How Barracuda customer support adjusted to remote work
With the rapid shift to remote work, Barracuda’s customer support team had to adjust quickly while continuing to help customers and channel partners navigating similar transitions.
To give you an inside look at how the team overcame these challenges, we recently spoke with Hossein Ghazizadeh, SVP, Worldwide Customer Support, at Barracuda. He shared his thoughts on the lessons his team has learned along the way and how the experience will change the way his team operates going forward.
What kinds of challenges are you seeing in customer support right now? How is your team overcoming those challenges?
As a department that rarely had anybody work from home, in less than a week we had to pack up and be ready to have the entire team working from home. With limited time, the Barracuda IT department moved quickly and efficiently to provide the team with the resources required to support our customers and each other while everyone is working remotely.
Two of the biggest challenges are the speed of knowledge sharing and training. When everyone is working from home, knowledge sharing is different. All updates need to go through emails and Slack channels or phone calls, compared to simply asking the people sitting around you. This can create a longer turnaround especially when techs are on back-to-back calls and need to check multiple outlets to assist with questions or needed answers.
During the last week we were in the office, we had just begun to train a handful of new hires, with one that had started on the same day we were leaving to begin remote work. A primary concern was how we would be able to continue to train our new employees with the same quality of training that we’ve always provided. Just as schools have had to move from in-person to online training, the team has found creative ways to do the same using technology. For example, one of the improvements with our new phone system is we have an option to listen in to calls for new product training.
Due to differing schedules and multiple product teams, communication and teamwork has always been a challenge even while in the office. Working remotely has compelled team members to stay in touch and help each other when needed. Although we are not sitting next to each other in the office, we are all just a phone/slack call away. In addition, we realize that our customers are also running into their own challenges, and we need to stay focused on working closely with them to meet their needs.
We worked hard to meet these challenges presented, and we are now all working cohesively as a team to provide the outstanding support that our customers expect.
What questions has the team been getting most frequently in recent weeks? Is there anything customers are asking about more now than they used to before the big shift to remote work?
At the beginning, we got lots of questions from customers working from home. The number one question was about VPN access and firewall access. People who normally work from the office didn’t use VPN as much they are these days, so in the first weeks we got many questions about how things work and getting access. That is one of the reasons we had higher call volume and email volume at the beginning. But now that people are getting used to working from home, we’re back to normal call volume, and we’re seeing the usual mix of product-related questions.
How has the current crisis changed the way the support team operates? How do you think it will change the ways that support works going forward?
If you’ve ever tried to force open a tin can with a knife, then you know that the right tools make all the difference. The same goes for remote work. In less than one week, we changed the entire phone system and got everyone trained on the new tools. It was a lot of hard work from the IT department and support managers, working together to make sure everybody understands.
The team is using Salesforce reporting and 3CX phone system to keep track of their work process and help teammates gauge progress. Similarly, time management apps are making it easy for everyone on the team to accurately track their time and progress on tasks. It also makes it easier for managers to follow up. When you see an employee struggling on specific tasks or taking much longer than usual, you can easily use a messaging platform to step in and start a conversation — even while working miles apart.
The Support team is all working for home. We seem to be well adjusted to the new way of operations, and we are improving things every day. Because we made this quick transition quite smoothly, I feel there could be an opportunity for more people to have the option to work from home in the future. I do see some improvements with some of employees’ productivity and attitude toward work. For some people staying home is less stressful, and they feel there are fewer distractions than in the office.
There has been a huge uptick in COVID-19-related spearfishing (667% in the first weeks of March) Are you seeing more ransomware recovery requests?
Absolutely. Ransomware recovery requests have tripled since so many people started working from home. Support would receive one or two ransomware recovery requests a month, and now Support is seeing one ransomware recovery request each week. That number was even higher in March when people were just starting to transition to remote work and there was more confusion. Our data protection support team helped with 10 different ransomware recovery requests in March alone.
Data protection (backup) is the last line of defense in many ransomware incidents. How is support able to help in these situations?
There are a few different ways the Support team can help in these situations, depending on the backup method selected by the customer to meet restore objectives. Support can provide guidance and help with any restore issues to get customers environment back in a working state, help restore from a revisional backup prior to the ransomware attack, or provide direction with various restore functions, such as full server restores, virtualized backup restores, and Microsoft Exchange and SQL restores.
For example, one of our managed service provider(MSP) customers was attacked by ransomware and needed immediate restores. Our support team worked with the customer all through the night performing Bare Metal restores for hardware-based servers as well as virtualized guest restores for VMware environments. To help with recovery time, support aided by performing restores on the backend for the virtualized servers while other restores were being performed from the customer’s local interface.