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Automotive; Manufacturing; Retail
Siloed legacy support infrastructure
No documentation of service history
Inefficient internal collaboration
Manual ticket assignment
Unified support interface
Automated ticket assignment
Integration with internal applications
Time saved due to automation
First Response Time
Tickets handled per month
Bridgestone Corporation, the Japanese tire-manufacturing juggernaut, is one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. Headquartered in Tokyo, and boasting of a global presence across six continents and over 150 countries, Bridgestone’s acclaim as the world’s second-largest tire manufacturer is well deserved. A lesser-known fact is that the firm strives to infuse technology into all its operations, from manufacturing to post-sales service. To that end, it develops and maintains several software products to augment its customer service operations, and ensures that its engineers and field technicians are proficient in leveraging these products to provide better, faster customer service.
We spoke to Luke Gaspar, Field Engineer and Digital Engineering Leader at Bridgestone Tokyo, to understand how these products were used in conjunction with digital customer service to deliver stunning end-user experiences to those who put their trust in Bridgestone.
Luke prefaced a walkthrough of the firm’s customer service framework with an overview of their digital products. Bridgestone maintains a suite of proprietary software applications that field personnel use to collect and store product usage data (for example, how much wear a particular tire could take before it needed retreading). Customer service teams then use these products to access the collected tire care data in order to provide data-driven advice and solutions to their customers.
The customer service squad consists of 50+ sales reps, field engineers, and tire technicians, and is distributed across the US, the EU, and Japan. Luke explains that their agents receive an average of 1030 tickets a month on queries related to multiple products and that some queries are more technically-inclined than the others. Hence, queries were manually routed to agents based on the degree of technical knowledge they possessed on the subject of each ticket.
All of Bridgestone's incoming tickets and enquiries came via phone or email. Meanwhile, as the customer service org continued to grow and expand into new geographies, it outgrew its existing support framework. Shared inboxes are not built for scale, and presented a host of problems to the team – some of which are illustrated below.
“Support is communicated by email and phone to each region. We found that knowledge wasn’t really shared from country to country. Even if there was a solution to an existing issue, there wasn’t an easy way to share it. This was one of the key reasons we looked for a support platform - to scale and support our products.” - Luke Gaspar, Field Engineer
Undocumented support history: Emails are not conducive to documentation. The absence of a well-defined, documented, and searchable support platform meant that agents had to start from scratch to fix tickets to problems that may already have been solved in the past. This heavily impacted turnaround times, which, in turn, affected SLAs.
Inefficient internal collaboration: Internal collaboration on tickets had to be accomplished ad-hoc, and across siloed cross-geographical teams – this led to significant time wastage and ran the risk of issues being lost in translation.
Lack of self-service: Since phone and email were the only support channels available, customers could not triage and resolve minor issues on their own, forcing them to rely on the support team more often than was necessary.
A disconnect between the software products and support platform: Since the support system (emails!) was not linked to the applications, users had to leave the application to raise tickets, disrupting their user experience.
Once areas of improvement in Bridgestone’s customer service operations were identified, Luke began to shortlist vendors of software that could fix these inefficiencies and provide their customers with outstanding service. Competing offerings were distilled down to two – Zendesk, and Freshdesk. Eventually, Freshdesk was chosen for its ease of setup and use, as well as for its rich functionality – which, incidentally, solved every shortcoming the team had faced with its existing support infrastructure.
“Freshdesk’s agent portfolio, and how it worked, were very user-friendly – it had all the features we needed to collect tickets, assign tickets to different agents, and store information.” - Luke Gaspar, Field Engineer
Bridgestone went on to implement Freshdesk for most of its products, and across all of the geographies, it operated in. Over 50 agents who were spread across the USA, Europe, and Japan were on-boarded onto Freshdesk. The team was able to use the platform, along with its knowledge base and forum functionalities, to incredible effect, greatly expanding the scope and quality of their support operations.
“Freshdesk greatly helped in scaling and supporting our digital products!” - Luke Gaspar, Field Engineer
Let’s take a closer look at how Freshdesk added value to Bridgestone’s customer service infrastructure.
Freshdesk’s structured UI, seamless collaboration, and automatic conversion of emails to tickets made it incredibly easy for agents to sift through other tickets, reuse solutions, and work with each other to resolve customer inquiries faster. “Freshdesk helps our agents easily distribute and store common knowledge. This allows regional teams to better support their key customers'', Luke remarked. Furthermore, agents’ productivity was noted to have increased drastically. Bridgestone also uses a phone-based support solution that is linked to Freshdesk via API – all support calls are automatically converted into tickets that can be tracked and resolved. “[Freshdesk’s] common platform enables better customer service: Simpler escalation processes, transparent SLA monitoring, and a centralized knowledge base!”, says Luke.
Freshdesk’s built-in knowledge base and forum features helped customers explore help articles and FAQs before they contacted the support team, enabling them to obtain fixes to simple issues on their own. Bridgestone currently has nearly 500 solution articles on the knowledge base, and their customers love it. “The knowledge base is one of the first features we used, and we now use it with all our systems. We got some great customer feedback on that”, adds Luke. The knowledge base also allowed for tickets to be raised from within the same interface, in the event that a customer did not find an answer to their query within a help article.
Freshdesk allowed for a support widget to be placed in Bridgestone’s customer-facing applications. Customers could now raise tickets from right within the app. Freshdesk’s automation capabilities found extensive use here. “We input several fields from the widget when a ticket is submitted, which comes in handy for incoming tickets. For instance, we pass the ‘Country’ field from our app when a ticket is raised – we built automation rules within Freshdesk to ensure that the ticket goes to the right agent group in the right country”, Luke explains.
The team has begun to define SLA compliance rules for all support agents – diligent enforcement has resulted in adherence to a sound SLA. 91% of all high-priority tickets are resolved within the SLA of 12 hours per ticket, no matter how complex the query. “As we scale our support, we want to ensure we’re actually providing the levels of support we say we’ll provide”, says Luke, who is committed to being accountable to his customers.
In order to save time on manually assigning support queries to different agent groups based on the content of the ticket, Freshdesk’s automation capabilities were leveraged to devise an auto-assignment mechanism that accelerated the dispensation of tickets to the right departments – this led to average ticket age decreasing by over 97%, and over 35 hours being saved every month.
Freshdesk’s inbuilt analytics engine is used to monitor critical statistics – which digital products get the most tickets, how many escalations occur, and whether SLAs are being met on a regular basis.
Before Freshdesk was implemented, agents who encountered support tickets related to bugs in Bridgestone’s software had quite a task ahead of them. “Earlier, all the bug information had to be summarized and put in a DevOps ticket to alert the dev team – there was significant duplication of effort”, Luke explains. Freshdesk fixed this inconvenience by integrating via API with Azure DevOps, which has made life easier for agents. “Now, we just type the DevOps ticket ID into Freshdesk to link the ticket with the bug, which makes it easier to identify developments in DevOps”, he adds.
Luke eventually plans to integrate Freshdesk into the larger support macrocosm that Bridgestone operates across all of its digital products.
“Definitely – in the future, we plan to onboard more solutions [onto Freshdesk] ... There’s a lot of room for us to expand - we’re onboarding lots of agents, we’re really getting serious about support, and we’ll make sure that we support our digital products to the fullest with Freshdesk!”
Backed by a unified customer service platform, he’s confident that his team can deliver more cohesive and satisfactory customer engagements in the years to come. The team also plans to make extensive use of the reporting and analytics capabilities to streamline their processes, identify gaps in the support system, and preemptively fix them. The road ahead for Bridgestone’s international support team is long, yet exciting. Yet, with Freshdesk by their side, they – and their customers – are in good company.
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