Interview with Nina Zanetti-Martin
Interview with Nina Zanetti-Martin
The Homegate customer service team takes care of all enquiries that come in via the hotline or the contact form. Nina Zanetti-Martin manages the customer service team and with them, delivers top performances on a daily basis, ensuring speedy solutions and satisfied customers. She tells us about her biggest challenges and explains what qualities are essential for working in customer service.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how long you have worked at Homegate, and how you ended up here.
A variety of different features make up my identity. In no particular order, these are probably the most significant elements: I’m from Ticino and have made Zurich my home; I have an affinity for customer service and communication; I love cinema and good food; I’m a mum to twins and… I’m a mum to twins.
In September 2018, I came back from additional maternity leave and started working part-time as an administrator in the customer service team at Homegate. I was incredibly lucky, because I only saw the job ad the second time it was published. When I was offered the opportunity to take on managing the department from April 2020, I had no hesitation: I was absolutely delighted to be able to make an even bigger contribution to customer satisfaction.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
Customer service can feel a bit like a beehive: during our opening hours, there’s always a lot of hustle and bustle. Whether you’re on the phone, at a keyboard or actually in the office.
The day always starts with a short team meeting, where we talk through the schedule for the day and the distribution of tasks, and adapt these as necessary. Then my typical day is made up of working together with other departments (e.g. defining customer requirements for the development of a new product), supporting the team in processing customer enquiries, and human resources matters.
What are the most common issues that customers contact you about?
There are common questions that get asked time and again, for each type of customer or Homegate user. Those are, for example, questions about our free search (users), enquiries about how to create a listing, or how data input needs to be configured (business customers). When we’re introducing a new product or a new service, then we always get a lot of enquiries about that as well.
What are the greatest challenges you face in your daily work?
My team and I always have to be ready to cope with unexpected situations and the extra work they tend to create. A technical problem, an article in the media, or a new function – these are all events that will cause a sudden significant increase in the number of enquiries to our service.
What makes your team special?
The first thing, without a doubt, is its multilingualism: there are 10 people in the team and we can all speak and write in four languages (German, French, Italian and English). Some of us can even speak Spanish and Portuguese, too. I also find it really special how diverse the team is: the ages of our team members range from just 17 up to not far off retirement. We also have a good balance in terms of gender, we have a variety of living situations, and we bring different experiences with us. This means we also reflect a large portion of our customers.
What does a person who wants to work in customer service need to have?
Aside from the need for good language skills, I believe the following characteristics are very important: being willing to help, enjoying communication (whether on the phone or in writing), and not being fearful of change.
How did you and your team cope with the coronavirus pandemic, and how were your everyday lives affected by it?
On 14 March 2020 at 8 am, the whole team met by video call for the first time, instead of in the office. Right at the start, we even suspended our telephone service and dealt with all enquiries by email. However, we managed to get well-organised very quickly so that, thanks to modern technology and by adapting some processes, we could also guarantee phone availability again. By now, this way of working has become normal for us. But we still hope we’ll be able to meet in person more often again soon. The value of personal contact is just irreplaceable.
What has been the most impressive or incredible thing you’ve experienced in your job so far?
Definitely the reaction of the whole company to the coronavirus pandemic. During the first lockdown, you almost felt closer to everyone than before, when you were still in the office. Over the past year, Homegate has achieved an astonishing number of project targets and introduced many innovations. Many of these were smaller adaptations, which you might have only noticed if you were really paying attention, and yet they still led to an improvement in our products for everyone.
What are you particularly proud of?
I’m proud that the team have said they want to have a team event. It’s like a token of achievement for me as a manager, but also for Homegate as an employer. After a year of working from home, despite heavy workloads and sometimes hectic days, for me it’s almost like a declaration of love from the team: that they have fun and enjoy their work, and that they still see Homegate as the ‘workplace to be’.
What do you think makes Homegate unique?
I especially like how even after 20 years, Homegate still maintains a kind of start-up mentality. It allows us to draw on experience, but hold on to the drive for innovation. For a company that has grown so much over the last few years – with employees from over 20 different countries – that’s no mean feat.
How do you relax after a stressful day at work?
Before COVID-19, it was my bike ride home. Now, it’s walks around the neighbourhood, which I do after work when the weather’s good, or podcasts (my favourites are true crime or documentaries/investigative journalism). But ultimately, it’s the time I spend with my two sons (6 years old), until it’s time for them to go to sleep.
What is your most unusual hobby?
Before I had children, I was a ‘star catcher’: I loved staying in five-star hotels – in the same way other people like visiting museums. I would marvel at every aspect that made up a real ‘wow’ experience. Watch all the different worlds that come together in that kind of establishment. And I enjoyed a lot of gourmet dinners and the sommelier’s highest recommendations. Since I’ve become a mother, my hobbies don’t take centre stage any more. That’s partly because our holidays now have to be planned differently, and also, of course, because the kids now have a strong influence on the annual budget.