Meet the team #1: Eleftheria means freedom

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You’ve enjoyed the platform, you’ve dug the features, you’ve appreciated the support and you loved the end product.

It’s time to meet the people behind it all.

In this series of behind-the-scenes interviews, we’ll be introducing the team that created eFrontPro, is managing your private Clouds and keeps churning all those nice updates.

We’ll start with Eleftheria Papatheodorou, an eFront customer service veteran that’s been with the company since its humble beginnings and helped us build a solid support team that gets high praise from our customers.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title: Eleftheria does mean freedom in Greek).

Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your name, background, and responsibilities inside the company?

I am Eleftheria Papatheodorou, or El which is my nickname!

After studying Management Science and Technology at the Athens University of Economics and Business I was hired by Epignosis and for the last 8 years I’ve been a member of the team.

I am responsible for customer training and support management.

eFront customers praise your team’s responsiveness to their support requests. In an industry were support is often an afterthought, what’s your secret?

Well, it IS a secret, so we better leave it as it is. We wouldn’t want our competitors to read about it 😉

But here’s a small hint: loving your job helps a lot.

eFront, and now eFrontPro, have come a long way since the early days. How has the support team kept up with their ever expanding user base?

I think that having a great support service is one of the features we use to attract new customers, so expanding our user base and keeping our support top-notch were always interdependent.

As a customer oriented company, our support service has been and still is our top priority. We were never afraid of working hard to cope with our ever increasing number of customers.

Of course at times this has been very demanding, as the team was small and had to support really big customers, but we kept at it, determined to succeed.

That said, supporting a product with such a user friendly interface and built according to actual customer needs and feedback, has certainly made our jobs a lot easier.

Is there anything regarding support that you find particularly challenging?

I’d say that understanding how the end users actually use the product is a big challenge, as it’s those needs that should guide our product development.

Through support we get to have an in depth communication with our customers, and besides helping them solve their problems and teaching them how to work with the software, we must also be capable of “decrypting” any implicit messages.

Obviously no one knows what’s lacking or what’s needed in an eLearning product better than its actual users, but they can’t always put it in concrete terms, and what’s important to one customer might not be to the market at large.

So, part of our job is to gauge what the market needs based on the support questions and requests we receive, note them down, and use them to plan our roadmap.

Many see support as a thankless job for a “silent hero”. Do you think support can be rewarding?

The most important thing is that you, yourself, feel thankful for your job. In this sense there is really no thankless job.

When it comes to support, I find it really rewarding and I can assure you that when the customers are happy they can become really generous with their praise. Often I’ve been touched and flattered by our customer’s comments.

The real silent heroes for me are the developers, who are behind the scenes and do all the hard work.

Do you study the competition? What you think are other companies’ shortcomings when it comes to their support offerings, and how does eFrontPro differ?

To answer this I would ask for our customers help. I would welcome them to post their comments and share their opinions with us.

How do you like working for Epignosis? How does it compare to the average Greek company, based on your prior experience, or what your friends in other IT companies tell you?

I could not ask for a better workplace environment. The team is great and we are more like friends than colleagues, something which is very important to me.

As for comparing it to other employers, I don’t like comparisons in general since they can lead to the wrong conclusion. Everything in life has its pros and cons, nothing is perfect. And there’s always our personal perspective to consider. What’s great for me may be irrelevant to someone else. The challenge is to find what best suits you.

You’ve been been with the company for nearly 8 years now. What do you think has changed, if anything, since the early days, regarding your job function, the team, and the product?

Many many things have changed, as you probably can imagine.

First of all, many new members were added to our team and this requires better organization and more formalized procedures. We are still working on these since we are still growing our team and we often have to reconsider and improve our procedures.

As far as the product is concerned, I can assure you that you wouldn’t recognize it as it was 8 years before. The philosophy is still the same but the implementation is much more modern and feature complete.

My job function has also changed. When the team had fewer members each of us had to undertake many different tasks, or “wear many hats”, as they say, whereas as the company grows our roles get more specialized.

What kinds of support methods do you offer (e.g. email, web form, chat, over the phone, etc). Which one do you think works better and why?

We offer email based support as well as training sessions via web conferencing tools.

When it comes to support I think that email works best.

First of all, our market is global and the different timezones don’t allow, at the moment, for a live 24 hours support service (though we plan to expand our support services in the future).

Furthermore, having the questions or requests in written form in front of you helps you better understand them and gives you the time to find the best possible answer.

Finally, there are several cases where the support request has to be forwarded to the tech/development team. The email is the most secure way to transfer the customer’s message exactly as it is.

On the other hand, training requires a direct communication with the customer and this is where the web conference tools excel. Through a virtual “classroom” interface, customers can watch my screen, follow the lecture, and ask questions during their training.

After all these years have you developed any general theories or personal ideas about what makes for good end-user support?

Not sure if it can be called a theory, but I have developed a kind of motto: be truthful!

Customers don’t want to hear “beautiful” lies. They just want to know if what they ask for is possible or not and how.

Always try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes to better understand him/her. Of course you must first love listening to others, otherwise this job can be painful.

Where do you see eFrontPro in 5 years time? And where do you see yourself?

5 years is enough time for us to build a completely new product, so eFrontPro may not exist anymore! (Ok, just kidding! :-) As you can tell from our nearly 10 years in the industry, we’re committed to our products for the long term).

I don’t like making predictions because I don’t want to be proven wrong.

Just stay tuned and make sure that you “follow” us!

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