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From Typewriters to Mobile Devices: A Journey of Customer Service

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Simon wrote a post recently about our team trip to Marbella (I know harder ways of working), and he included a segment about how I always say to customers, “I’m Donald, and I will solve your issue,” (It’s true – I do say that)

That got me thinking about how my role has changed over the 20+ years I’ve been working in IT, so for my debut blog post I thought I’d take you on a bit of a journey down memory lane, and talk about the different challenges for those working in the IT world, and consumers of technology, both now face.

In the early 80s (back when I had hair), I began my life in IT by fixing typewriters.  Computers for business were just a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye then, and solving IT issues consisted of going into the office, picking up a list of (paper) jobs, sorting them by address, jumping in the car and going to see the customer.  Everything was face to face and it was all very calm and friendly.

There were no mobile phones, and no internet, so unless they phoned the customer’s office, the boss couldn’t get hold of you.  Everyone who worked in IT had a boot full of typewriter manuals, and at 5pm you went home and didn’t think about it anymore until you got up the next day and did it all over again.

Everyone knew everyone, and life, dare I say it, was simpler.

When computers started to make it into businesses, it was the calm before the storm.  Everything remained pretty much the same at first, with one exception.  I convinced my boss to buy me a mobile phone (this photo is of the very first phone I owned), on the condition that he could theoretically contact me no matter where I was in the country (even if I was driving at that stage).

The game changer was the internet.  We hooked up a 56K modem to a PC in the office, and sent our first email (to our internet service provider, as he was the only one we knew for sure had email) and he emailed back.  Cutting edge stuff!

Before long we were attaching modems to customers’ servers and the first helpdesk engineer was born (well, it was a field guy that we pulled in and told to sit behind a desk and talk to people, but you get the idea…)  He was used to doing four calls with customers a day with travel.  Now, strapped to a desk he was making eight calls a day.  Revolutionary!

Bringing it back to modern day times, we have nearly 30,000 TSG SystemCare agents on our customers, constantly monitoring their systems to make sure they’re at their healthiest.  We fix 92% of all issues remotely without leaving the office, and about 20% of these TSG SystemCare has picked up without the customer even knowing they had an issue.

Whilst that’s great for TSG and an example of how efficient we have become through technology, it does bring a whole new set of challenges.  I now deal with some people who I’ve never met face to face, which is hard for me as I like to build up strong relationships with customers.

Even though you are just a voice at the end of the phone and they wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a line-up, you still need to demonstrate that trust and warmth that you would habitually create as a result of a face to face relationship.

These days, with mobile devices allowing us to work anywhere, anytime, communication is more important than ever.  Often you may never have met your customer; you need to ensure they know who you are, that they are a valued customer to you and you care about their issues, and are doing everything you can to help them.

The working dynamics have changed to such an extent that a 9-5 day is pretty non existent these days.  Everyone has their email on their tablet or smartphone, so downtime even out of normal working hours needs to be planned and agreed.  Evening and weekend work is more the norm and our support team need to be on hand to assist when needed.

Even with these challenges, the amount of customers we call who know who we are just by our voices shows the TSG helpdesk teams are committed to giving the customer that personal touch.

As technology evolves even more (see Steve's internet of things blog) we’ll have different challenges to face, and as more devices start merging, our customers will encounter additional difficulties.

We’re just waiting for our first call from a customer whose car won’t connect to the internet so they can't get Google maps on their Sat Nav…

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