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Whirlpool: Playing It Cool In The Connected World

This article was written by Louise Nordström and originally published in the Hello Transcom magazine 2017. It was then published in Italian in the online magazine CMI · 8 June 2017

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Imagine a future where your fridge helps you decide what to make for dinner. Or where your washing machine determines how to treat that irritating stain on your jumper. At Whirlpool, the world’s number one major appliance manufacturer, these types of innovations are already in the works, and they require a whole new level of customer service. Fortunately, that job is in the capable hands of Transcom, Whirlpool’s strategic partner.

“For every day that goes by, domestic appliances are getting smarter and smarter,” says Stefano Ballerini, Customer Service Manager EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at Whirlpool. “They will do more and more for us and we will be able to operate them from our mobile phones. The whole market is going in this direction, and sooner or later they will be launched, presenting us with a new reality.”

But, Ballerini notes, these types of appliances will also become more and more difficult to use. And it will be especially tricky when things go wrong. “The array of troubleshooting will be so much greater than it’s ever been. It won’t just be about the machine itself anymore… Perhaps it will be about the router it is connected to, or other machines that are linked to the same network.”

Ballerini predicts that this will put a lot of pressure on the customer service agents handling the clients; not only will they need to have the people skills required to effectively calm down an agitated customer, they will also need to have technical skills that extend far beyond just bolts and screws.  

“The agents need to know just about everything there is to know about internet connections, routers and so forth to be able to deal effectively with this kind of reality,” he says, adding that, already today, his company relies a great deal on the Transcom agents’ knowledge to avoid real-life technician intervention and still keep Whirlpool’s customers happy and satisfied.

“The truth is, people don’t read the user manuals that come with the machines they buy. That is one of the main problems we have. If everybody actually read them, people would find 80 percent of the solutions to the problems they encounter and call in for are there in print. But that’s where Transcom’s agents have us covered.”  

Transcom and Whirlpool, story of a winning partnership

Transcom became a strategic Whirlpool partner in 2014, when the global white goods giant acquired a controlling stake in Italian household appliance group Indesit. Transcom had provided Indesit with customer contact services since 2007: a cooperation that began with five European countries and quickly grew to cover 12.

Today Transcom provides customer assistance services for Whirlpool in some 20 countries throughout EMEA, in 28 different languages. And there seems to be a great demand for these services. In EMEA alone, Transcom’s agents receive a staggering 10 million e-mails and calls from Whirlpool’s customers every year: or 30,000 a day. And the questions range vastly in nature, often requiring both extraordinary people skills and almost super-natural tact. Debora Mendola, Global Account Manager, recalls when a customer phoned in to report that the light inside his refrigerator didn’t go off when he closed the door. The agent then asked him how he could possibly know this since the fridge door was actually closed. “The man then answered that he had put his little son inside the fridge to check,” she says bemused.  

In the first year of its partnership with Transcom, Whirlpool’s operating costs were optimized, mainly thanks to Whirlpool being able to whittle down the number of providers to just one thanks to Transcom’s multi-language services, located in just four contact centers.

“This means I just have one number to call and one person to speak to if I have a problem now. It makes life so easy,” Ballerini says. Ballerini, who has worked with Transcom since back in the Indesit days, says that although the cost-savings are of course of great importance to the cooperation between Whirlpool and Transcom working so well, it is particularly Transcom’s flexibility, responsiveness and loyalty that he appreciates.

“When you walk into the customer assistance services center in Budapest, you feel like you’re in a Whirlpool center. Everything is Whirlpool branded and everyone is talking Whirlpool – to the point, in fact, that we gave the Transcom agents the same Christmas gifts we gave our own staff, because they really feel part of our team.” “We are true partners,” Ballerini says. “We work together, we fight together and we always come out with a joint decision. This is so, so important.”