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Escalations dealt with via Slack integration
Number of agents
Springer Nature is a global publisher that serves the research community. The company believes in standing up for science and takes a leading role in ensuring high quality and ethical standards with regard to research.
Originally two prominent independent publishers, Springer and Nature, the companies went through a merger between 2016 and 2018 to form ‘Springer Nature’. They provide a wide range of services including publishing research books and academic journals, providing database and research solutions, and hosting online content platforms. The company publishes over 2000 journals and more than 1000 books per month.
We spoke to the Head of Data and Systems Management, Eric Holliday, about their growth, customer operations, and org-wide collaboration.
“Our organization originally used an in-house system for ticketing, and that was based on the SAP on-premise CRM platform we use.” Eric said, “One of the biggest challenges we were facing was that the system was very high-code and far from modern. It was difficult to modify or manipulate it based on your own use-case and to make any kind of change, you had to know what you wanted and then get that developed. There was no question of us being able to be proactive with our service, we were always reacting.”
The issue, Eric discovered, was that their in-house developers did not have a clear idea of how a ticketing system should function. There was a knowledge-gap on how the features they were creating would be used by the customer service teams. This prompted Eric to champion a big change within the organization.
“Our original mission was to identify a chat solution that we could implement, and I was able to see three tiers within the solutions available. The first tier was a basic chat software that could not exist on its own and needed to be plugged into another system. The second tier was an enhanced chat that offered functionalities that we did not have in our business, for example, at the time we didn’t have a knowledge base or solution articles. The third tier was where Freshdesk existed, a customer service platform that provided enhanced ticketing features, reporting, metrics, and also allowed us to add a help widget to our website.” Eric explained. “We also had the option of expanding to live chat and cloud telephony within the same platform.”
Eric’s team welcomed the change. Everyone who worked with Freshdesk within the organization thought the system was intuitive, allowing them to perform their jobs better.
Before a complete implementation could take place, Springer merged with Nature to become Springer Nature, and the company had to undergo another round of evaluation of tools. Nature had been using Salesforce’s Service Cloud.
“They were ahead of us in terms of using a more modern system, but to make any kind of change within Service Cloud, they had several restrictions. The change had to be done a certain way in order to not incur additional costs.”
Springer Nature launched completely with Freshdesk in 2019. “We went from having 30 agents on Freshdesk in February to nearly 250 agents by the end of Q3 (September). Between March and September, we migrated around 20,000 tickets into Freshdesk and migrated our three heaviest support channels.” Eric said, “This was really important because it meant all our teams were on the same platform and fully operational for the busiest quarter of the year. More recently we incorporated our fulfillment and logistics teams onto Freshdesk, so we now have around 350 agents using the product.”
“We’ve basically moved from 10 or 20 agents handling 5-10 tickets per day in Freshdesk to over 300 agents handling close to 50,000 tickets per month. And that number is still growing.”
Head of Data and Systems Management
Eric’s team supports a range of stakeholders including end-consumers who read their books and journals, authors who publish with Springer Nature, as well as internal users. The extent of their support includes post-publishing functions such as:
In order to support internal customers, Eric and his team work closely with the organization’s developers. Employees reach out for technical support via Freshdesk, and Eric’s team acts as a liaison between them and the developers, ensuring they’re put on to the right person to solve the issue.
“The problem we were facing was that our developers lived in Slack, and our agents lived on Freshdesk. My team kind of works with both, but the systems were not speaking to each other and we needed to bridge the gap between them.” Eric explained, “Our biggest problem was that once a developer and an agent took their communication off Freshdesk, their managers lost visibility on what was happening with the ticket.”
The Freshdesk-Slack integration has bridged the gap between teams at Springer Nature.
“The integration sends through notifications of what’s going on in Freshdesk to the right Slack channel and allows me to assign the ticket without ever leaving Slack, letting the agent know that their ticket is being taken care of. It provides visibility into communication that typically is difficult to track.” Eric said. “Our overall speed for first response, assignment, etc. has gone up!”
“We wanted to be able to tie all communication back to the ticket so that the team leader could maintain a bird’s eye view on what was going on. If an agent is on leave, the leader has to be able to reassign the ticket and have a new agent pick up where their colleague left off. If the communications are missing, this becomes impossible.”
Slack is the leading channel-based messaging platform, used by millions to align their teams, unify their systems, and drive their businesses forward. Using the Freshdesk-Slack integration, Eric’s team is able to operate faster by assigning tickets and adding comments right from within Slack and bring multiple teams together to create better visibility across functions. The integration also allows for those without a Freshdesk license, such as product managers and other engineers, to keep an eye on what issues are recurring and where attention is needed.
“Slack is supposed to be a central hub for all communications, and that’s kind of what we’re working towards. If my team is working mostly in Slack, I want others to be able to reach out to us through a Freshdesk ticket and for that to get to us on Slack - regardless of whether or not we’re the owner of the ticket.” Eric said. “We are currently handling about 25% of our developer escalations via the Slack integration – that’s about 3 interactions per week.”
Eric can see the potential of this integration and the positive impact it could have across Springer Nature. He plans to promote the integration internally so that it can be rolled out to other teams once his team has maximized its potential.
The pandemic crisis has affected businesses across the globe, and Springer Nature had their share of changes to deal with. Eric noted though, that Freshdesk allowed his team to be able to transition to remote work without a hitch. The rest of the organization did not fare the same way.
“With our on-prem CRM solution, the problem was that the connection had to be either on VPN or in-office. When we transitioned to a 100% work-from-home model, the VPN got overwhelmed. They did not have the bandwidth to deal with the large increase in traffic, but this didn’t affect our ticketing. Having the Slack integration also in place provided complete visibility and seamless continuity in our processes.”
Springer Nature recently onboarded Freshchat, the live chat, and messaging software offered by Freshworks. “We know from research that people are moving in the direction of chat and messaging, and we realize that it’s a channel worth having,” Eric said.
As mentioned earlier, Eric’s team also supports licensed business customers who consume content on their online platforms. “These bigger companies now have conditions in their licensing agreements stating that they require our platform to have technical support portals with the availability of an on-screen agent at any time. That kind of functionality is only possible via chat. This is another reason we think this would be a good channel to build out.”
Enhancing self-service capabilities has been a big initiative of Springer Nature this year. They wanted to make sure their agents were getting their over 500 solution articles in front of customers whenever the opportunity presented itself. “Our only way to do that until now was through the help widget on the website, but we can see the potential of Freshchat in that space. Chat can go where widgets can’t, and with Freshchat we can provide customers with on-page FAQs across the website. This will allow them to preemptively identify their issues without having to leave the page and write an email.”
Moving forward, Eric and his team are exploring the advantages of eventually integrating messaging applications like Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp. “No one is asking for it, but if we were to offer it, customers would definitely use it.”
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