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Customer service in the fast lane

April 27, 2016

Ian Walters   

Director of customer service and operations

In my role as the director of customer service and operations for our F1® business, one question I’m asked over and over is, ‘how do you do it – how do you manage IT and connectivity in an environment like F1® racing?’ It’s a very valid question. Bringing superfast, reliable connectivity and IT services to locations as diverse as the hills of São Paulo and the streets of Singapore, and ensuring that every two weeks millions of F1® fans around the world are able to enjoy a brilliant, glitch-free racing experience, no matter what – is no mean feat.

In this hugely challenging environment, we are always thinking ahead. In a few days, when Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel make their preparations for the Russian Grand Prix, we are working behind the scenes not only to ensure that the technology set-up in Sochi is ready for the race, but also to prepare connectivity and IT for the next Grand Prix in Barcelona. Formula One Management, fans, sponsors, broadcasters and the entire F1® ecosystem count on us – there is simply no room for error.

Ahead of each Grand Prix our team of service managers and engineers sets up and connects the circuit to our global superfast network – the equivalent of changing a tyre in under four seconds. We respond instantly to requests and issues in this demanding, fast-paced environment, and our team onsite at a Grand Prix is always backed up by remote support teams spread across the globe operating out of different time zones. The key to success is to seamless collaboration. We need to integrate completely as a team, and with our customers in F1®, including Formula One Management, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1® team, Chello and our other broadcast partners, so our thoughts are in line with their thoughts, their demands become our deliverables and their perception becomes our reality.

Unlike with most other IT projects, during a Grand Prix we are living with our customers. They are not at the end of the phone – they are in the next room or in the next garage. If issues arise in F1®, there is no such thing as a four-hour fix. The Mercedes team relies on us to deliver their race-critical data back to the factory in the UK and back to the car during a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pit stop, not the next day. The same applies to live timing data. Formula One Management needs to be able to send this vital data to the remote operations centre in Biggin Hill in real-time – it can’t be delayed by seconds, let alone minutes.

Given the critical role of connectivity in the sport today, I think that it is apt to refer to ourselves as the Tata Pit Crew. In the same way as Lewis Hamilton would be lost without his pit crew, no Grand Prix could go ahead without connectivity provided by us.  To maintain our laser sharp focus on excellent service delivery in F1®, we created a mission statement for our team: “In F1® it is the Pit Crew that wins the race, they keep the car on the track for as long as possible, when the car has to go into the pit, everyone is ready, everyone knows their role, everyone is accountable and they are a slick, professional team. Time is everything!”

As our fifth season in F1® is in full swing, it’s clear that this statement has become a way of life for everyone involved. Our pit crew has delivered time after time. Not only that, this same ethos has been embraced by other customer service teams at Tata Communications too. The last four years in F1® have offered us the unique opportunity to re-examine how we work together as a team through processes that take customer service to a whole new level. By approaching all our customer projects with a laser focus on execution, we’ve been able to boost customer satisfaction across our business. Going the extra mile doesn’t even come close to describing it. More than an SLA, it’s a state of mind — constantly checking that we are doing everything within our power to help our customers. No opportunity or problem is too big or too small for us. Whatever it takes, is what we do.

What examples of great customer service have you encountered? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.