Customer Support – more than just a hotline service

Ensuring availability of the customer hotline, promoting the exchange of know-how, controlling quality of the process by using key performance indicators, and managing employees successfully – as Department Head in Roche’s Support Center, Marco Recktenwald has a wide array of tasks. During an interview, he explains what challenges his job involves, why all of his employees speak several languages and why curiosity is vital for a job in customer support.

Marco Recktenwald (50) is Head of Customer Support SWA and WF & IT Solutions EMEA in the Customer Support Center Mannheim at Roche Diagnostics. Following his studies in electrical engineering (Trier University of Applied Sciences), he worked at various Roche locations, among other things, as system administrator technology, product manager and head of customer services (Austria).

Mr. Recktenwald, what is behind your job title Head of Customer Support SWA and WF & IT Solutions EMEA?

I manage the department of the EMEA Customer Support Center in Mannheim. We focus on products in the sector of clinical chemistry, immunology, workflow and IT solutions. SWA stands for Serum Work Area and WF for Workflow. EMEA is the abbreviation for "Europe, Middle East & Africa" and it therefore refers to the regions that we support. In Mannheim, we primarily provide support for Roche Diagnostics customers from seven European countries. In turn, the teams are subdivided by country responsibility and by specialist groups.

What are your department’s tasks?

As the first contact partner for our customers, the support employees are experts for the diverse diagnostic systems. Their tasks are multifaceted: they give answers via e-mail or by telephone to inquiries in the customer’s relevant local language, identify and resolve complex technical errors, and provide support for product improvements and launches. In addition, employees in my department are contact persons for Roche colleagues from the countries supported. If these colleagues have a technical problem that they are not able to solve themselves, they get in touch with us. When sales talks are about to be held which call for special technical expertise, the support employees participate in these and are on site with the customer. Last but not least, we also conduct staff and customer training programs when new devices are implemented or when customers get new systems.

What are your tasks?

Together with my colleagues, I design and adapt the service strategy across and beyond country borders. Our objective is to successfully adjust the applicative and technical support of the systems and reagents to the changing customer needs and the growing product portfolio. Motivating employees and binding them to the company is very important to me because customer service in general, and the performance of each single employee, deliver a key contribution to our customer success. As head of the department, I ensure the framework so that the employees have all important information that they need for their job. I make sure their work assignments are varied, that smaller teams are set up to complement each other well, and that the right IT tools are available for them to use.

I’m also in charge of budget and personnel planning. Of course, I often have meetings with my department and the leaders of other teams. Furthermore, I am in contact with the IT department, controlling and global support. My job also includes the exchange with other support centers in Europe or in South America because we benefit very substantially from experiences of others who are confronted with problems and challenges similar to those we face, too.

What are the greatest challenges in your work?

My department has around 80 employees who come from different cultures. That makes coordination and agreement complex, and sometimes, complicated. The same holds true for the customer inquiries which refer to various sub-aspects of many different products. We cannot solve everything ourselves. It is especially important in this regard to seek dialog with the global service functions at an early stage for the benefit of our customers. The cultural diversity in my department and the variety of products are very appealing to me. As a result, it never gets boring or monotonous.

Gap-free documentation of our customer activities is an absolute must in the medical technology landscape. For this purpose, we’ve established a comprehensive quality management system. Here as well, it is indispensable that we train our employees on a regular basis. We regularly have this high quality standard verified by internal and external audits.

So far, what was your most interesting project at Roche?

When I was working in the Customer Support department in Austria, one of the biggest hospitals in Europe commissioned us to rebuild the whole central laboratory. The project took around nine months – a real mammoth task, especially because the normal hospital operations continued to run. We gutted the laboratory and provided it with completely new equipment. We also trained the employees to learn how to use our devices correctly. That was exceptionally exciting.

What should you bring along when you’re interested in a job in customer support?

Alongside the technical training, you definitely need language skills. Only employees who are absolutely fluent in two or more languages, partly also as native speakers, work in my department. Chemical engineers, natural scientists – especially biologists, chemists and doctors – as well as medical technology or technical biology assistants work in the applicative team. In the technical team, we rely on engineers who studied medical technology, electrical engineering or mechatronics.

As a general rule: we work in a team. That’s why you should really enjoy working with people, and you must have communication talent. And, analytical skill is required in order to present a logical and structured solution.

Roche is a highly innovative company – thanks to our employees’ unrelenting drive. Anyone who is curious, who likes changes, and is ready to roll up their sleeves and get down to work is therefore in just the right place with us.

How important is IT know-how?

It’s very important. We use the right IT products for the detailed documentation of our work. In addition, we work with various IT systems to manage the customer contacts. First and foremost, however, the support staff must understand the technical processes behind our devices to be able to operate these and eliminate errors.

© Roche with, February 2017

Tags: Career Blog, Germany