“Excellent communication is the secret sauce for world-class support”

GET TO KNOW Petra Arnold, head of support at identity and security company Nexus Group. “The secret sauce for providing world-class support is ensuring excellent communication with the customers. This keeps them involved and assures them that you understand them and their situation,” she says.

How would your colleagues describe you?

“I think they’d say that I’m energetic, and that I never give up. They’d probably also say that I’m tough. I’m tough on myself – I want to reach my goals. And I’m tough on my colleagues – if I ask for something, it means that I expect it done.

“My team consists of 16 people, distributed over several locations globally. I really like being the leader of a global team. I make sure we share best practices with one another and that we work closely together. We use common tools and processes, and we communicate using several different channels: email, Skype, phone, etc. I also do some travelling to meet my colleagues in person,” says Petra Arnold.

Why are you working at Nexus?

“I started as a software developer, and I then moved on to project management, key account management and site leadership. In 2010 I wanted to change jobs, and an old classmate invited me to a customer event for his company, vps. I was impressed: the customers were really proud to be using vps’s identity and access management software, and told engaging stories about how the software solved their problems.

“I wanted to be a part of that, so I joined vps as a project manager. Two years later, in 2012, Nexus acquired vps. After a while I was asked to build a Nexus customer care team in Germany, and later on I also became responsible for software support in Germany.

“At the end of 2016, Magnus Malmström, vice president of product and delivery at Nexus, asked if I wanted to be responsible for the global software support. I accepted, and my colleague Sarah Althoff took over customer care in Germany. As of October 2017, I am also responsible for the global hardware support.

“Working with our costumers gives me energy. We sometimes get hard support cases, and sometimes the customers are upset – to solve their problems and make the customers happy again is something I really enjoy doing,” says Petra Arnold.

What are you working on now?

“Nexus has decided to go all-in with their partners, that is, to work exclusively with indirect sales. This means that our partners will provide our end customers with first and second line support, and we will provide third line support.

“This is a pretty big change for us, and I’m making sure that it will work smoothly for all involved. For example, partners can now prioritize the support cases they are handing over to us, since they know best which cases are most critical. We are also giving partners direct contact to our product owners – the partners often have requests for new features or changes in the products, and it’s easier for everybody if they talk directly to the product owners from time to time.

“I’m also working on implementing new ways to get in contact with us, and on making our processes even more streamlined,” says Petra Arnold.

What is the secret sauce for providing world-class support?

“A prerequisite is having a highly competent support team. They need to be well trained in the products and services they are supporting, and you also need a few people on your team with very deep knowledge who can manage the really difficult issues. It is also important to be in close contact with the product development team: if the support team can’t fix an issue, the problem gets forwarded to them.

“But having great competence in the products and services is not enough – the secret sauce for providing world-class support is excellent communication with the customers. You should always let the customer know what you’re doing and what the next step is, so that they stay involved and feel sure that you understand them and their situation. Hopefully you find a solution to the problem, but the most important thing is actually that the customer is continuously updated on what’s happening,” says Petra Arnold.

Describe an ordinary day in the life of Petra!

“I wake up very early and do some sports or house work in the morning; my husband has to get up early, which wakes me up anyways, and I have realized that I prefer getting private things done in the morning instead of in the evening.

“When I get to our office in Ettlingen, I have a stand-up meeting with the Swedish team, and then a stand-up meeting with the German team.

“After the meetings, I start working on the main topic for the day, which I have planned in advanced. Right now, I’m reworking our support and maintenance policy. But I am also driven by things that come up during the day, such as making sure that the right people are working together on the right support tickets.

“I like to work pretty late into the evenings – I leave work between 17 and 19 o’clock. When I get home I am hungry, and me or my husband makes dinner, and then we eat together. After dinner I read, knit or do some sports with friends,” says Petra Arnold.