Working from Home is not a Saving Measure

Fleurop Customer Service has never been so busy as in recent months! Most of their orders have had to be processed by the Customer Service team. Entirely from home. This is reason enough to ask Cocky Vermaat, team leader Customer Service, and Leon Siepman, IT manager of Fleurop, how they got through the Coronavirus crisis.

How are you doing?

Cocky; ‘We’re doing well. We have been extremely busy in recent months! We have never experienced this before.’

‘The Customer Service team moved to homeworking, which took some getting used to. ICT has ensured that we could do our work quickly from home, just as we are used to in the office. In the meantime, they are all very much looking forward to going to the office. Working from home is fine in itself, but everyone misses personal contact with colleagues.’

Leon; ‘During the onset of the corona crisis, we had quickly taken precautions to enable working from home. The messages from Italy did not sound good and that is why my team quickly ensured that the Customer Service in particular was the first to work from home. They still do this today.’

Could you make everyone work at home quickly?

Cocky; ‘Yes, after collecting the necessary items, the team was able to get started right away and had access to all systems and customer information.’

Leon; ‘It has always been our goal to be able to offer everything online. I started doing this in 2001. This was not understood by everyone at the time, but that has now paid off. Everyone else was also able to get started with homeworking quickly thanks to storm®.’

‘But the most important thing in this situation is the employees’ willingness to be flexible, especially the “girls from the order department” as I call them! I deeply respect the way they have handled this. Without complaining they went home and, sometimes in the most impossible places, set up a workplace and went to work. With children, partner or pets in the background, they have managed to process all orders and customer contacts during this super busy time. The involvement, enthusiasm and flexibility is simply incredible. The ICT and order department are a close-knit team that has a lot to do with each other and they were therefore working together almost 24/7 in recent months.’

So the customer service department started working from home. How did they feel about that?

Cocky; ‘It soon became so busy that we had to hire extra people, otherwise we just couldn’t take it anymore. The queues were increasing and customers sometimes had to wait for long periods of time to speak with an agent via chat or over the phone. We also suddenly had a lot of questions from companies who wanted to support their staff by sending them a beautiful bouquet. All this took many extra hours of work to keep everything running smoothly. This did not only apply to our people, but certainly also to the Fleurop florists who ultimately had to deliver the bouquets.’

‘Most customers understood the longer waiting times and we have always explained the situation to consumers. Unfortunately you can not satisfy everyone, so occasionally there was also annoyance with the customers. This did cause stress for the team.’

How did the team feel about having to work from home overnight?

Cocky; ‘It has been so busy that we actually didn’t have time to think about this. Our communication within and between teams is good, but it was also difficult in some cases. There are colleagues who are at home with a baby and toddler and that is not easy.’

‘I tried to solve this by giving them tasks that suited their situation better. Fortunately, we have these options. Some colleagues then felt annoyed that they could not get everything done and if the children slept in the evening, they would continue working for several hours to get rid of the backlog. Almost everyone stepped up unsolicited and continued to work outside of normal hours. That’s fantastic!’

How big is your customer service team?

Cocky; ‘We now have 16 employees and we have hired 4 extra people to help us serve all channels and activities. Customer support was also assisted by colleagues from other departments. This normally only happens with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, but was really necessary due to the enormous crowds. Every day looked like a Mother’s Day….’

‘The useful thing was that, even though the temporary employees lived far away, they could quickly be deployed on chat and mail. This worked fine this way thanks to the IT department. If we hadn’t done this, we probably should have closed a channel, like the chat.’

‘On many days we had 4 times more orders than usual. The Friday before Easter we even stopped ordering for delivery at Easter because we had reached the maximum capacity. By switching quickly, we were able to expand this again. After an order has been placed, it must of course also be delivered by a Fleurop florist. The logistics capacity dried up at some point.’

‘Due to the large numbers of orders, contact moments with customers also increased. Sometimes we had as many as 1,500 incoming and outgoing calls in one day, in addition to the hundreds of emails and chats.’

Leon; ‘And the evenings continued to get longer, we were not used to that.’

Have you seen more people using the chat or email?

Cocky; ‘No, there is of course an increase in chat traffic, but this has not replaced other channels.’

What were the biggest challenges of the past period?

Cocky; ‘To ensure that the atmosphere remained good, everyone was able to keep in touch and, above all, to ensure that all orders are processed on time. And not to forget keeping our senses of humor!’

Leon; ‘We have given the team extra attention from the organization with the occasional gift and of course a beautiful bouquet. This is to show that we are proud of the work they have done.’

What have you done in the area of security?

Leon; ‘During the crowds, we also had to deal with a serious DDoS attack. We were able to stop it successfully and we did not suffer from this. After this, we took further measures and these are now being further tightened. This is one of the biggest concerns right now because we work with personal data all day long.’

Are you also going to work from home from now on?

Cocky; ‘Yes, that is the intention. There are now more options for homeworking, and if the practical problems can be solved in a creative way, that is certainly an possibility. It is possible to switch in and out of the office more quickly, which is a great advantage. Homeworking certainly gives employees more options, but the best place to work is still in the office. And it is important to have personal contact with your colleagues.’

Leon; ‘You can see that a change has occurred. At first everyone said it was a pity that you couldn’t work from home, but now most colleagues would almost pay to work in the office. Contact between colleagues is more important than people thought. Working from home is not a saving measure. It is a nice addition so that everything can be arranged more flexibly.’