Planet Vending Editor Ian Reynolds-Young accepts an invitation* to sit in with Ben Brookes to experience ‘A Day In The Life Of The Help Desk’ at Evoca UK. Here’s what happened…
The department in any business that’s most likely to provoke an emotional response in staff and customers alike is the ‘Help Desk’. It’s the number customers call when they’ve got a problem on site and they’ve exhausted every other means of fixing it. The Help Desk is a last resort…
Actually, it isn’t. On the contrary, for many it’s the first course of action when an issue arises. Having seen the Evoca Help Desk in action, to my mind it’s like a A&E department that’s got a dozen people waiting, ten of whom could have put on a plaster, taken an ibuprofen or gone to bed with a lemsip. While the triage nurse deals with this terrible ten, a debilitated duo is in danger of bleeding to death.
The envy of the industry
Evoca UK has assembled a technical team at its HQ in Bilston that’s the envy of the industry. It consists of Ian Douglass, Peter Noble; Steve Dolman, Ben Brookes, and Paul Edwards, led by Technical Director Craig Jukes. Ben and Paul are at the helm during my visit. In common with his colleagues, Ben knows his stuff: he joined Evoca UK from UCC Coffee, in Milton Keynes. That means his recent experience is in the traditional fresh-milk coffee equipment that’s deployed in high-volume environments.
Before that he was immersed in vending at Autobar, but despite that, at first, he found it hard going … ‘A lot of the calls we receive are concerned with historic machines such as the Astra, and of course snack machines, that were new to me’. He said. And despite graduating from the Evoca training school, a lot of the ‘real-life’ situations he faced were about price setting and coin mechanisms – subjects you can’t really master in training. ‘Quite a lot of the time, especially at first, I didn’t know an answer straight away, I had to refer to the manual in hard-copy or online’, Ben said. ‘It did make me wonder why, before they picked up the phone, some of the people calling in hadn’t given the manual a read themselves.’
A source of frustration
Besides the printed manuals, there’s an awful lot of relevant information on all Evoca products on line, and it’s a source of frustration to the team that, regardless of the effort and expense that’s been invested in making information easy to understand and intuitive to access, many customers continue to choose ‘the lazy option’ and pick up the phone.
The same goes for parts ordering: everything an engineer needs to order the right part is easily accessible on line, but calls about spares come through to the desk with such frequency that the relevant page on the Internet is permanently on screen… You don’t even need to be near a computer: 99% of the information most people require is available via the ubiquitous smart phone via an app. There’s even a dedicated spare parts web site, here.
Evoca Technical, how may I help you?
In the 15 minutes since I joined him Ben’s taken 5 calls and I’ve already experienced the diversity of queries he’s expected to handle. The first is from a national operator’s field engineer and he’s seeking guidance on how to disable the ‘obligation to buy’ default setting. Having dealt with the call, Ben explains: ‘we send out our machines so that when money is inserted via a coin mech or a note acceptor, a purchase has to be made. Otherwise, there’s a tendency for people to use the vending machine as a change machine. For instance, if you were to put in a fiver, and then abort the transaction, your money would be returned in coins to the value of £5, not in a £5 note. This particular customer wants users to be able to do that, so fair enough…’
You learn something new every day…
Next comes a call that Ben files under ‘back to basics’. I hear his half of the conversation and after introductions, it goes like this: ‘what machine is it? Which model of Necta machine? Hot drinks… OK, a Canto, thank-you. Can I have the serial number please? Oh, you’re not on site, OK… What appears to be the trouble? There are quite a few variables as to why your coffee is dripping through. Is it a bean-to-cup machine? It could be dirty filter plates on the brewer, or it could be that the grind is too fine. Maybe there’s too much coffee going into the brewer? Or, it could be that the pump might be starting to get tired and cease… There may be a blockage in brewer valve that’s not allowing water through fast enough… We need to work through all the possibilities.’
Lost in translation
‘Not being on site is a problem’, Ben tells me, ‘because a lot of what I’ve just told him will be lost in translation. He’s either going to relay what I’ve said to his customer, or to a field engineer, or he’s going to go on site himself later. We’d much rather callers were actually on site. The odds are that I’ll have to repeat what I’ve just said later on today, or tomorrow, when someone is actually face-to-face with the machine.’
‘In a perfect world’, Ben tells me later, ‘that call would have gone like this: ‘Hi Ben, I’ve got a Canto bean to cup, serial number 123ABC. There’s a coffee dripping issue with it. I’ve checked the filter plates on the brewer and they’re spotless; the grind is ok, not too fine; the dose is as it should be and I’ve checked and there’s no blockage in the brewer valve. Have you got any ideas?’
The majority of calls he’s handled today could have been avoided
And so it goes, call after call. When I push him during the lunch break, Ben tells me that the majority of the calls he’s handled today could have been avoided if only the caller had referred to the resources at his disposal, be they in the form of hard-copy product manuals or on-line information.
‘We’re happy to help all callers the Help Desk’, Ben says, ‘but you have to feel a little bit sorry for those callers who genuinely need us when they’re held up because we’re dealing with a caller who could have helped himself…’
In recent months the NHS has been warning us to stay away from A&E unless they absolutely have no other option open to them. I ended the day thinking that Evoca should consider issuing a similar admonition – but knowing the importance of nurturing of customer relations ensure that that will never happen…
* Here’s an open invitation to all our customers: Why not do what Ian did and spend a day with the experts on our Help Desk? You’ll find it’s a real eye-opener. Call Craig on 01902 355000 and he’ll make the necessary arrangements.