Slow days are good days for customer service representatives at SDN Communications.
“If my kids are bored and not doing anything, that’s a good day for us. Our network is stable,” says Cassie Baldwin, contact center manager at Sioux Falls-based SDN.
The people Baldwin affectionately refers to as her kids are members of a team of dedicated, well-trained and experienced SDN employees who have a lot of responsibility. They remotely monitor networks, watch buildings and assist clients 24 hours a day, every day of the year, in SDN’s Network Surveillance Center, or NSC.
'We are the first line of tech support. So we are the voice of SDN. We want our customers’ experience to start off on a positive note, even if they are in the midst of turmoil or chaos.' - Cassie Baldwin
SDN customer service representatives are available around the clock to contact clients if trouble is evident and to answer calls from customers who have questions or concerns. Employees in the NSC, essentially perform the initial triage and diagnostic work to assist clients, Baldwin says.
She is extremely proud of the team’s performance in 2014. NSC staffers achieved a 99.51 percent rating in a quality assessment audit.
“Our goal was 98 percent. We surpassed that. I think that speaks volumes for my staff and how seriously they take this,” Baldwin says.
The score was based on random checks of each technician’s phone conversations and written records that involved interaction with a customer.
The performance rating for 2014 was up from 97.96 percent in 2013, the first year an audit was conducted.
The NSC has 21 employees, including Baldwin and center supervisor Sam Hoffart. Roger Schumacher is the lead representative. Hoffart and Schumacher do most of the evaluating.
Client feedback is welcome, too.
“We want our customers to know we’re dedicated to giving them the best service possible. If we’re not, we need to know about it. We can’t change what we don’t know,” Baldwin says.
Within the past two years, the NSC has added a second tier of technical expertise to its staff.
- About 15 first-tier staffers are available for initial interactions with clients
- 5 second-tier staffers are available to provide a higher level of technical assistance
Baldwin tries to have at least one second-tier staffer available on every shift to assist the initial responders.
“To me, a customer at 3 a.m. deserves the same service as a customer at 9 a.m., says Baldwin who worked in customer service for other companies before joining SDN’s staff in 2005.
The NSC always is staffed with at least two employees, but it often has three and sometimes four. Staffers monitor 12 large screens on the office wall as well as two smaller screens on their desks.
If bad weather is forecast in the region, one of the large screens on the wall might be tuned to the Weather Channel on TV to help predict possible disruptions or spikes in computer networking traffic that clients might experience. Sometimes a screen might be tuned to a South Dakota Public Broadcasting telecast to make sure the signal is strong.
However, a lot of staffers’ work involves monitoring input that is much more complicated than a TV broadcast.
The NSC provides monitoring, surveillance and alerting services to industries such as banks, medical institutions, retail stores and government offices. In addition to reducing the work burden on clients’ IT staffs, information gathered by the NSC can help clients better manage their data flow and use of broadband connectivity.
At some call centers, employees are expected to resolve a client’s issue within a limited amount of time. Time restrictions are not part of SDN’s client-response policy. Customer service representatives need to develop rapport with customers and assure them their issues are important, Baldwin says.
“If it takes us 20 minutes to resolve your issue, that’s what we’re going to do,” she says. “I’m not going to say, ‘Speed it up! You’re over the three-minute limit. That’s going to affect your raise.’”
Even on slow days, staffers must remain alert so that they can quickly spot signs of trouble or respond promptly to inquiries.
“We are the first line of tech support. So we are the voice of SDN. We want our customers’ experience to start off on a positive note, even if they are in the midst of turmoil or chaos,” Baldwin says.