Feature articles about Oxford University Press around the world
Continuing to support customers during lockdown
28 May 2020
By Vince Quarizzo, Head of Customer Service
The week of 16 March saw an unprecedented change for the OUP Customer Service team. Having predominantly been office based, our teams in Kettering, Cary, and Mexico were bracing to adapt to a completely new way of working, as a result of coronavirus-related lockdowns. Fortunately, our team in South Korea were already working from home, so we could learn from their experiences, and within the week, the global team had the equipment they needed to start working remotely. By the start of April, a new way of working had been initiated, and we knew it would be a while until we had truly established a ‘new normal’.
At the same time, OUP kick-started a series of valuable initiatives to help support our customers by providing free trial access to key home learning platforms. This saw unprecedented volumes in orders and queries coming into the team. At its peak we were receiving 1,600 digital orders for platform access each day. To give this some context, in our peak season we average around 5,000 orders for both print and digital products and services each month.
The response from the Customer Service Team was incredible; everyone worked incredibly hard to fulfil the needs of our customers, so that they could continue to access our education and research resources even in strange, unfamiliar circumstances. However, it wasn’t sustainable for the team to manage the volume of orders and queries we were receiving, and there was a risk that we wouldn’t be able to maintain the level of service our customers not only expected, but needed during these testing times. So, in collaboration with our colleagues in our Technology team, we identified opportunities to semi-automate processes to increase our capacity. Paired with upskilling our Customer Service Advisors, we were in a position to maintain the service on orders within a week.
We also extended our new Webchat functionality across our different websites and platforms. This enabled us to respond quickly to customer queries about platform access. This was particularly important as we were increasingly supporting parents who were home schooling and trying to get to grips with our platforms for the first time.
The coronavirus has presented new and unique challenges. As we continue to navigate unchartered territory, it is important to discover new ways to work and interact with our teams and customers. Many of our employees are working remotely for the first time in their careers, isolated from co-workers, friends and family. As well as making sure we continue to be productive, we also wanted to maintain the team’s well-being. We are holding weekly virtual meetings and training sessions to ensure that staff continue to develop, and have also introduced new initiatives to help combat isolation and boost morale.
I am proud that Customer Services has shown its true colours when it comes to adapting quickly and moving forward together. We look forward to whatever is needed of us in the months to come and are glad we can work remotely, stay safe, and support our customers.