When the phone rings at the Schubert hotline office, it means that a customer needs assistance. Often a solution can be found quickly, but sometimes it may take a little longer. Even when the working day delivers a few surprises, the five employees at extension 490 are proud to point out that they can solve more than 90% of the issues that arise by phone or email.
Klaus Pelzer began his career at Gerhard Schubert in 1986 as an electrician. Once he completed his training as an electrical engineer in the 1990ies, he was amongst others responsible for putting customer systems into operation. Given his expertise, he was quickly recognised and valued as a highly competent troubleshooter.
Initially, he was able to handle the telephone inquiries himself along with his other responsibilities, but soon there were so many Schubert machines in use that managing the telephone customer service was a full-time position. The hotline was therefore established in 1994 with Klaus Pelzer as its first employee. The department now includes a staff of four.
“We’re more than just a hotline. We’re an intrinsic part of customer service,” says Klaus Pelzer. All hotline employees are trained technicians with many years of professional experience. The hotline team also includes close to 30 technicians who are available to customers worldwide as needed. „Auf dem Einsatzplan sehe ich, welche Monteure wir in welcher Region einschalten können.“ “On the operational plan, I can see which technicians I can deploy in which regions.” Schubert has customers all over the world, so service specialists are now needed 24/7.
When the phone rings or an email comes in with a problem, there are several ways the hotline staff can support customers. Often an answer by email is all that is needed, but sometimes remote maintenance is the most effective approach. Now and then, a solution is found via a conference call with several experts. According to Klaus Pelzer, the most common reasons for calls are format changes or for assistance in putting the packaging equipment into operation. “Our service includes not only the elimination of acute problems. We also help customers, for example, during recalibration and product changes. This ensures that working with our machines is even easier. It’s a key part of our customer service,” says Klaus Pelzer.
Sometimes the hotline staff doesn’t quite know the caller’s qualifications – in which case, they work on identifying the problem step by step. But this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. “Most callers quickly provide us with the machine number and the system error message, so that we can assist them quickly,” says the director of the hotline department. Error messages can be clearly assigned through error codes. But even when issues are unclear, solutions can be found efficiently: using remote maintenance, the hotline employees can read the machine log and immediately see what happened.
Although the number of Schubert machines is on the rise, the company intends to keep the current number of daily hotline cases constant at an average of four a day.
The EES includes chosen error messages previously associated with Schubert machines as well as their solutions, and this ensures even faster troubleshooting. “Solutions for cases that have not yet arisen immediately land in the Electronic Expert System. The knowledge required here comes from the hotline team’s experience,” says Klaus Pelzer. The cases are then prepared in an instructional format which customers can look up in an online database to solve problems themselves.
Klaus Pelzer doesn’t rely solely on the database. For unusual emergencies, he has all the documentation for older systems on hand. “Just recently, a large customer called who was still using a 1988 SNC F2 to pack small colourful chocolate candies,” says Pelzer. “This isn’t an exception. Many of our machines have been in use for 30 years and even longer. So it’s important for all of us to be familiar with our ‘classics’ as well.”
To stay up to date, the specialists make it a point to find out what is currently going on in product development. The hotline offices are located close to production and the development department. “The short distance to production is very convenient. We can even bring our phone to the machine and try out what works best,” says Pelzer. “As well, the technician can come into the hotline office and provide advice when issues arise.”
Schubert’s hotline department doesn’t staff telephone operators, but rather specialists who are fully integrated to the company and who have extensive expertise. Customers aren’t the only ones who appreciate and value this expertise. Employees from all departments don’t hesitate to contact the hotline when they have questions.