According to Magento, a Magento Solution Specialist is someone who can manoeuvre the Magento platform expertly, someone who understands the complex ins and outs of the software and “knows how to make the best use of Magento technology.” While Magento delves into further technical detail about a Solution Specialist's specific set of skills, I would like to share with you what Solution Specialists at Vaimo do on a daily basis and the benefits they offer to Vaimo clients.
Vaimo currently has ten Solution Specialists, with most of them also being certified Magento Solution Specialists. In fact, some Key Account Managers, developers and Project Managers at Vaimo are also certified Magento Solution Specialists, but more on that later. I decided to turn to Charlotte Askenbom and Erik Jerbéus, who are the heads of the Solution Specialists in the Vaimo headquarters in Stockholm, to delve more into their daily work.
What is it that you do? Can you explain the main key responsibilities of a Solution Specialist?
A solution specialist has three main areas of responsibilities: support, account management and project management. We take care of support issues for all clients we are directly responsible for and we also take on the roles of account manager and project manager for some clients. In the project manager role, we handle the relationship between the client and Vaimo, and we deal with various eCommerce-related projects with the client and help them develop their eCommerce business.
Let's get back to the role later. How is the Solution Specialist department set up at Vaimo?
We have Solution Specialists in the Vaimo Stockholm, London and Finland offices. The department consists of teams who each have a designated leader (except for Finland). Every Solution Specialist has their own list of clients and for these clients, a particular Solution Specialist is the first point of contact who handles all their issues. However, all clients can always call our support phone to get help quickly with urgent matters and we all take turns answering the phone at the Stockholm office.
How long has this department been around?
The Solution Specialists have only been around for about a year, since August 2014. Before that, there was a clean support department with key account managers and account managers. The problem was that after a project ended for a client, many of them were left without a specific person at Vaimo to reach out to. Some senior managers at Vaimo took care of key accounts, and a few people handled mid-sized clients, and the rest of the clients were managed by a pool of support agents. The Solution Specialists were born as a result of the process of improving account management. It was decided that we will merge support and account management into Solution Specialists, and this happened at the same time that Magento came out with the Solution Specialist certification.
But specifically, who are the Solution Specialists at Vaimo?
Our current Stockholm team is comprised of Charlotte Askenbom, Erik Jerbéus, Elin Karlsmo, Anders Gränsmark, Viktor Mercil, Linda Olsson, and Yohan Deveaux. Our London office Solution Specialists are Alina Dovgan and Kaidi Ilves, and Vaimo Finland has Janna Honkavuori. We have just hired two new Solution Specialists who will be joining us at the Stockholm office!
What level of knowledge or certification is required? Do all Vaimo Solution Specialists have to be certified Magento Solution Specialists?
We are all required to obtain the Magento Solution Specialist Certificate. Apart from that, every one of us has to be able to communicate with our clients, understand their point of view, and provide them with good advice regarding their solutions. We also need to know what to recommend our clients when it comes to our own products and our eco-system partner’s products. We should know the standard available functionality both in Magento and Vaimo products, so we are able to advise clients if a new solution or requirements need customisation. It's also necessary to point out that Project Managers, Account Managers, and some developers at Vaimo also have this certification. It's a certificate for people who work with sales, relationships with clients, and advising clients on solutions, so certificate holders should know the Magento system like the back of their hand and know how to use it for different business purposes. A lot of different people can hold the certificate – but all Solution Specialists at Vaimo are required to have it.
What's the culture like?
We are a group of people with many mixed talents since we have very diverse professional backgrounds. The Solution Specialists department is characterised by service-mindedness, cooperation and eagerness to find solutions to all challenges that come our way. We are a very busy bunch, but we love to grab coffee together and to connect with one another. In this group, you always feel that you have someone's support.
What's a typical day like for you?
We start out the day with “daily” meetings in the mornings, where we look at the support queue in Zendesk for our team and we check out the new issues. While we all have our own clients, we feel that it’s just as important to acquaint ourselves with clients the rest of the team is managing. By doing so, we are able to provide better service to our clients when one of us is away, we get to know each others’ clients better, and we help each other out and share our knowledge. By assisting each other to reach the best solutions for our clients, we are cultivating our core knowledge. We also have internal meetings, meetings with clients, and meetings with our team. Each day is essentially a balancing act of handling support issues, driving issues concerning development for our clients, working on improving our internal processes, and above all, building and maintaining good client relations.
How do you get inspired at work?
We get inspired by working with different types of clients, projects and issues. Also, collaborating with colleagues in a great team and supporting and helping one another while having fun and joking around makes for a great, inspiring work environment.
What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
At Vaimo, we use multiple channels to communicate with our clients, and sometimes it’s challenging for all of us not to have a 360 degree overview of all the clients we are working with. We are committed to improving our processes so that each one of us can pick up a client’s history in case the account holder is not available at the office for the client. We are working currently to ensure that all support issues are visible on Zendesk, so that we can also accurately measure response times and the amounts of issues and tickets.
What's the benefit of having a Solution Specialist for the client?
We like to think that a dedicated Solution Specialist is the face of the company for a client and creates a far more personal touch. A Solution Specialist is very much involved with the client's system setup, both in the business and technical aspects. It's also great for a client to have one person to speak to when they have an issue, who knows and is aware of past problems and is always on the same page with you. It's such a hassle to end up on the phone with different support agents when you need help and explaining the same story several times.
Do all clients have access to Solution Specialists? Which clients have a Solution Specialist, which don't, and why?
All clients that belong to the Vaimo offices in Stockholm, the UK, and Finland have access to a Solution Specialist. The only difference is that when the client has their own Project Manager, maintenance team and sometimes a Key Account Manager, then a Solution Specialist only provides support for that client and is not the main point of contact. In such a case, a Key Account Manager is the main contact.
So what is a Key Account Manager? It sounds like the role is very similar to a Solution Specialist!
Key Account Managers (KAM) deal with Vaimo’s “key accounts,” or larger accounts. Very large clients are often extremely influential to your organisation and they can really affect your processes; for example, some working methods have been changed for key accounts. That is why a KAM is a very important individual – as the client's spokesperson, they have to ensure that everything is running seamlessly between Vaimo and the client. A KAM's main responsibility is taking care of the relationship with the client and also being involved in the sales process.
In contrast, the Solution Specialists are a combination of an account manager, support, and a project manager for our smaller clients. The Solution Specialists are especially great for the clients who are considered mid-sized, and who want some development done on their sites but lack the budget to hold their own maintenance team at Vaimo. Usually the key accounts are handled by their own Project Manager, with their own maintenance team, and their own KAM – in such a case, the Solution Specialist is only part of the relationship as support.
I know Vaimo assesses their clients' happiness on a regular basis. What's an NPS score and how does Vaimo go about measuring it?
The Net Promotor Score is a concern for all of Vaimo and is not specific to our department. We send out the survey to those clients that we are mainly responsible for and we are also being measured on our score. A KAM will send out the survey to the client they are responsible for and thus will receive a personal score as well. We can be the support agent for a client that has a KAM, but we would not be measured on the score for that client because the main responsibility for that client lies on the KAM. We are continuously monitoring the results of the NPS surveys to see where we need to improve as a company.
How does a handover take place from a Project Manager to a Solution Specialist?
The routine that was recently put in place involves the Solution Specialist early on in the project, which results in a good knowledge of the client's solutions and needs and makes us better equipped to take over when the initial site is launched and the corresponding project is closed. The handover itself consists of a process where the Solution Specialist has a continuous dialogue with the Project Manager, attends meetings with the client, makes sure that the documentation is in place and checks that nothing is left unfinished when the project closes.
So what happens in other Vaimo offices, where there aren't any Solution Specialists?
It's not the location of the client that decides where or whether they have a Solution Specialist, but it's rather decided by what office they belong to sales-wise. But in such cases, the work tasks that usually belong to a Solution Specialist get divided up between people. There are ongoing discussions on how Vaimo should manage this very issue, as it could be beneficial to have an identical structure in all the Vaimo offices.
What's up ahead for Vaimo Solution Specialists?
In the future, I hope we see more Solution Specialists in different Vaimo offices, especially agents who speak more local languages so we can better communicate with some clients. We hope the structure in all Vaimo offices will be streamlined, so that we can offer the best possible service to all our clients. Whether that means that all Vaimo offices will have at least one Solution Specialist, that remains to be seen. But if we look at how many improvements have been made in the year that Solution Specialists have been around, and how much we have bettered the way in which we communicate with our clients, then it's quite easy to expect great things from the Vaimo Solution Specialists in the future as well.