The central hub of the BSH customer support system is the Customer Service Centre in Kettering, dealing with all four of the company’s brands – Bosch, Siemens, Neff and Gaggenau. Opened in 2006, it includes a contact centre handling engineer visit requests, replacement spare part sales, customer liaison and product advice. It also provides a centralised location for phone calls, letters and emails related to customer service, and works closely with the BSH HQ in Milton Keynes. Other back up staff, based in Kettering, provide support for field service engineers and IT services.
Customers come into contact with the Kettering service centre when they place a call as a result of a problem with their appliances, less frequently when they need spare parts. In fact, two-thirds of the centre’s work are repairs, and one third is replacement of spare parts and accessories. In the past, these functions were handled by two separate departments but now they are accessed on one number. The centre staff, using a question tree, help the customer to determine whether they need to repair the appliance or whether just a spare part will solve the problem. “This complements engineers’ skills since service advisors using the diagrams of appliances gain in-depth knowledge of the products. This also eliminates the need for unnecessary engineer’s visits and expense for the customers,“ explains Colin Embling, contact centre operations manager.
The information captured by the call centre staff booking the calls is reviewed by a team of professional engineers (the ‘pre-prep’ team) who look at the fault description and assign the parts which are needed for the repair – this is the problem diagnosis stage. This process lasts until 4.15pm allowing necessary parts to be ordered the same day and delivered during the night to the engineer responsible for the repair. “This process has been put in place to give an engineer the best possible chance to complete the job during the first visit,” says Colin Embling. In fact, the respondents to the D&G Survey confirmed that 82.7% of BSH repairs were completed in one visit – creating a benchmark for the industry.
The field repair work is carried out by 280 local area engineers who are directly employed by the company but operate from home in their local areas. Their work is coordinated by 15 area managers who also supervise the BSH service partners that service the three brands in remote areas of the country. The Gaggenau brand has its own dedicated service support network.
Each engineer has on average between eight and ten service calls a day.
Motivating such a large service network spread throughout the country is not an easy task. “The key is regular communication. We make sure that everybody understands why we operate the way we do and why we had to made a number of changes to our service system,” comments Steve Clarke, UK service manger. In the past BSH customer service was delivered by seven smaller call centres which worked with a group of self-employed local engineers.
The centre is open seven days a week; 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm on Saturday and 9am-3pm on Sunday. It closes only on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. “This greatly helps with customer satisfaction levels. Moreover, it smoothes the demand peaks, and especially on very busy Monday mornings when we receive a quarter of all our calls – over five thousand of them,” says Colin.
The key to the delivery of the first class customer service by the Kettering centre is its staff. There are 84 people working in the call centre and eight people in the customer liaison team handling enquiries and complaints. They are predominantly female and on average 30-45 years old. However, the centre also employs a group of Customer Care NVQ students who are on a fixed nine-month contract gaining customer care experience with the company.
“Because we started from scratch in Kettering we had an opportunity to look at the roles in the centre and incorporate into them various elements which would make the jobs attractive. Then we were able to recruit the right people for these posts. Our employees understand that they represent the BSH brands and generate income for the business,” explains Colin.
The call centre staff have an opportunity to develop their skills and expand their roles. They move through three levels of competency which gives them job progression opportunities. “Service advisors are first trained at entrance skills – booking an engineer visit and diagnosing the problem – then they go through the booking spare parts module and finally they can gain product advice skills. This greatly contributes to our high staff retention levels,” continues Colin.
“The aim of the centre is to reinforce the reputation of BSH brands by supporting them with first class service. People working for us are very motivated and focused on improving customer service. The aim – one call and one visit – makes sense for both parties – for us and for the customer who takes time for the engineer’s visit and wants the problem to be efficiently dealt with. People at the centre are aware that they have a very important part to play in this process.”
The company also operates a bonus scheme for people who exceed the expectations of their roles.
‘Winning the D&G Award was widely communicated throughout the company and created a huge morale boost for the staff working in the centre. It reinforced the importance of what we do here in Kettering and made us think about how we go about retaining the award, “says Steve Clarke. Then he adds: “To win this award three years after setting up this new system has made us all very proud.”
The company benchmarks every aspect of the centre’s operations, such as the average length of an engineer’s visit. BSH has also invested in advanced call monitoring software which records all calls for training and quality control purposes. Moreover, “all customers who contact us are treated exactly the same; whether they are D&G customers, under or out of the guarantee,“ stresses Steve.
“BSH also carries its own survey of over 25,000 customers per year (with the return rate of 8,000 responses) to improve further the company’s performance and processes. It showed that if the consumer is totally satisfied with the repair service, 95% of them will buy the brand again. In addition to following up every complaint in order to determine what went wrong, we also encourage the customers to send us positive feedback. We circulate it in the centre with congratulations to the people responsible for such exceptional service.”
Steve believes that the BSH commitment to customer service benefits its independent dealers. “We want the retailers to feel confident about selling our products to the customer. Recommending the products which are reliable and backed up by excellent service, the retailers reinforce their relationship with their customers.”
Finally, I ask Steve what’s unique about BSH’s approach to customer care. “It is the passion of our staff and the commitment to service quality of the BSH Group management. Customer service is the cornerstone of the entire company.”