical side of things was part of what he taught me. It was important. The support department needs to understand the product, the purpose of each function, the practice of hotels, and the technical complexity of a specific problem. At the same time, we must take into account the fact that we provide a comprehensive solution and we have a lot of integration with third-party software. This means that we have a very comprehensive knowledge base about our partner companies as well. We build close relationships with some of them and work together to support customers so they do not have to act as an intermediary in communication. Because of that, it was important for me to start thinking outside of the box, which means to keep in mind our products, but also the knowledge about systems that are integrated with us. We have to manage all this information and at the same time not start doing the work that support of a third-party system should be doing.
How does your department work in practice?
We knew from the beginning that we didn’t want to be any kind of call center support. We also wanted clients to be able to help themselves in the first stage so they would not need to contact us. So, I chose software that in the first place allowed us to collect support tickets from all possible channels – email, chat, phone, or website. And secondly, it allowed us to create a customer support web page where we have a database of FAQs, various manuals, and information that are regularly updated. It can be searched by keywords, and it can also be found by searching on Google.
And what about the management of the team?
We have an internal system that sets instructions about what exactly should happen with the tickets we receive, and the team is divided into three levels. Each has its own work. As a whole, it makes perfect sense. We use great software to collect requests from clients and internally we have a set of rules saying what should happen with each one of these requests. The rules and processes speed up our work. Even though we do not have any agreements with our clients concerning the time for response, I know that the team answers in a matter of hours. They even have a timer set that makes sure everyone reacts on time. The result is that we solve 80% of the requirements at the first time of asking, which is great. But it’s not just about processes, of course, you also must take care of the people in your team.
That is true, especially for you. Your team does a job that consists of dealing with problems all time long. It must be difficult.
It can be quite frustrating, so I talk to them regularly. We discuss work and personal things as well. I try to assign them tasks that match their personality and preferences. At the same time, I try to be creative and break their work routine. Typically, I come up with some competitions, so they compete in who answers the tickets the fastest for example. I enjoy it when they have fun and want to participate.
In addition to a functioning team and well-established internal processes, is there anything else behind the fact that you have such great results?
On top of what you said I would mention that we understand our clients. That’s because everyone in the support team must have experience in working in a hotel. It allows us to have an individual approach to clients. We do not use any prepared answers. That’s the first thing I want to add. And secondly, I would point out the fact that people stay in the team for a long time. It has even happened repeatedly in the past that someone has started in the support team and then after some time moved to another position in the company. The fact that they stay for a long time means that they have a great amount of knowledge about our software. These people do their job very well and even help to train new colleagues.
What are you working on right now?
We have a new customer success program, which is an extension of regular customer support. This program is part of HotelTime license so is available for all our clients. Its purpose is to take care of our customers in a very targeted way. We know that each property is different and within this program, we want to find out how our clients use our software and its functions and give them advice on possible improvements. It is reverse support I would say; a customer success program means that we are actively approaching our clients. We explain to them which features can enrich their operation process or guest experience.