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Technical Support never replies ‘no’

itsme’s product specialists provide broad support for industrial automation

itsme Technical Support is there for all your questions about industrial automation. Product specialists look into the problem along with the customer and share their thoughts with them; be it at the head office in the Netherlands or at the offices abroad. Feel free to call it a challenge in this rapidly changing world to have all the knowledge at the ready, but that’s what it is all about for his team, says itsme’s William van Heel. “How cool, if a customer can move on quickly.”

The desks are arranged in clusters of four. For the itsme Technical Support team this works nicely. A quick mutual consultation, a moment of helping out with a complex question; it’s usually all done very easily. But what a difference with the present situation! At the time that William van Heel tells his story, the corona measures are fully in place. So also he, as team leader Technical Application Center at itsme, works from home. Of course that took some getting used to in the first few days, although a special time like this also breeds creativity. “There is no threshold for not talking to each other. We call each other a lot, we use Skype and WhatsApp. And that works well.”

Moreover, says William, in the end, even a period of corona measures doesn’t really change the assistance that Technical Support gives. For also at present, customers call with their questions about industrial automation. Consider, for instance, machine maintenance. Or the commissioning of new applications or repairing a malfunction. Technical Support’s product specialists assist and share their knowledge, mostly by phone or through e-mail, but also by way of an application such as TeamViewer so as to remotely monitor the customer’s software. And who knows, says William, maybe the options of virtual reality for fictitious and computer-generated images at our customers are closer at hand than they seem. “There is a lot of research into this, developments are moving fast.”

Four thousand phone calls a year

Over the past few years, William has seen how fast changes in the field of industrial automation take place. “Nowadays, we get around four thousand phone calls a year. Less than previously, but don’t forget: today’s questions are more complex than those of, let’s say, ten years ago. Tools, software and interfaces are becoming more and more user-friendly, but at the same time the number of possibilities is increasing as well. Nowadays, we work longer on a single issue. Just think of all the links and connections. Locally, but also from one end of the world to the other. It demands more of our expertise.”

“We share our knowledge broadly, also through training courses”

In short, the world has changed – and not just a little. Challenging? Certainly. And yet, enthusiasm of the product specialists at Technical Support isn’t getting any less, says William. “Our team consists of real techies. All of them with a higher professional education and all of them big fans of bits and bytes. To be able to really go into the depths with technology: that’s the most fun part of our job.” And on top of that there is also the variety, says William. “In addition to technical support we are also there for training courses. On location – the customer’s or ours – but also online. We share our knowledge as broadly as possible.”

Always response within a day

Now that the itsme group is active in several countries, the service area of Technical Support has also been expanded. From the offices abroad, the product specialists offer support to their local customers and work closely together with their colleagues at the head office in the Netherlands. William: “We always have at least three people lined up, ready to answer questions. Sometimes we already respond within five minutes. And always within a day, for instance with a request for additional information.” A CRM system provides real-time status updates and shows us if a question has meanwhile been dealt with. In the latter case, it is usually customers themselves who inform Technical Support that they are able to move on. “These are often little moments of joy, that’s what we do it for.”

“Motion is coming more and more to the fore”

Software, PLCs, programming: in a nutshell, this is what the employees of Technical Support focus on. Yet, William realises only too well that this image may look completely different in the future. “I sometimes hear that programming will totally disappear. I, myself, don’t really believe that, but there is definitely a shift going on. Motion is coming more and more to the fore. Customers also increasingly ask questions about, for instance, a digital twin and Industry 4.0. And that’s logical. These are today’s expressions. Customers want something with it, so it is up to us to go along with that.”

For the future, such questions are not immediately the most pressing. “But they often make for good conversation”, William says. How cool, if at the end of a conversation a customer indicates that they are able to move on quickly. And that they may even already have the solution at hand.”

It is not as if the product specialists of Technical Support always have an immediate, ready-made answer, says William. “Developments around so many products are simply going too fast. But we keep our expertise up-to-date. We know where to find our sources and how to refer a customer to the correct party, if necessary. What matters is that we never sell “no” to a customer. Honestly, I’ve never ever seen that in all my years with itsme. And besides, I wouldn’t have the heart to do that anyway.” 


The question behind the question

“Sometimes it is hard for us to understand that what we do seems very complex to others”, says William van Heel, team leader Technical Application Center at itsme. But anyway, how specific can industrial automation sometimes be as part of itsme’s total package. Technology prevails, but equally important in the eyes of William, is the question behind the question. “For example, is it only about the solution for a specific problem? Or is there more to it? It is only by asking further questions that a good picture of the situation emerges. Only then, we can help our customers in the best possible way.”

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