Petrobras, based in Brazil, is one of the largest oil companies in the world, with a market value of $57 billion (USD) and annual revenue of $112 billion (USD, 2013). Today, Petrobras’s support organization provides services for 120,000 users and maintains a high customer satisfaction rating (>97%). Through diligent planning and hard work, Petrobras has come a long way from its days of decentralization, high turnover, and low customer satisfaction.
Fifteen years ago, support at Petrobras was highly decentralized, with each of the company’s individual areas receiving user support from dedicated IT teams. There were no provisions for behavioral training or career-pathing, resulting in low employee satisfaction and high turnover. In addition, the many IT teams providing support weren’t referencing best practices. Indeed, initiatives and activities were neither shared nor standardized.
According to Leonardo Bottino, the support manager at the time, as IT support services hiring was based on a body-shop model, contractors had no incentive to contribute to the improvement of processes; they were paid regardless. “This situation kept the processes stagnant, and it required a major effort by Petrobras managers, who ended up getting too involved in operations. Thus, there wasn’t much time for service management, process improvement, or innovation. Initiatives directed at continuous service improvement were rare, when they occurred at all, which had a negative effect on customer support.”
To break out of this vicious cycle, some changes had to be made, including:
- Implementing a service catalog to manage the customer expectations
- Establishing and maintaining a knowledge base to standardize the customer support activities and to ensure that service provisioning wasn’t dependent on the professionals involved in providing those services
- Defining a single point of contact (SPOC) to channel demand, allowing for better service distribution
- Defining the work processes to align support activities with the customer’s needs
- Implementing incident management to enable service management, establish indicators, monitor results, instill a sense of urgency, and define criteria and conditions for setting priority
The transition to centralized operations began in the year 2000 and continued through 2003. To get started, Petrobras’s support leadership identified the quality models that needed to be adopted to provide the services that the organization needed, as well as shift the focus from people to performance. The final quality model Petrobras adopted focused on the following key elements:
Managing customer expectations (the service catalog): When you go to a pizzeria, you don’t ask for barbecue. If you don’t ask for barbecue, the waiter won’t waste time explaining why the pizzeria doesn’t make barbecue, and you won’t be frustrated that you’re missing out on barbecue. Similarly, during the support process, if the service catalog shows that the system X is the company’s official planning tool, the user won’t call to ask for support for system Y.
Managing the client’s perception: Being supported is just as important as noticing that you’re being supported. When a waiter takes your order (for example, scrambled eggs), you perceive that you’re being supported, but the cook hasn’t started to prepare your dish (he hasn’t even broken the eggs). Notice that the same waiter, after saying goodbye to you, can go to another client and take his order, and you won’t complain because, in your perception, you’ve already been served. In the support process, there are some actions that must be executed in order to manage the customer’s perception, such as updating tickets with information describing actions, tests, results, and referrals.
Establishing a SPOC: Petrobras established a SPOC to receive calls and provide initial support. The SPOC model enabled Petrobras’s support leadership to get a better sense of demand (volume), establish a screening process, and direct individual tickets to either centralized or specialized support teams. This improved both service distribution and resource utilization.
Strengthening the brand: The SPOC could be reached via a three-digit number that was easy to remember and could be reached from any phone on company premises.
Focusing on standards (Big Mac) and simplicity (#1): Under Petrobras’s new standards, the task of "install equipment for a user" involves a set of actions the entire team must complete: preparing the equipment for installation, performing the installation itself, making a backup of users’ data and copying it to the new equipment, customizing settings for the user, testing the operation of all applications in the new equipment, collecting the old equipment, and upgrading the user’s record in the inventory. The simplicity of this process lays in the fact that, to trigger this set of actions, all that’s required is for a user to request an installation.
Focusing on expertise and effectiveness: If nearly all of Petrobras’s workstations use Windows, there’s no reason why service professionals should be required to know or be trained in UNIX. The same concept applies to text editors, spreadsheet applications, email tools, etc.
Assuming social responsibility: There are some practices of social and environmental responsibility that companies can engage in without compromising results, including managing residue (ink and toner cartridges), selective garbage collection, reducing paper consumption, educating/training employees and subcontractors (e.g., oral health, nutrition, security), and much more.
The request for proposal (RFP) was a milestone in this transition. "All of the changes made to the support process were possible because of the requirements listed in that RFP," said Bottino.
“The RFP identifies all of the activities of the support teams, and it has two pillars that sustain its logic and justify its uniqueness: one is the detailed description of activities, and the other is the formula that associates payment and performance. There is little to no room for misinterpretation, and by knowing the performance will have an effect on compensation, service providers are motivated to stay involved in management activities by ensuring that support teams are comprised of competent and trained professionals, optimizing available resources, adjusting team size to handle call volume, improving the performance of each team member, maintaining the knowledge in the knowledge base, and identifying opportunities for process improvement,” Bottino explains.
In 2008, most of those requirements were used to create a new service center whose operations were based on the knowledge gained in the centralization process.
All of the changes Petrobras made between 2000 and 2003 had a dramatic effect on the overall performance of the support organization. For example, in 2012, Petrobras’s first call resolution (FCR) rate was 78 percent, up from 37 percent in 2003. Today, the Petrobras support organization has two service desks and one contact center, both 24x7 operation that are 100-percent outsourced (<2,000 professionals). The organization receives more than half a million calls each month, and more than half of those are received by the call center. Employee satisfaction is greater than 70 percent, and user satisfaction is at an all-time high of 97 percent. By any measure, the changes Petrobras has made to its operations have been a success, and the support organization is committed to maintaining a high level of satisfaction and service.
Natalia Gela is the chief editor of SupportWorld Brasil magazine at HDI Brasil. Natalia has more than ten years of experience in communications, having held positions in magazine, television, and PR companies.