In a survey arranged last spring, consumers ranked the customer service of Helsingin Sanomat as the best service provider (service via telephone) of the year. As part of a consumer survey arranged by Taloustutkimus Oy, respondents were able to give their personal opinion, and name the best service provider in Finland.

"Even before the survey we felt that customers have been pleased with our service. In fact, people are calling in and sending messages just to thank us," says Customer Service Manager Taina Nevalainen.

The personnel of Helsingin Sanomat have worked hard to ensure high-quality customer service. "We have prepared descriptions for common customer service situations and considered the situations' objectives," says Nevalainen. When the basics are in excellent condition, Customer Services has been able to focus on sales development. "Sales work is more than just selling. For example, when we suggest that a customer's invoice interval be lengthened, the customer also benefits," says Nevalainen, reflecting on the objectives.

Over million customers a year

If your image of call centre work deals with listening to angry calls, it is not entirely correct. A typical call deals with a change of address, and only a fraction of the calls are angry complaints about late or missing deliveries. "However, it is always a challenge when a customer calls us about a problem," says Nevalainen. According to the Customer Service Manager, the main thing is to always provide the best possible service for the customer. Taking this into account, there is enough of a challenge with regular calls.

Based in Sanomala, Helsingin Sanomat customer services for subscribers receive approximately one million customer calls annually, which means 70 to 80 calls a day for each customer service employee. "Despite this, each customer must be treated personally," Nevalainen emphasises.

In just a few years, the Helsingin Sanomat product range has extended considerably. "It is not so long ago that our selection consisted of the regular subscription and the Sunday subscription. Now we have the weekend subscription, flexible and parallel subscriptions and the digital issue, for which we should be able to find the most suitable option for the customer."

Helsingin Sanomat customer service personnel are supported by two full-time trainers who discuss previous calls with them and monitor the implementation of objectives.

Constant training

"The personnel could certainly find all that oppressive, but on the other hand, our salespeople have said that it is liberating to receive constant feedback," says Nevalainen. "With feedback, you always know your current situation and how you are doing."

The oppressive effect is also reduced by the fact that the trainers, Anne Rantala and Tarja Patova, have worked for a long time for SanomaWSOY and are "great characters" according to Nevalainen. "The entire operational model has been built within the company, partially by learning the hard way."

The training concept has turned out to be working so well that it is also going to be implemented in the Corporate Services for Media customers, which was combined with Customer Services in June and which is going to move to Sanomala at the end of the year. "The model can't be transferred as such, but we are going to create a new version for media sales," Nevalainen stresses.