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How GE Digital created a single Freshdesk instance to meet its support challenges

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan November 19, 2021
GE Digital found itself resource-constrained during the pandemic, but a unified Freshdesk instance has delivered necessary efficiencies.

Image of a GE Digital manufacturing solution

What I really like about Freshdesk is you can do some pretty bizarre things.

So says Scott Walken, Senior Director of Customer Support at GE Digital, the subsidiary of General Electric that provides software and IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] services to industrial companies. Walken has been with the company for around 5 years, coming on board to develop the support team for the firm’s SaaS applications for the aviation industry. On his arrival he found that there was an abundance of support systems:

When I joined we had two main product lines. Both were using Freshdesk, but unique instances of Freshdesk. Then we made an acquisition and we brought in a third instance of Freshdesk. All  very unique to the point where I'll say one of them was actually tracking the office bills with tickets in Freshdesk for their own office.

The challenge then was to combine three instances into one, all with unique requirements, he recalls:

That's where I really saw the power of Freshdesk because we were really able to appease the product owners of these different lines and keep their requirements, and yet build a single instance where we could really much better [provide] support with that single instance. It's been an interesting journey, just very effective. I think I just appreciate how nimble we can be with Freshdesk. We get new requirements all the time. I get the call, 'Can we do A, B and C?' and within a couple of days we're able to at least map out where we're going.

Walken admits he had been concerned about what the overhead requirements might have been to maintain the support desk, having heard some “horror stories on just how massive IT investment is to pull off these solutions”. In practice, he was in for a pleasant surprise:

We did pretty well with probably an FTE-and-a-half [Full Time Equivalent] and we support it internally within my support team. The pandemic hit and as everyone knows the aviation industry was hit very hard. I suddenly became very resource-constrained. We certainly pushed some stuff off on our roadmap But unbelievably I'm able to currently support [with] about a quarter of an FTE which is just phenomenal. The person that does that support, he's really good, so he's probably worth at least a half an FTE, but hours-wise, it's a quarter FTE.


Those resource constraints had another impact, says Walken:

The one thing we did when the pandemic hit and we suddenly became very resource-constrained was we really leaned in on automation We were able to achieve a lot of things within automation that we should have been doing before the pandemic. So there was some silver lining. That really allowed us to work with a much more reduced staff and still keep our customer sat ratings above 90% throughout the pandemic. So we really leaned on those automations. The solution was there. I regret that we hadn't looked at those pre-pandemic. We're going to continue to work through those now.

A case in point is the user of Freshcaller, he argues:

We have a 'follow the sun' model. As our staff was reduced, we had to be very nimble in how we kept people on the phones. Freshcaller just works. and it's phenomenal. It was very easy to set up and that really gave us the ability to be nimble as far as keeping people on the phones. Whether there was illness or whatever, with this reduced staff that was a real challenge. They did great and a lot of it was due to Freshcaller and how we've utilized that. When we've had some unique requests or some sensitive things come up, we can spin up a separate number, do the rules and it's a very personalized support from the customers perspective.

Going forward, following discussion with product and engineering leads within the firm, the next task will be to begin importing development tracking tool data into Freshdesk. Walken explains:

They really want that to be the one version of the truth. Even from defect tracking, where in the past, we may have closed a ticket, put it into development and waited for that, [the engineering team] want Freshdesk to be the one version of the truth. So we have three - it's the bane of my existence - three unique tools that we're gonna have to pull data in from, but that's okay. But it was refreshing to hear that the other teams saw the value in Freshdesk, so I don't have to make that battle politically. They're ready to pull it all in. So that's the big piece on our roadmap.

As for what learnings he’s experienced to date, Walken’s advice to others is clear:

Get your base implementation done simply. I think what I like about Freshdesk is you can get pretty wacky with it pretty easy - and when I say wacky, you can do some pretty creative things. There's not the normal constraints that I've seen with other applications. We've hit some road blocks and then suddenly, a day or two later, we found a workaround around those road blocks. Just don't think that you have constraints. If you have a requirement, chances are you're going to be able to pull it off. You just need to work through it. But that's what I really like about Freshdesk - you can do some pretty bizarre things.

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