Working at StarHub: My 5 months as an intern
Fresh out of junior college, I was not sure what to expect when my first job was not at a posh office but at a StarHub retail outlet – the Consumer Channel Sales (CCS) department of StarHub. Other than helping my peers with their occasional phone hangs, I have literally no experience in the customer service sector. Friends called me ‘adventurous’, ‘daring’ and ‘thick-skinned’ to start my working experience in a telecommunication company. I was well aware that dealing with people and managing customers were what this job entailed. Personally, I knew that by accepting this job, I would be faced with a steep learning curve with a thousand things to remember. Being the unconventional sort, I took up this challenge, or some may call it ‘challenge accepted’ as I believed my stint would offer me a far deeper experience in customer service as compared to the usual holiday jobs in other sectors that my peers were taking on.
Training to be a Receptionist
I was assigned to be the regular receptionist for one of the main StarHub shops. 3 solid days were spent attached to a permanent staff, who was very patient in teaching me the ropes which included things such as changing a SIM card, checking for contract expiry and recontract eligibility, viewing a customer’s bill…the list goes on. In essence, a receptionist at the shop is required to be almost a ‘walking Wikipedia’ for StarHub, knowing all the details of each mobile, cable TV and broadband plan, promotions for each service and providing basic troubleshooting for customers. To list down what I had to remember by the end of the 3 days of training would take forever and honestly, I was very overwhelmed at the thought of facing actual customers the next day.
On top of knowing what to do on the job, I was pre-empted about the various types of customers at the shop. Most of the customers are generally fine but there are, of course, exceptions. ‘Horror stories’ of customer service officers being yelled at or had things thrown at them, customers who would demand for the sky etc ... I was mentally prepared yet nervous about the next day.
Then came the first day of ‘Real Work’
That day came after a good night’s rest. The feelings I had when my first customer approached me was a mix of fear and excitement at the same time. My first day on my own without my mentor beside me proved to be challenging. Yet it was rewarding. I was able to heave a sigh of relief at the end of the day as i managed to serve over a hundred customers! I have to think on my feet as I have to serve customers at the self-help kiosk or reception and attempt to answer their queries before they take a queue number. Many times, I managed to answer their questions and saved them the need to join the queue. It was definitely not perfect and I do acknowledge several mistakes were made. In addition, I could not answer all the questions posed, whcih I had to constantly run to the managers’ room to seek help or clarifications. As days went by, i was thankful that each day was better than the previous day. I met different customers from both ends of the spectrum; the abusive customers and the appreciative customers. The apprecative customers even bought us sweets or snacks in appreciation of our service. I could also feel on the one hand, boredom during the lull periods and had my hands all tangled up during peak hours – no two days are the same when you are in a StarHub shop.
As the days went by, you could say that I got better and better. It was time to upgrade!
I had the opportunity to learn the ropes of doing "express" services alongside my receptionist role. An express service officer basically does ‘fast’ services, namely changing the SIM card for prepaid customers (yes the procedures differ from that of postpaid customers), upgrading a customer’s set-up box or provisioning another set-up box to the customer’s service address and terminating services. Serving at a counter was a different experience compared to the reception. The latter is mainly a touch-and-go experuence while the former allowed for some small conversations while we process the transactions. Most of my conversations with customers were kept to general topics such as the hassle of getting posted overseas or moving house, but there were customers who engaged me on a more personal level of conversations – ‘Why do you choose to do this job?’ or ‘Are you doing this as a day job or you’re just a part-timer?’.
Of customers & customer expectations and lessons learnt
There were several memorable cases which I have had the chance to handle and once again, no two cases are alike. Every customer has their own individual demands and combination of services which we have to try and fulfill or attend to. I would admit that while we try to fulfill most of the requests, there was a limit to how much we could do at our end. There was so much to follow up on for customers – which translates to a longer waiting time.
From being on the shop floor for the past 5 months, I’ve learnt several valuable lessons which I will admit that I have overlooked prior to joining the customer service sector or didn’t pay much attention to. I have learnt to really appreciate and understand customer service staff and now I strive to be a better customer myself. Though this job is not 100% gratifying, I really learned from interacting with different types of customers. That sense of fulfillment is what made me not regret spending my post-JC holidays as a temp staff over at a StarHub shop.
At the backend – Social CRM department
After 5 months of working at the shop floor, I decided to spend the last month doing an internship at the Social CRM department – headed by @Darren. Thankfully the past 5 months of work made the learning curve gentler as I had understood the different products of StarHub and had a hand at handling customers. What made the Social CRM department different is the method of communication. I was used to talking to customers with hand gestures and body language, but communicating the same sentiments over at StarHub’s social media platforms and community forum page was a whole new level of challenge altogether for me.
What I did part I – how to sell a new product?
The first two days of intern-hood involved coming up with a brief for frontliners and staff, under the guidance of Douglas and Florence (Segment and Hubbing team respectively). Having seen several briefs coming through in my work email at the shop front, it was quite an experience having to write these briefs myself. Briefs are essential information and FAQs communicated to front line staff to sell the products or to help customers better understand it. Having personally used these briefs whenever I or the customer is in doubt, I understood the importance of having a brief that covers as many, if not all information gaps as possible. Good thing I had Douglas and Florence to double-check and proof read my work to avoid potentially confusing thousands of people!
Part II – Being a keyboard customer service officer
The second part of my Social CRM internship involved me being a social customer care agent under @Howard Toh's guidance. This involved me being put in charge of answering questions on StarHub Community (under the handle @btanmm) as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. There was so much more to simply typing out an answer and posting it – rounds of vetting and proof reading had to be done in order to ensure the correct and applicable information is being released on social media, in black and white! I had to be extra-careful of whatever information that I was about to post – one tip for potential interns: always ASK! Even a slightest bit of doubt could make a difference to the quality of response.
I am not paid to do this, but I would say that the StarHub Community is a great platform to clear customers’ doubts because chances are, others would have experienced the same before. Having worked at the shop front and constantly having to answer the same questions from different customers at the reception over and over, it would help to greatly reduce the queue at the reception!
Part III – Market Research and understanding a customer’s needs and wants
The final part of the internship with the Social CRM department involved market research under Linda. I hope to do a major in Marketing as I pursue my degree in business management so I was secretly glad for the opportunity! Market research, very briefly put, involves doing an analysis of the customer base of StarHub or any firm. It gauges the customer’s receptiveness towards a launched or yet-to-be-launched product, and companies like StarHub would take in the feedback and work towards building a product that customers would buy and use! The way how survey questions are crafted is very important so as to generate applicable and useful responses from customers – that's easily said but not quite easily done! It would take lots of experience for one to be really skilled in crafting effective survey questions. Market research not only involves survey work behind a computer screen and program – researchers would also have to sometimes go down to the ground to garner responses and see the “effects” of a product that was launched. For instance I had the opportunity to go down to the Serangoon area with Linda to interview provision shop owners about the sale of StarHub prepaid cards as well as interviewing a café owner at Little India about his communication and technological needs for his enterprise. Market research is not as dry and boring as it seems!
Though the time spent at the backend Social CRM department was very short, it has provided me with a great headstart into what I intend to pursue at university. Of course, what I covered was definitely not exhaustive of what the department do daily but it was sufficient for me to get a glimpse of the real-life applications of whatever that I am about to study. This experience was made very pleasant with approachable and friendly mentors – thank you all for this meaningful and memorable internship!