We asked Rachel what it's been like providing Shipster support from home during the Covid-19 Pandemic

We asked Shipster support technician Rachel what working B2B tech support from home has been like during a global pandemic. The majority of our clients operate eCommerce warehouses in various retail sectors, each impacted differently by the coronavirus. It's Rachel role to support these businesses when they experience technical issues with their shipping software, or need to make complex configuration changes. The Shipster team have been working from home since the initial UK Lockdown in March, and are based in Manchester which is under extended local restrictions. The office is used a couple of times a month when the resources or meetup time is essential.

Here's our Q&A with Rachel.

Have the phones been as busy as they were pre-pandemic?

Oh yes, they’ve definitely been as busy, if not more busy since March. A lot of Shipster’s clients are online retailers and they’ve seen an increase in sales since the beginning of the pandemic, probably because customers haven’t been able to buy in-store. As well as more support calls, I’ve been setting up clients with new licences and courier integrations to help them meet demands. This year has been hectic in general as a lot of is changing in the world. Our clients have needed us to make a lot of adjustments for Brexit as well as the pandemic especially when it comes to international shipping. 

Have the types of client issues changed since the pandemic?

I’ve definitely seen more issues with international shipping since lots of countries have changed their rules about what/who can cross the border. This is starting to calm down now but it was pretty confusing and volatile around March. Also, some warehouses that use Shipster have been doing a lot more chopping and changing their packing station setups. We’ve had a multitude of calls and emails about setting up new computers and printers, which I imagine is to combat increased sales and enforce social distancing measures.

Largely though, a lot of issues clients experience are the same as they’ve always been. It’s funny how even during an unprecedented global crisis life still goes on and the little problems still need to be solved.

What has surprised you about working support from home?

I’m surprised by how much I like it. I’m a very sociable person so I was worried about feeling isolated, but my boyfriend has working from home too, and our flatmate has been furloughed so no chance of that! It’s been nice to roll out of bed just before work, or, if I wake up early, I have more time to exercise (I’m a Pilates gal) and I’m saving more money-making my lunch at home rather than buying meal deals every day. We’ve had a lot of maintenance issues with our flat recently as well and it’s been nice to guarantee someone is going to be in to let contractors in and accept deliveries. I think how relaxed and flexible this new set up is really suits me.

Apart from having to work from home, has support been affected by the pandemic in any other ways?

A huge part of support is communication. We have such a variety of experience across the support and development teams that we often pull on each other’s knowledge to find the best solution for the customer. This aspect has been an adjustment because we can’t just lean across the desk and ask for advice face to face any more. Instead, we’ve had to be extra active over email and on Slack, a software we use for direct messaging. This is especially important as the majority of support tickets we receive are urgent and we pride ourselves on responding immediately where possible.

As a support team, we’ve also had to move at a faster pace in general. As well as having more support tickets, a lot of our customers are processing more orders than before the pandemic so need their technical issues fixed quicker otherwise they’re at risk of losing revenue. Fortunately, we’re happy to rise to the challenge.

How do you feel about becoming our answer machine voice?

I was flattered to be asked for sure, but I’m pretty glad I don’t ever have to listen to it myself! I’m not sure if anyone likes the sound of their own voice, and I’m certainly no exception.

What do you miss about the office? 

It’s tough not being able to see your co-workers face to face. Before the pandemic, I had only been at Oddsphere part-time since February, so I felt like I was still in the early stages of getting to know everyone. I didn’t get many opportunities to go to the pub and stuff with everyone before lockdown, and I miss free beer Fridays. We had a colleague leave Oddsphere as well, and it was a shame we were able to give him a proper party send-off. We made do with Microsoft teams and takeaway pizzas which was a great substitute.

I also miss my double screen, gamer chair set up. Tech companies really know how to do office set up. I’m starting to get neck ache hunched over my work-from-home laptop. But, since it looks like we’re going to be working from home at least until the end of the year, I’ve been given a BIG monitor that I’m excited to set up. 

What’s the biggest challenge in working support from home?

My biggest challenge when working for home has been my Wi-Fi connection. It’s strong enough when it’s working but drops out sometimes meaning I can’t always do parts of my job. I’ve even had it drop out when I’m on the phone to a client. It’s slightly embarrassing to have technical problems when you’re a support technician! Everyone’s been very understanding though, and we have our internet provider coming round fix it.

I’ve also found it challenging to find ways to stay active when working from home. Before the pandemic, I used to walk to work and I was also waitressing part-time, so I was always on my feet. Now, most days I don’t have to move anywhere except from my bed to my kitchen table. I’ve had to force myself to go for walks after work to stop my step counter thinking I’ve died. At least the weather’s been pleasant recently! 

What’s your setup like?

I’m currently at my kitchen table with a Bluetooth earpiece so my hands are free for quick coding. I also have a Bluetooth mouse (I can’t be doing with trackpads or cables) and my notebook beside me ready to jot down messages or details. In terms of software, I’m using Vonage for calls, Outlook for emails and Groove for managing support tickets. The most useful software when it comes to working from home is ConnectWise. We ask all our clients to install it so we can jump onto their computers from anywhere in the world to solve their technical problems. I even took my set up to a getaway in Wales for a few days.  

How have you kept connected with the rest of the Shipster team?

We’ve had to get creative to find new ways to stay connected as a team. This has been especially important whilst training our new team member over the last month. We keep the lines of communication open by using a combination of slack, email, screen-sharing, phone calls and Microsoft Teams video chats. We’ve also managed to connect socially as a whole company via video chat. It’s a shame we can’t socialise face to face, but we’ve had lots of fun ordering pizza, drinking beer and playing silly games over Teams.