When Tom Johansen started at Kindred (then Unibet) 15 years ago, all customer contacts were made either via telephone or email, which meant that you were serving only one customer at the time. Also, fax machines were still a thing! Today, customers mainly contact us using the Chat tool, which provides greater efficiency for the customers and the Customer service agents.
To commemorate Tom’s years of service milestone, there was a special post on our Intranet, to share the celebration with the global Kindred team. Our Head of Customer Services, as well as the Group CEO Henrik Tjärnström, had prepared a personal note and letter that recognised Tom’s long service with us. Our Malta Facilities Team had a surprise lunch for Tom, playing Tina Turner’s “Simply the best” in the Hub. We spoke to Tom and his Team Manager Frida Pham Petterson, to find out more about a career in Customer Services.
Congratulations Tom! What an amazing milestone, how was this celebrated?
I went to the office as usual for a team meeting and received a surprise voucher for Kempinski hotel! I’ll enjoy that.
What made you apply for a job with us (then Unibet) 15 years ago?
Back then, I owned a restaurant in Paceville, Malta. Some people told me to apply for Unibet, since they needed Norwegian support at the time. I got the job and was the third Norwegian starter in the Customer Service Team. I continued to run the restaurant for three more years.
Frida, you manage Tom's team now, how is it looking now compared to his early days?
During Tom’s 15 years in the company, the composition of the team and the size of the group has changed a lot. Right now, we have Norwegian and Swedish agents working together, making one united team of approximately 20 agents. A hospitality background always comes in handy when handling customer contacts via phone, chats, and email. A big part of the job is to make the customers feel comfortable coming to us with their issues and queries, which Tom has been doing for a long time. Tom has always been the backbone of the Norwegian team and is always willing to help the new starters with a positive attitude and funny jokes. A fun fact about Tom is that he has once been in the Eurovision song contest as a backup dancer!
Tom, what have been the biggest changes in your role in customer service within 15 years?
When I started, we had only phone and e-mails available to us, so we were only able to assist one client at a time. We didn’t have the tools we have today, and all documents came to us by fax. Other departments came to pick up necessary documents from us a few times a day. We didn’t have planning either, so the general manager created a shift schedule for Customer Service.
Frida, how much have things changed since those days?
We have come a long way. Today, Customer Service, CS, is a lot more data and technology-driven. The fax machine has been replaced with Oracle and other systems and tools that enable our customers to self-serve and have a more effortless customer service experience. With more channels, markets, technology, and responsibilities in Customer Service, we now also have a Resource Planning team of 25 people. They are based in Malta and Gibraltar, and not only have they taken over the task of doing rosters, but now work as a central global function to ensure we can work smarter as a global CS team across markets and locations. They do so through proactive analyzing and predicting customer behaviour, planning and making sure we manage the contacts to Customer Service real-time as effectively as possible.
Based on your experience Tom, what makes a great customer service agent?
The most important thing is to have patience and listen to the clients. You need to show empathy. We always have fun at work so it’s important to take a joke between colleagues. Never be afraid to ask for help, since things are constantly changing. Asking for help will make it easier for other agents and keeps everyone happy.
Frida, do you have anything to add, based on your experience?
To become a great customer service agent, you need to be open to change, as this industry is changing constantly, with new procedures, products and regulations. The industry is fast pacing, which makes it a plus if you are good at multitasking and handling stress. A positive outlook always goes a long way.
Tom, you have been with Kindred for 15 years! What do you love about your job?
It’s fun and I enjoy my colleagues. I love helping clients, also the fact that Kindred takes good care of all the employees and ensures we have the best time when we work here. Many of the agents in Malta are young and far away from home, so Kindred gives everyone a good start and makes them feel welcome. Kindred parties are always the best and summer party 2019 was my favourite.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying and relocating to Malta?
Take the chance and get more experience! It’ll be a fun time with nice colleagues and Kindred will take care of you in the best way. Even though you’ll be away from home, you’ll never be alone, even during Covid time.