🏡 City: Benoni ➡️ Wakefield ➡️ Florence ➡️ Barcelona
💼 Job title: Head of LiveOps & Support
🎓 Studies: Computing, Six Sigma and Management
🔮 Languages: English 🇬🇧 and I dare to say Spanish 🇪🇸
👣 How do you commute to work? Walk, train, walk 🙂 5000+ steps a day!
✈️ Travel dreams: Trans-Siberian Railway
🎬 Favorite film: Zulu
📌 How has your journey evolved since you joined Stuart?
I joined Stuart in January 2017, based in the Barcelona office. At that moment, we were five people in Customer Support and we very quickly started absorbing activities from different countries. Stuart's growth exploded and we were onboarding five to 10 people per week until we reached a team of about 50 people. In 2018 we got our own CS office in Barcelona. It was great to have our own space, because the Engineering teams were getting a bit upset with us due to all the noise and phone calls we were making.
Around the same time we started working with an outsourcing company in Bulgaria to be able to support our growth. This allowed the team in Barcelona to evolve from being 100% agents to now having program managers, data analysts, project teams, etc. That's been the evolution from a really small, five-person team to now having over 40 people in Barcelona and over 250 in 4 cities (Krakow, Varna, Sofia and Lisbon) handling all the tasks for Stuart.
📌 What is the main business objective of LiveOps & Support within the company?
We're the frontline! We really focus on the client experience: making sure that the client's business needs are being met, the packages are being delivered as fast as possible and on-time.
And then from a delivery partner perspective, we're making sure that we don't waste their time. Delivery partners are out on the streets, in the rain, the cold weather, the sunshine delivering as many packages as possible for our clients. So we need to ensure that we're as efficient as possible. Providing our delivery partners with quick support and feedback, resolving all of their issues, etc. Those are two main areas that we focus on.
📌 What lessons did you learn as a manager navigating a high-growth environment?
I came from large corporations; I used to work for Citibank, for Colt, for large corporations.
There were thousands and thousands of people and processes, and everything took a little longer. You don't have that luxury at Stuart. So, the biggest thing as a manager is that you have to be extremely reactive. Trying to be proactive is one thing but sometimes you don't really have the time to do that. You just have to get on with it. And this is really the biggest thing that I've learned inside Stuart is that the decision-making process is substantially quicker. We're given the responsibility and the trust to make those decisions fast. Customer Support is the frontline, and we need to be able to respond rapidly to these changes.
📌 What's the project your team delivered that you’re most proud of?
It’s hard for me to just mention one project—so here are three that I’m really proud of.
In 2018, we hired a full-stack developer. He was a junior, he came into the team, he sat down with the agents, tried to understand the problems and within the space of three months he built some fantastic apps for us. One that reduced our workload and streamlined processes, which meant we didn't have to keep rushing to hire more people in order to handle the volumes that were coming in. Also, the applications he built were integrated with some of the tools we were using like Slack and Intercom. And when those companies found out what we were using, they were super impressed. Since then with Intercom in particular, we've been invited to webinars, we've written blog articles, and even joined their All Hands.
In 2020, we had to adapt to COVID like everybody else. That was huge because the volume of workload dropped off for about two weeks in Stuart and then just skyrocketed. We were also migrating from one outsourcing company to another and this is where we had to onboard over a hundred agents remotely. However, even with the uncertainty around COVID, last year was fantastic because we managed to complete a full migration from one company to another, migrate over 160 tasks—and we also won the Silver Stevie award through our efforts.
And third, we launched a chatbot in March that has reduced—so far—workload by about 20%, response times 25% and handling times by 15%, which has improved the overall efficiency and experience for our delivery partners.
📌 Can you remember the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever been given by a manager?
“The only way to get promoted is to become redundant.” That advice was given to me about 10 years ago, by one of my managers. He was transferred to Barcelona for a few months as part of a transition program and during that time provided me with some coaching. The statement itself might come across as bizarre at first, but it actually makes sense. You can be an expert in your field, but you shouldn't become so critical to the organization that you're the only one who knows how to do things. If you always need to be available, that could end up preventing you from being promoted and if you have a team, they may never grow.
📌 What's your magic trick to achieve balance between your career and personal life?
Leading on from the previous questions, it’s about building a great team. We talk about hiring a lot of people, but we've always tried to hire the right team people so that you don't need to have 500 people sitting around you doing the work that just 50 could do. It’s really about hiring the right people at the right time, in the right role. And then with that, you can find a balance in your life because you can delegate, grow your team’s abilities as well; trusting them to do their job also releases a lot of the pressure on your side.
📌 What would your dream trip be?
I was born in South Africa and when I was in my twenties, I went on holiday with some friends. We went from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and we did this journey by train. I would never have dreamed of going by train in South Africa, as it's not something you would normally do. But it was a really cool experience.
The train took a route around mountains and through farmland and the views along the route were absolutely spectacular. And since then, I've always wanted to do something similar on other famous train routes around the world, like the Trans-Siberian Railway for example.