23 Women in Customer Service Sonja Hild 012
Article Ultimate Life Popular 6 min read

"Service is not a department, it is an attitude!"

Speaker and award-winning customer service expert Sonja Hild of BSH leads a team of 270 highly experienced CX professionals towards consumer centricity. She aspires to transform customer experience from being a 'repair-department' to a 'premium consumer service' role.

ultimate.ai: Did you pick your career or did the career pick you?

Service is not a department, it is an attitude! I love this saying, and I believe it is very, very true. So yes, it has a lot to do with personality and whether you have empathy and the will to help customers. I have really worked my way up. During my studies, I worked at fast-food restaurants, as a cabin attendant, and as a contact center agent – just to make a living. Then I took on a sales role which I loved a lot – again working with customers and solving their problems. And now, I love being back as the Director of Customer Service! It really can be one of the most stressful industries, but also the most rewarding industry to be in. If you like dynamic surroundings and you love solving problems – service is for you.

What were the challenges you faced and lessons learned throughout your career in customer service?

The biggest challenge is often to get out of the comfort zone, not saying “Ah, it’s ok where I am and what I do” – but to define for yourself what you want to do in the future. This does not have to be in three years or five, just know for yourself: “This is a job or a task I want to grow into”. Once you know this for yourself, you can work towards it and take it one step at a time.

I was very lucky in my career, because several times over the past two decades, I got a push from someone else – confirming that I can absolutely go for a higher position.

Many women have the same issue: in our heads, we tell ourselves “No, I think there is someone else who is better, faster, and smarter who should do this job”.

While all the larger steps I took in my career were based on my will, I definitely got the push from colleagues or supervisors who trusted in me and supported me. That took me out of my comfort zone and every single time I thought afterward “Well, that was not that difficult!”

How has customer service changed over the years, and what are the biggest trends in the industry moving forward?

It goes without saying that we have all become impatient kids. Online orders nowadays are delivered within the hour, or latest, by the next day. We love Netflix for offering us a “skip intro” button. We want to follow our sushi-order in real-time on maps.

Speed and convenience are the ultimate cornerstones of every excellent consumer experience.

And I cannot exclude myself: just yesterday my password did not work instantly to open the door of a carsharing car, while it was minus 10 degrees (Celsius) outside. I had to call a hotline, and the representative asked me all these annoying questions whether I want to be recorded, whether I want to rate the service, whether or not I already heard about their latest offer. I was furious: “Just – open – that – door – already!” Did I already say that I hope for the trend: “The end of passwords”?

What advice do you have for women who want to pursue leadership roles in the industry?

This question of course has two dimensions. How to pursue a leadership role and whether a customer service environment is for you. My advice is to find out if consumer-facing roles are for you. Imagine a day full of surprises, a very dynamic environment, quickly switching from one topic to the next, solving problems, calming down an angry customer, enjoying the happiness of another satisfied customer, and all the while always trying to do everything more efficiently. It has a lot of similarities to running a busy family life – something women have done for ages! If you are not scared by that, just try it out and enjoy it.

In any consumer-facing role, be ready for unpredictability, adapt your work speed to current circumstances, and don’t forget to take care of yourself in stressful times.

The leadership question for women can be answered universally and quickly: if you want to progress, be vocal about it. Ask superiors whom you trust for support. Show ambition. Don’t show what you did, but what has been the result of it. And if you are in an operational CS/CX function – like many women are - don’t only show your value in good work, but also in structural improvements next to your ‘standard workload’. Otherwise, you might get stuck there. Be vocal about time or money saved by a new process or system you thought of. Raise your hand for projects to improve CS/CX and ask for chances to prove your leadership skills.

BSH has global operations worldwide with over 58,200 employees. How does BSH manage such a diverse and massive workforce operating in different corners of the globe?

We love our products, and in current times it is clear how important they are for hygiene, for wellbeing, and for good food. A kitchen is the center of every party. Appliances make your life easier, safer, and cleaner. There is more to home appliances than you might think, which has become very evident now that people are in lockdowns all over the world. Our engineers are visiting consumers' houses around the globe and are part of the crucial services that are still going strong. They put smiles on thousands of people’s faces every day. This purpose unites us.

BSH has won multiple customer service awards in the past - Can you share with us what these awards mean for you?

The entire team of the 280 service professionals of BSH Netherlands won the awards, and they deserve it.

The International Customer Experience Awards 2020 was given to us in three categories because the expert jury found that we have realized a huge transformation from being a repair department to a consumer-centric, premium service organization.

It was a tough ride with lots of bottom-up, grassroots projects, with countless learnings and new ideas from almost everyone in the team. It was a real team effort. Our customer loyalty went up to record highs, which is the measurable effect of all this hard work. I am very proud of the team for what they have achieved and the positive atmosphere we have upheld despite the current pandemic. Having achieved leading this change towards a best-in-class service experience and still keeping profitability up is the major highlight of my career so far.

Sonja Hild will be speaking at our upcoming Customer Experience Webinar titled “Women Leading the Way: Customer Service Trends 2021” on 24 March 2021, 17:15 CET, alongside a panel of accomplished women leaders in the industry. Register for this FREE webinar to hear her talk on “Repair-Department to Premium Service Division: learnings from consumer centricity transformation”.

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