Podcast #46: Achieving Great Customer Support Through Team Building with Cenon Hipolito, NetworkDr
Focused on more than service desk side of things, Cenon Hipolito, the Service Desk Manager of NetworkDr, is dedicated to making sure his techs want to stick around for the long haul. Less employee turnover is a sure sign of greater customer satisfaction.
We first met Cenon Hipolito of NetworkDr back in May during one of our Data Driven Workshops. I among many other team members enjoyed speaking with him and were especially interested in how he uses BrightGauge through touchscreen displays and to help promote growth through a little competition.
Listen to this month's episode of the BrightGauge podcast to learn how NetworkDr has opened the doors for employees to share valuable feedback, take part in coming up with new strategies, and incentivize their techs to value their work even more through mentorship.
- Getting all of your teams on the same page
- Avoiding the revolving door of technicians
- Personalizing the customer experience
- Employee onboarding & mentorship
- Keeping the core team intact
- BrightGauge leaderboards & dashboard touchscreens
- Incentivizing feedback
Cenon's top quote for new hires:
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is a progress, and working together is success.” - Henry Ford
Danielle: Welcome to the BrightGauge podcast. I’m Danielle Ungermann, the Product Marketing Manager at BrightGauge. Today I’m speaking with Cenon Hipolito from NetworkDr, based out of New Jersey. They’ve been a customer of ours for…I don’t know how many years. How long has it been?
Cenon: I’m not certain, actually.
Cenon: It’s been a long time though, at least five—at least six years, actually.
Danielle: No, you’re one of the OGs. Tell us just little bit about Network Doctor and some of the customers that you’re serving.
Cenon: So, NetworkDr, we are an MSP based out of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. We’re about five minutes away from the George Washington Bridge, so we have great access to New York City. A lot of our clients are based out of New York City and we have several clients in New Jersey and other states across the country.
We do support a wide variety of industries, so we don’t necessarily focus on one industry. We just focus on landing clients that are a good fit for us.
Danielle: Awesome. Cenon and I, we spoke back—we first met during the Data Driven Workshop back in May, this previous one, and I was most interested in what you had to say about how you balance kind of the service side of things with operations. Your strategy a little bit seems to be to keep customers happy through keeping your employees happy.
I know that you said that you were brought on in 2003. What did Network Doctor look like at that time?
Cenon: Network Doctor at that time, we were definitely a smaller company. We were, I would say, less than 20 people at that time. I was brought on to be a part of the remote support team. We basically took over a larger client and we just started hiring digital people.
They took me on as a Level 1 technician, started basically working through the ranks there. I became an escalations technician. I worked in the field, I’ve worked for our managed services department. I attended account management meetings with a lot of our clients. I’ve been involved with all the day-to-day operations in some way since I started at Network Doctor about seven years ago.
Danielle: That’s great. That really gives you a good holistic picture of how the whole entire company operates and where there’s room to connect the different teams, too.
Cenon: Correct, correct. We feel that if you work with the other departments, you actually understand what they go through and maybe you have a little bit more sympathy or you try to make sure that you help them achieve their goals as well.
Danielle: Definitely. I operate under the same mentality. I honestly don’t really think that it works to silo your teams, especially when so much of what you’re doing is going to cross over into them, too.
Cenon: Correct, correct.
Danielle: It doesn’t make sense to look at it as separate folders when a lot of the pieces have to come together through talking to your service team and your sales team to make sure that they’re communicating the same stuff and then going back to, in our case, our product team, to ensure that they’re continuing to build the right stuff based on the feedback that they’re getting from both separate departments.
Cenon: Correct. We also like to make sure that we’re all on the same page. I mean, if we’re going to talk to a client, it would be best that both our service, our account management teams are all offering or are aware of the same solutions or have the same mindsets. It’s great to go across departments so you could be on that same page.
Danielle: Yeah, it’s really incredible when that’s not the case and you’re finding out something from the customer something that you’re offering that you didn’t know that you were offering to your customer.
Cenon: 100% correct.
Danielle: It’s all too common. So, since you’ve joined Network Doctor, what would you say has changed throughout the company?
Cenon: Definitely the amount of people that work here. We started with less than 20, probably around 15. Currently right now, I believe we’re at about—we’re actually at 58 employees right now. That’s a lot of growth since I’ve been here.
We have made significant strides in company culture. We want to make sure that Network Doctor is not necessarily a revolving door of technicians, as that does have an effect in customer support or customer service if you’re constantly bringing in new people who are unfamiliar with our clients.
On top of that, too, we’ve developed a lot of new processes and procedures to make sure that clients remain happy and also that our team remains happy.
Danielle: That’s also keeping the context in place, so anyone who does have to pick up a conversation with a customer that’s been around for a while, they’ll know what’s already bubbled up in the past and who maybe to reach out to throughout the team to ask more questions.
Cenon: That’s correct. Also, our technicians, even our remote technicians, they develop a relationship on the phone with our clients. A lot of our techs, they do know what’s going on outside of work with our clients. They know their wives, they know that they’re going on vacation. It’s nice to have that kind of friendly interaction between our team and our clients.
Danielle: Definitely. How else do you personalize the customer service experience?
Cenon: Personalizing the experience, what we attempt to do is, we attempt to match each client’s support request with someone that’s familiar with the company and how they like to operate. If we have a new employee, what we have them do is we have them shadow with one of our more senior technicians so they can show them exactly how a client likes to work or what client procedures are, or little client gotchas. We like to make sure that each tech is familiar with how each of our clients likes to operate.
On top of that, what we’ve done recently, is we’ve started the development of pods, which are basically teams of technicians that know and understand each of our clients’ specific applications, various procedures, who have even met our clients face to face, that are familiar with them. We like to make sure that each of our team members knows what’s going on with the company, that they’re just not thrown into a certain situation. We feel that that definitely helps with customer service and the way that our clients interact with us.
Danielle: Right. Do you also lead them through kind of a—at BrightGauge, when we have a new employee join, it’s not that they’re just joining one team, or in your case a pod, it’s the whole entire company and so we supply them with different docs to help them get familiar with how each team works, marketing, sales, to the product itself. Then we also give them different sets of guidelines for how we like to operate around the office, including our mission and our values.
All of this packaged together so that when they come in, they’re not second-guessing themselves or wondering what to do next. It’s a very long onboarding period compared to companies where it’s one day and then you’re in it. We like to give you a couple weeks to really settle in.
Cenon: Which is funny because when we spoke at the Data Driven Workshop, you explained that to me. We actually onboard new team members in pretty much the same exact way. When we onboard someone new, first we send them a welcome email explaining, with links to some training manuals, links to programs that we constantly use. We also include in that email a listing of our core values and our mission statement, just to make sure that everyone is on the same page and we explain what each of them are.
I also included a quote which I thought definitely helps welcome new people. It was a quote that I found from Henry Ford. It pretty much sums up what we do here at Network Doctor. The quote is, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is a progress, and working together is success.” We do include that in the welcome email.
Part of someone’s first day, too, is we assign them a mentor or someone that they can go to for questions or just to hang out with so they don’t feel like an outsider. We also try to make sure to sit that new person close to their mentor as well, so they have easy access to them.
We like to make sure that we introduce everyone, explain what each department does. We start people off slowly. We want to make sure that everyone is comfortable on the phone or comfortable in front of clients.
Some people, they believe in throwing people into the fire. We don’t really believe that. I think that by doing that, it sort of makes the person more nervous and tends to lead to more mistakes and clients do notice that. They don’t like it when people learn on their dime, basically. It’s important that we start people off slowly so they just get more comfortable and the most important thing is, so they understand how we operate, how we like to operate and the reasoning behind all the processes and procedures, we feel that’s important as well.
Danielle: Yeah. Definitely leaves little room for them to misinterpret what they should be doing and I love that you assign a mentor as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped in somewhere, be it a new job or just a new environment, a networking event, where you’re not really sure where to begin, and it helps for those who are already familiar, to be that extra-friendly force that will help you get acclimated to wherever you are. Just even with a simple hello, makes a huge difference.
Cenon: Correct. We definitely believe in that.
Danielle: As they go further along in their time at Network Doctor, how do you ensure that your employees stay happy? Or not happy, but motivated and empowered by the work that they’re doing? Whatever word that is, is befitting. [Laughs]
Cenon: [Laughs] Well, I also use that word empower. We want to make sure it’s to empower all of our team members to want to go above and beyond. What we do is, we ask each team member what their interests are, whether it be like in VMware or networking, security, a specific application. Based upon what they’re interested in and of course, our needs as well, we make sure that they’re involved in those certain types of tickets. We carve out some training for them. We ask them to get certified in certain things.
We also do ask them afterwards to create training documentation for it or even hold training classes for those specific subjects that they just learned. We definitely feel that just empowering someone to become like a subject matter expert keeps them interested, keeps them engaged, keeps them highly motivated.
Another thing that we do is we hold little contests here and there. We use a program called CrewHu, which allows team members to give other team members kudos for something that they’ve done.
A lot of times there’s little things that you don’t know about that other team members know about, so CrewHu just allows them to give them a high five and say, “Hey, great job on working with this client,” or “Great job in resolving this outage.” It’s displayed on one of our boards here in the office. It’s actually right below our BrightGauge touch screens, in which we also utilize goals and the rewards—not the rewards.
Danielle: I think it’s the leaderboard.
Cenon: The leaderboard, correct. We have the leaderboard and that’s one of the things that is displayed. We see the guys go over there constantly. Like I said, we have touch screens, so they’re going up and down the leaderboard to see where they rank, how many tickets they’ve resolved, how much time they took on a ticket, how many positive client surveys they received in a day, so it keeps everyone so motivated to just go above and beyond. It’s basically a contest between the guys on who can get more surveys and so on and so forth. That’s how we try to keep everybody motivated, making sure that we keep them interested.
Danielle: What do you do if someone seems to be falling on the short end of things that, you know, unfortunately it happens, you can’t keep everyone engaged and happy.
Cenon: Correct. First things first is we got to talk to them. We sit down, we have a conversation. Maybe it’s a personal matter that’s affecting them in some way or maybe they’re just not as interested in something. It’s a matter of just finding out what the issue is, having a sit-down with them and just trying to address things slowly but surely.
Danielle: Do you intervene early or as soon as something becomes an issue?
Cenon: No. It’s best to cut it off early. As early as we see things happening, normally even the guys themselves, they’ll come to me and say, “Hey, I had some issues today with a ticket. That’s why I didn’t resolve as many tickets as I normally do.” We try to cut things off as quick as possible.
But our guys actually do come to me or come to our team leads and explain their situation if they feel that they’re falling behind.
Danielle: Okay. Do you have a process in place for—a lot of companies do performance reviews, be it every quarter, which is a lot, but I know some do or every year. Do you have that in place for peer reviews or is it mainly between manager and employee?
Cenon: We do. We have department meetings, so we have a department meeting every day. It’s a 5, 10-minute thing where we talk about what’s going on and the issues from the day before that could arise to the next day. On top of that, too, is we do have—we started utilizing BrightGauge’s Goals Management as well, so we have some goals set for guys and they have to update it weekly and to show whether or not they’re on track with some of their goals.
We officially do a review every year. This year we decided to go to every six months because that’s basically what our team said that they wanted. They wanted to have a little bit more feedback. On top of that, I’ll pull someone aside, ask them to go for coffee with me or take a walk with them and I talk to people as much as possible. I like to make sure that I know what’s going on with each and every single person. How their day is going, even stuff non-work-related.
Danielle: Out of the 50-something employees that work at Network Doctor, how many of them do you manage?
Cenon: About 35.
Danielle: Oh, okay. Yeah, I know that a lot of companies are trying to figure out, too, as they scale, how to keep that personal interaction in place between them and their team members, just to make sure that no one feels like they’re left out or not noticed in the process of everything changing.
Cenon: I mean, we recently implemented—I would say about a year ago, a year-and-a-half ago—team leads. If I’m not around or I’m busy talking with somebody else or if I’m talking to you, they have another person that they can go to. Basically, another ear that they can talk to.
One of the other things that we do do here, is we hold sort of like a player’s association meeting. It’s basically a meeting minus the managers where our team can talk to each other or sort of talk about any issues that are arising. Anything that’s come across their mind. Any changes in process or if they don’t like the new software that’s been released.
We think that’s it’s easier and people will be more open to share their opinions if there’s no managers or supervisors there. We have one person who is in charge of notetaking and disseminating that information to us, if need be.
Danielle: That’s awesome. This is company-wide minus all of the team leads?
Cenon: It’s minus all the managers. The team leads also do get involved, but again, we just thought it would make things more open and people are just more open to share what their thoughts are, minus managers.
Danielle: That’s good. They don’t feel like there’s going to be any repercussions for having an opinion about something.
Cenon: Exactly. Exactly.
Cenon: We take these things seriously, so we’ve definitely implemented a lot of new process changes based upon these meetings to make sure that everyone does remain happy and engaged.
Danielle: Once you decide on implementing new things or whatever comes out of these meetings, how do you notify different team members of what’s going on?
Cenon: There will be a follow-up meeting with those team members or a random bunch of people saying, “Based on our last meeting, there was an issue that we wanted to do. So, we’re thinking about changing process.” This person who is in charge of it will explain the process and we’ll get feedback from people and see whether or not it will actually resolve the issue or if it will actually help the issue out in their opinion.
Danielle: You map out kind of what the possible outcomes might be and where the benefits could lie as well?
Danielle: That’s pretty cool. That’s something that I think a lot of companies could benefit from for sure and just to even have that open feedback loop with their own employees would incentivize them, I think, to want to extend that to their own customers.
Cenon: Yeah, definitely. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from it and a lot of the people do love it. This is something that’s definitely here to stay over here at Network Doctor.
Danielle: What are some of the things that you track on top of—through direct dialogue? What are you tracking on the leaderboards and in your goal lists?
Cenon: On the leaderboards, we do track how many tickets are assigned to somebody or how many alerts somebody has resolved, the amount of time it takes them to resolve an issue, what’s their SLA on going from assigned to resolve? All various types of information.
We try to keep it as simple as possible. We don’t want to overcomplicate things, so we do keep it probably like, I would say less than 10 things that we track.
Danielle: That’s great. Yeah, you don’t want to have too many numbers in your face to the point where it becomes ineffective just looking at it.
Danielle: I’ve always said that you can always see a dashboard up from wherever you’re sitting in your office, for the most part, and it’s not going to work to look at that if you have it just socked with gauges.
Cenon: Exactly. If there’s way too many numbers, people just don’t even want to see it. Having the least, but the most important numbers out there is the best thing.
Danielle: We have some customers who even have dashboards where it’s just one number up on it.
Cenon: Yeah, I saw that at the Data Driven Workshop. There was one gauge, one of your customer’s gauges, it only had one gauge. I think actually it was the amount of days since the last negative client survey. That was a great idea. That’s something that I’ve actually started to put in.
Danielle: Cool! Well, I definitely want to check that out. How do you see yourself utilizing goals going forward to motivate your team?
Cenon: Utilizing goals, I mean, the goals are set by the team member themselves. It’s something that does keep them interested. It’s something that they want to do. I want to actually take it to the next level and make sure that we do a weekly check in for everything. They’re going to get that report and they’re going to have to put it in their progress and we’re going to see what’s delaying their progress. If it’s something that we can control or give them a little bit of extra time during the workday instead of having to do something at night or on their free time.
That’s definitely one of the things that we’re looking to improve to make sure that everyone stays happy.
Danielle: Is that something that you would extend past your service team to other parts of Network Doctor?
Cenon: It’s definitely on other departments as well. So, we do have a scheduling team or a triage team and one of the members has actually—one of those team members has actually said, “You know what? I think I want to get into technology. I want to do some support.” I’ve assigned them a goal. I’ve given them access to some of our training material and I’ve told them, “In a month, let’s go see what we’ve learned. Maybe then we’ll have you reset a password or configure a workstation that’s coming to us.” Baby steps to get to that goal.
Danielle: I’m just curious if there was anything that really, once you did start using BrightGauge, was there anything that really surprised you or took you back as you came to better understand how your company works?
Cenon: Nothing really shocked me. I mean, the main thing about BrightGauge, the huge benefit that we saw was the dashboards. So, everyone is busy during the day. There’s so many different things going on, but having those specific numbers in your face at every angle of the office to make sure that things are running as possible, really, really helped us out in terms of delivering the quality of service that we want, making sure that clients are happy.
To me, it was definitely using dashboards and having them available all over the place that definitely made a difference.
Danielle: Yeah, it’s simplifying your view of how everything is already going through all the other applications you’re using, you’re able to get a more direct view of what was most important to you or what is most important to you as opposed to having to sort through everything on an ongoing basis.
Cenon: Correct. To get some of those numbers, we use ConnectWise so to get a lot of those numbers, you have to run multiple queries with ConnectWise and just being able to see that number at all times on, like I said, the multiple angles in the office, saved time, kept everyone motivated to keep numbers where they should be. It was definitely a great thing.
Danielle: Great. Well, outside of all of the tracking and making sure that your team is improving, what do you for fun around there?
Cenon: We try to make sure that work is definitely fun. We want to make sure that when team members wake up in the morning, they don’t have that attitude, like, “Oh, I have to go to work.” We try to keep things as fun as possible in the office while making sure that when we need to, we get serious, but during the summertime, we like to make sure that we have ice cream stocked in the fridge.
We do have company meetings where everyone gets involved. That includes our field team. Our field team, they’re constantly out seeing clients. You’d barely see them, if it weren’t for these quarterly meetings, so we just had one recently in which everyone came. We have someone down in Florida. We flew them up, got them to meet everybody, the rest of the field team, the rest of the guys that they talk to on a daily basis, some of the account management team. We like to make sure that everyone sees each other at least face to face on every quarter.
We do happy hours. We do game nights. One of the partners over here, he loves to barbeque, so in the summertime, he tries to barbeque eat least once every two to three weeks for everybody.
We have monthly birthday lunches, we’ve even gone go-karting as a company. We try to keep things fun.
Danielle: It doesn’t sound like you have to try that hard around there, though.
Cenon: No, no. It definitely isn’t that hard.
Danielle: Yeah. How has feedback come to play an important part in your company?
Cenon: I definitely feel that being able to provide service starts off with our team or your team. Trying to keep—for us, we’ve basically kept the core team intact while just adding additional people around them. Having that core team, people that are familiar with process, procedures, the way that certain clients like to be contacted even, all that stuff gets shared out to the new team.
Making sure that the customer remains happy, so we definitely ask for a lot of customer feedback. We ask for a survey in every single service ticket that we complete and we ask basic questions. We don’t ask for too much. We ask whether or not they’re happy with Network Doctor and our service, we ask whether or not the technician had performed their duties or went above and beyond. We take those surveys and make sure that we’re delivering the best type of service. Definitely always getting customer feedback is huge and helps us address any issue with clients and keeps everyone happy.
Danielle: It’s great to share how other people are benefiting from your company, too.
Cenon: Oh, yeah, definitely. I forgot to mention actually, to solicit a lot of this feedback, we’ve actually made it aware to our clients that what we’re going to do is for each survey that we receive, we’re going to donate $1 to a charity. We hold a monthly contest between our technicians, who can get the most positive surveys in the month. The winner of that survey contest then gets to choose the charities that the month goes to.
It’s helped solicit a lot of feedback, whether it be positive or negative. It’s helped our community out as well by being able to donate that money.
Danielle: Yeah, that’s a really awesome incentive.
Cenon: Yes. We saw customer feedback increase probably tenfold after we announced that. Whether or not it was negative or positive surveys and with every single negative survey, they’re not completely all negative. It could be they were neutral. So, we’ll follow up with that person, either the account manager or myself, will follow up with that person to see what happens or how we can improve.
Danielle: And just to give everyone an idea, how many customers are you serving?
Cenon: We do have about 125 clients that are under a traditional managed service agreement. We service upwards of 400—we have about 400 active clients in our system right now that can call up at any specific time asking for support.
Danielle: So, you definitely want to rely on those surveys, too, to make sure everything is okay.
Cenon: Correct. Correct.
Danielle: It’s been really great chatting with you and I want to make sure that if there’s anything else that you’d like to share, that now is the time to do it.
Cenon: Yeah, that would be great. If anyone has any questions, definitely you can reach out to me. You can find my contact information off of our web page. It’s www.NetworkDr.com, that’s with a DR.com. And based on meeting you and our Data Driven Workshop, it was nice to know that BrightGauge also has the same values that we do and we strive to keep everyone happy. That was actually very nice and talking with you and seeing how everyone is there. It sort of reminded me of being here, so it was definitely a great thing.
Danielle: Yeah, as I heard from you, I felt like I was looking into a mirror a little bit and how things are set up around BrightGauge and just in my time since I’ve joined, getting to see some of those processes evolve and the ones that work stay the same and through how you onboard new employees to how you prioritize feedback, it sounds very similar.
Cenon: Oh, yeah, it’s definitely similar.
Danielle: Great! Well, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and if anyone would like to get in touch with you, they can find your information through your website. Same with BrightGauge, if you have any questions and would like to learn more about Network Doctor, we will be sharing some more information from a previous interview with you, so lots to come. We’re happy to have you.
Cenon: Well, thank you very much. It was great chatting with you, Danielle.
Danielle: Yeah, thank you so much.