Leadership & Agent Management

Customer Contact Leader Shares Tips for Maintaining a Great Team

What is the gold standard of customer care? It begins with a great customer contact team. Today we have a special Q&A for you with the leader of one such team: Diana Beckman, Sr. Director of Global Client Services at Autodesk Inc.

How did you get into customer service?

My career has been centered around helping customers. I started in consulting and helping customers implement technology solutions, driving transformation in their business, and the adoption of new solutions. This really helped me understand the challenges customers face in delivering technology or technology transformations. I then moved into leading Sales teams to match customer needs with solutions. This helped me understand how to assess a customer’s needs and make sure you provided the right solutions. I then moved into leading a global customer support organization. Understanding the customer from all aspects of the lifecycle I feel has really helped me guide my team in providing support for our customers.

How do you balance the needs of your customers against the needs of your agents?

I believe that happy employees bring their best to their work, and providing the right environment, tools, training, and guidance to help them be successful in their role is a large part of my job in leading a customer support operation. Listening to employees is very important, they are on the front line and see, experience, and hear our customer’s frustrations. We can learn a lot from them, and we provide an Innovation Platform for our agents to bring their ideas for improvements and see them through implementation. Communication and change management processes are also key and an area we are looking to invest more in as change is constant in our world. I’m happy to say that we have very strong employee engagement scores and very low attrition in our support organization, but there are always things to improve and we have an ongoing action list based on agent feedback. We do employee surveys 3 x a year to understand what’s working and what needs to be improved.

How do you support your agents?

We support our agents by providing a positive environment and culture to work in.  Our employees have both a manager and team lead to help support and mentor them. We provide tools to help them be successful, and training resources to stay knowledgeable and grow their skills. We provide different projects or job rotations to give them new experiences or skill development opportunities. With COVID-19, and moving to a remote work environment we also provided a budget so they can purchase home office equipment to make their remote work environment comfortable and we provided 3-4 designated Autodesk “holidays” to take time off and disconnect. The company also recently provided every employee restricted stock units to drive an “owner” mindset with all employees.

How do you train your agents?

At Autodesk, we have gone through a business transformation moving from perpetual to subscription business model in the last few years. With that came a lot of changes to our systems, processes, policies and we needed to scale our operations quickly to the increasing subscriber base. With that comes constant change and new information for our agents to be able to support our customers and partners. We have a dedicated team called Service Excellence that provides the tools, training for knowledge assets to help our agents learn, grow, and be successful in their role.

  • We have implemented a third-party solution called Lessonly which provides our agents short, bite-sized lessons with knowledge checks that we rely on quite heavily. We also measure our Lessonly engagement and require everyone to take the lessons, including managers, team leads, Directors and even I take every lesson to we can support our agents. Our Service Excellence leader is on the customer advisory board for Lessonly to help influence the future direction of the product to support our ongoing needs.
  • We also have a knowledge base system (KCS) for articles that requires constant updating of existing and creation of new articles. We have several agents certified to help us maintain KCS.
  • We provide workshops for large scale changes. Right now we are embarking on upgrading our Salesforce platform which is providing a new improved interface for our agents to work in.  Our agents will be trained in workshops for this upgrade. We also have done Workshops around soft skill training, and leverage role-plays and other exercises.
  • Autodesk also has a company-wide learning platform that gives agents access to many training resources such as unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning and other learning programs that they can use to train on anything they have interest in.
  • And we also provide Job Rotations. Job Rotations allow an agent to move to a new role for a period of 6-months or a year to learn new skills, enhance their career development, and bring those skills back to their role once the rotation is complete. Many of our agents who did a job rotation have used those new skills to help excel their career within Autodesk to new roles.
  • And finally, we have our agents involved in various projects from User Acceptance Testing, to Analysis of Data, to Process Improvement projects. We feel these projects give hands-on training and skill development experience.

How have you and your team adjusted to remote work?

I’m really pleased how well we adjusted to remote work, as we have 100% of our agents working remotely and we did so without skipping a beat in any of our support metrics. As a practice, we have been running BCP (Business Continuity Planning) exercises where we have our teams working remotely once a quarter or more to ensure if there’s an emergency we can work remotely. The investment in this practice paid off when we had to move to remote work for COVID-19. The ability to maintain productivity so well is now having us consider implementing a more flexible work environment once our offices open back up again, as that has been our employee feedback to have a more blended work environment.

What advice do you have for an organization out there that is creating a customer service team for the first time?

One of the most important things is hiring. I really like the book called “The Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni and I’ve recommended it to all my hiring managers. There are some good foundational elements in what to look for in a great team player. Then, provide a positive, supportive work environment to keep your people happy and growing their skills and knowledge. Establishing your team culture is also very important and living in that culture is too. Provide the right tools and support to your managers to be able to focus on mentoring their employees. People are your strongest asset, so getting the right people onboard and providing the right culture and environment is one of the most important areas to invest your time. The next thing to do is to establish your success criteria. Establish your metrics and goals and be laser-focused. Keep it simple and be transparent with your service team on how you’re doing against your goals. Transparency and communication are key. And finally, build your operational processes to be simple and efficient, and ultimately this will help you support your goals.