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First contact resolution
A leading disruptor in the publishing industry, Hindawi Limited is one of the world’s largest publishers of peer-reviewed open access journals.
Hindawi aims to make academic research open to read and use by anyone, anywhere in the world. Open-access publishing has been gaining strides in the last 2 decades, and Hindawi, founded in 1997, has been at the center of this movement.
We spoke to Karl Yates, Customer Services Manager at Hindawi, to understand how the publishing house manages its support team through Freshdesk while also collaborating with multiple teams internally.
Karl’s team deals with both internal and external customers at Hindawi. “We have a wide customer base, and tend to get completely different queries based on the customer type.”
Hindawi deals with four types of customers:
Authors: These are individuals or institutions submit research to the 220+ journals Hindawi manages and who pay for this research to be published if it successfully passes peer review and Editorial assessment. Their queries typically relate to the status of the manuscript, payment enquiries, etc.
Editors: These are internal customers mainly, with the exception of guest editors that come on board for niche projects. Their queries typically deal with the management and distribution of manuscripts.
Reviewers: This consists of external customers who peer-review the research to ensure that it is up to standard. Their queries typically deal with submitting review reports.
Readers: End-consumers of all research published by Hindawi. Their queries typically relate to the scientific content of articles.
“Our mission is to place the researcher at the heart of everything we do, making sure to remove any barriers that get in the way. It lines up with the philosophy of Open Access as well.” Karl explained, “I do my best to ensure we are always striving for openness and transparency with regards to our customer engagement.”
Initially, Hindawi managed support through Gmail, but they realized that the company was growing too fast for this method to stay effective. “We had multiple group inboxes that were being shared by multiple people and it led to a lot of confusion. Some of the issues we faced were the lack of visibility on whether or not an email had already been responded to, siloed teams and communications, and a lack of ownership. Customers were being passed from team to team, and this led to delays in responses and resolutions.” Karl said, “Another key issue was the inability to gather data or learn from customer interactions.”
Karl began evaluating customer service solutions, and that’s when he found Freshdesk.
“What really stood out to me about Freshdesk was the simple user interface. It’s deceptively powerful with automation and AI capabilities but still simple and easy to use. We’ve been able to set up some pretty complicated workflows in the background with the help of automation which helps us save time and effort.”
Customer Service Manager
Hindawi operates with a mix of in-house and outsourced customer service teams. “The outsourced team are the frontline staff, but there are also agents in London who help. Freshdesk is a big reason that outsourcing has been a success for us.”
Karl went on to elaborate on how collaboration with the outsourced support team has been easy for his agents. “Distance has become a non-issue, really. With the help of Freshdesk, our agents in London are able to add notes to tickets and help answer complicated questions when needed. We’re able to all see a record of the conversation going back-and-forth, and when needed, we’re able to pull information from previous tickets to help solve issues.”
Hindawi also makes use of automated assignment of queries to ensure the tickets get to the right agent without delay, saving time and effort. “We have seen major productivity improvements in terms of customers being redirected to the correct contact person very quickly and being kept informed, with an average first response time of 4 hours for these queries.”
Up until now, Hindawi has primarily focused on single-channel support via email. “Our customers have varied reasons for reaching out to support, and with email, it’s been fairly easy to ensure that the ticket gets to the right person without any problems. It becomes more difficult to filter effectively when you move to other channels.”
That being said, Karl admitted that his team has already begun to incorporate social channels by pulling data from Twitter and Facebook Messenger onto Freshdesk. “We’re also looking at implementing live chat soon, especially on specific pages. For example, when an author goes to submit a manuscript, or when they need to pay an invoice, we can anticipate the kind of queries they will have and offer solutions via live chat on those pages.”
Hindawi uses Freshdesk across several teams including the customer service team, the credit-control team, the content management team, and the Research Integrity team. Through Freshdesk, the customer service team is able to seamlessly handover tickets to the credit-control team once invoices have been unpaid for a specific period of time, allowing them to then take action with the customer. “A majority of our queries are payment-related and can typically take longer to resolve.” Kevin said, adding that despite this, his team managed a resolution SLA of 84% with a first contact resolution rate of 80%.
“Each of our teams required different set-ups and use Freshdesk in different ways. We’ve been really impressed with how we’ve been able to adapt the product to work for each team.”
Karl’s team also uses the Freshdesk-JIRA integration from the app marketplace to help make it easier to collaborate across teams through Freshdesk. “We’ve been building a new open-source manuscript admission and management system. This is a big deal because usually, publishers have to use these proprietary systems which they get locked into for years. No one’s really done an open-source system before.” Karl said, “We’ve created groups on Freshdesk to manage technical support for this system. The customer service team handles tier 2 support, but anything more technical goes through to our product and technology teams who use JIRA to manage all their bugs. The communication and handover of information are seamless between our teams, and both internal and external customers end up having a smooth experience.”
With the spread of COVID-19 across the world, several businesses ran into trouble transitioning to remote work, but Hindawi’s problems were of a different nature. “Despite our customer service team being based in a different country experiencing their own lockdown, Freshdesk actually allowed us to adapt really well. There haven’t been too many issues, and as a result, we’re still able to collaborate quite easily since we’re on the same system. Our efforts have actually been focused on dealing with changes in customer behavior.” Karl revealed.
Hindawi has acknowledged the disruption that COVID-19 has caused amongst their customer base, such as delays in people’s ability to carry out actions related to their manuscript, delays in performing their Editorial roles or difficulties in paying invoices. They were quick to provide additional time and support to help researchers when needed.
When asked to elaborate on the kinds of changes they’ve seen, Karl said, “Firstly, our invoices are usually paid by institutions and a majority of them are not working at full capacity right now, with their finance staff on leave. Aside from this, we’ve had an influx of research surrounding COVID-19 as well, and we’ve had to adapt and use Freshdesk to prioritize this research. We want to make sure we answer queries surrounding COVID research quickly, and we have a responsibility as a scientific publisher to ensure that this research is assessed, peer-reviewed and published as soon as possible for the world to see and access.”
The key focus for Hindawi has been in managing their relationships with customers, reassuring them, and providing more time for payments.
“We have a very international customer base so taking the time to communicate clearly and provide assistance to those who may struggle with English is vital. We are currently looking into how we can provide native language customer support to our Chinese customer base to further improve this aspect of our service.” Karl said, further reinforcing Hindawi’s commitment to outstanding customer service.
“We already have a support portal in place for internal customers to submit tickets regarding the new system.” Karl explained, “Our plan going forward is to populate the portal with articles to try and deflect some of the queries and educate our employees so they can better serve our customers.”
In the future, Karl would like to look at opening up the portal to external customers who are interacting with the system. “We want to really integrate it with our website to make it easy for external users to find it.”
Another area where Karl sees scope for improvement is with regard to how Hindawi could use AI more effectively. “Freshdesk has allowed us to solve our biggest problems: collaboration and visibility. We’re learning a lot more about our customers now, and we’re trying to ensure a more consistent experience for them across their journey, and are able to share a lot of data between various teams. Now, we need to see how we can have AI make use of all this information we’re collecting to help our agents more with templates, articles, and solution suggestions. I’d like for us to be more proactive with our support.”
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