To best describe my role at Teliasonera International Carrier (TSIC), I would draw on the analogy of a soldier on the frontlines of a battle field. We are often the first to feel the heat when the ‘shells’ drop. Imagine the following scenario: It is 02am Stockholm time and somewhere in the Indian Ocean, there is a minor earthquake on the seabed, which leads to a fibre cut. Our IP backbone link between Paris and Singapore just got taken out. This immediately triggers alarms on our monitoring systems, and before we even have the time to blink, our phones start ringing off the hook, and emails simultaneously begin to flood our mailbox. It is hard to describe what happens next but to sum it up, a category 5 hurricane just made landfall on a small Island inhabited by TSIC’s customer care team. The meteorologists have named this one Hurricane MOI. This is going to be a long night.
Ask any one of my colleagues and they will certainly tell you that one of the most dreaded aspects of the job is the occurrence of a major outage incident or a MOI, as we commonly refer to it. The fact that no serious carrier offers a 100% SLA, perhaps points to the fact that even the most resilient networks will fail at some point. When they do occur, these MOIs push our patience, expertise and negotiation skills to the very limit. Thankfully, our networks are built with redundancy, but backup paths could mean higher latency levels. We therefore often have to stay on our toes, coordinating resources and different stakeholders until the problem gets solved. Some of these incidents are resolved within hours, meanwhile others (such as sea cable faults) could drag on for weeks.
The adage – think globally act locally, takes on a new meaning when you work in a team that consists of 23 people with 15 different nationalities represented. Even though we are referred to by different acronyms, such as CSC (customer care centre), CC (customer care), CS (customer support), we officially go by CCI (customer care international). Our customer base stretches through different continents, times zones, cultures and languages. It is therefore easy to see why diversity is a rather vital ingredient in our efforts to meet and exceed customer expectations at TSIC. In accordance with one of our carrier declarations – ‘local, local local’, our customer support team is multi-lingual and made up of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. This enables us not only to speak the customer’s language but also to understand and interact with them on a more intimate level. Acting proactively and being highly responsive is achieved with some degree of automation and the use of robots. Management however understands that the most important connection in any network are the people, and as such we try to strike a balance between man and machines. The support systems are constantly being fine-tuned with smart robots that can pick up faults and trigger a set of actions. On the other hand, when our customers need help, they get to talk to real people, not robots.
Operating round the clock, 365 days a year, we take turns like sentries to keep watch over our extensive backbone and transmission links around the world. In a fast-paced business world where the internet keeps bridging geographical barriers, the world has become a global village. We must therefore constantly re-invent ourselves to meet customer needs and demands. Above all else, our clients expect the shortest possible lead times for trouble tickets and prompt updates/feedback from us. In order to fulfil these customer expectations, the team has embarked on a very ambitious project – Customer care 2.0. Unlike most other traditional first line support teams, TSIC’s first line support team is a far cry from simply logging trouble tickets and taking calls. For the past couple of years, our team has grown in size and new recruits are selected based on two main criteria – customer centricity and technical skills. This means that we do actually troubleshoot and solve technical issues at the first line. The customer care 2.0 project therefore has one simple objective – bridging the knowledge gap between second line and first line. At least a dozen employees at CCI have full router access permissions, which empowers them to perform router configurations and do extensive troubleshooting with the customer when required. To take this a step further, plans are underway to train every member of the team to be able to troubleshoot different transmission signalling technologies such as DWDM and SDH. The ultimate goal of customer care 2.0 is to ‘kill’ all cases at first line, therefore reducing trouble ticket lead times. Customers today wants answers and assistance in real time. At CCI, we arm ourselves with the tools and knowledge necessary to deliver on these expectations. Escalations to second and third level are only used as an absolute last resort.
Teamwork and collaboration are words that get thrown around a lot in the business world. For CCI, all our hard work and efforts are held together by these two words. We are like an engine that runs nonstop, with different parts that keep changing. If a new part comes in and does not fit-in perfectly, it might cause the whole system to malfunction. A trouble ticket at CCI for example has no case owner. We all own the case and look after it throughout its life cycle. Since our team operates round the clock, we work in shifts, and each team members hands over unto the next colleague who continues work on the cases. We therefore have to make sure our replacement has a good summary of what we’ve been working on throughout our shift. A breakdown in this process could have far-reaching consequences. It would be like joining a project which is half-way completed and trying to figure out (on your own), what has been happening up till that point.
There is often a close tie between different reasons why people love their jobs, but for me, nothing comes close to ‘the team’. At CCI, I feel like I work with a bunch of friends with whom I share not just my professional life, but private life as well. Football games, after-work parties, cookouts and sporting events are just a few of the things we do as a team outside work. There is a very strong bond that holds us together almost as a family and this makes the MOI-days so much easier to handle. Sometimes you have to see and interact with your colleague outside the workplace to better understand their personality. This really goes a long way to creating long lasting relationships which can foster collaboration. At CCI, we always consider ourselves as small pieces that make up the machine – every piece is equally important and reliant on the other.