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Employees Learn, Grow in Critical Support Role

Railinc Customer Support Representative Kelli Buchanan in the Customer Support Center.

Not all customer support jobs are the same. Starting in the Customer Support Center (CSC) at Railinc gives employees a solid foundation to build on as they work to reach their career goals. In this guest post, Railinc Customer Support Representative Kelli Buchanan talks about the phone calls, the schedule, and the opportunities to learn, grow and make an impact across the company. Click here to find out more about the Railinc Customer Support team.

Before I started working in CSC at Railinc, I saw customer support like most people probably do: a large group of anonymous employees in a room answering phone call after phone call, occasionally helping a customer solve a problem.

Well, I do answer a lot of calls—as many as 40 a day.

But I do much more than that.

Improving the Customer Experience

We're the first point of contact most of our customers have with Railinc. When I'm not answering the phone or responding to customer emails, I'm working with people across the company to make sure I know our products and services inside and out; to support important programs and processes; and to help make the customer experience better.

I don't have a typical day. If I'm in the group of CSC employees that comes in early, I get in at 7 a.m. and begin responding to customer emails from the night before. Phone calls start soon after and include everything from requests to unlock online accounts to questions about an error message a customer might receive when working in one of our applications.

Application Testing, Data Management, Disaster Recovery

Railinc Customer Support Representative Kelli Buchanan working with a colleague.Beyond responding to phone calls and emails, CSC is in charge of reviewing permissions requests from customers who want to access our applications. We put each request through a verification process to make sure that customers get the right permissions and that our data are secure. We test applications, keep important industry databases are up to date and accurate, and play important roles in company-wide disaster recovery exercises.

We also work closely with Railinc's product support teams, which provide second-level support, and attend meetings and trainings for individual product groups. This helps us understand Railinc products, keep up with product releases and let product groups know about any persistent issues customers have had. It feels good to know that the customer feedback we collect and share is used to improve our products.

Importance of Customer Support at Railinc

Because we provide 24/7 customer support, we are on an on-call rotation. For one week every two months, I'm responsible for responding to emergency requests that come in after business hours. I have been woken up at 3 a.m. to facilitate a conference call when one of our applications went down. It can be challenging, but it's a reflection of how important a responsive CSC team is to Railinc's work.

It might seem overwhelming to answer and log every phone call and email and to always be ready to remember what each field in the Umler® system user interface means and how entering one wrong code into the system can keep a railcar out of service.

It can be.

Thankfully, we aren't expected to be subject matter experts from the start.

Training, Learning, Professional Growth

In fact, every Railinc CSC representative goes through a 90-day training period to learn all our products and get comfortable interacting with customers. When we start, we do things like unlock online accounts, respond to email requests, and send a "morning report" to the entire company that recaps critical cases from the last 24 hours as well as internal or external notifications that we sent. The learning doesn't stop after our first 90 days: there are plenty of opportunities to to learn through lunch and learns, product training sessions and shadowing of groups throughout the company.

Railinc Customer Support Representative Kelli Buchanan takes a break with a colleague.It's tough learning all the products and services and the freight rail industry as an entry-level employee. But it positions us well to advance in the company quickly. A lot of our product support employees, managers, business analysts and others started on Railinc's CSC team. This opportunity to grow is just one of many things I like about working in CSC at Railinc.

Another one that's important to me is flexibility.

It might seem like I have to be tethered to my phone and computer during work hours, but I can take advantage of Railinc's flexible work environment, too. I have had to run home for an emergency a few times. I was able to log on from home and work the rest of my day there. If you're on call, you have even more flexibility during daytime hours so you can do your job and live your life.

Customer support isn't for everyone. You have to multi-task. You have to be proactive. You have to be patient as you work to learn from the customer what their challenge is and figure out what you can do to help. And you have to be thoughtful and follow up to make sure they get what they need.

At Railinc, customer support is more than just answering phones. We've helped to build a strong foundation with our customers and support the work everyone throughout the company does.

—Kelli Buchanan

A graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Kelli Buchanan joined the Railinc Customer Support team in 2014.

Update: Since we published this post, Kelli has earned a promotion to product support specialist with Railinc's Commercial group. She is an essential part of a team that provides support for internal-facing services that are critical to our products, and we look forward to her continued growth and progress with the company.