Creating a Customer Support Solution for Resolving Key Issues and Tasks Across Cross-Functional Journal Teams
Increasingly, tasks and queries associated with the ongoing development of journals and the journal community of editors, authors, and reviewers demand input and collaboration among publishing teams and staff. A query from an author at the galley proof stage can prompt a discussion between editorial staff, journal managing editors and editors-in-chief. Ensuring the timely delivery of editorials for the first issue of year for all journals in the publishing portfolio requires shared goals and timelines. Resolution of potential ethical issues requires communication and coordination among specific staff members, editors, authors, reviewers, and/or institutions.
A scholarly publisher approached SalientContent to develop a mechanism to capture and track the resolution of various issues and initiatives requiring input from different stakeholders, which could include publications staff, vendors, editors, and/or authors.
THE GOAL? Create an easily accessed, common online environment and associated procedures for capturing, tracking, and resolving issues, tasks, and queries.
Two senior staff members (one with experience in integrated customer support and the other already working closely with the publisher) were assigned to work with the publisher and vendors to create a common set of requirements for the environment and identify the types of tasks and queries that would be represented in the environment. Some of the tasks were very straightforward (e.g., capturing and managing the author’s delayed return of a galley proof when it was significantly overdue or when questions arose at the galley proof stage needing editor involvement). Others were complex, such as ensuring the timely receipt and delivery of all components of Issue 1 editorials, which, in this case, included not only the editorials, but updated guidelines, photographs and biographies of editors, lists of individuals who reviewed the previous year, etc.
SalientContent dedicated and configured a customer support solution for access and use by relevant publishing and vendor staff to serve as the central online tracking system. A categorization of tickets by type of task or query, journal, customer type (e.g., author, production staff, editor) was created, templated emails to initiate and respond to tasks were developed, and responsibility for final resolution was assigned, with a SalientContent staff member assigned to manage the site. With the environment in place, information about issues and the status of their resolutions was seamlessly available. Categorization made metrics (current and historical) available on demand, offering, for example, quick views of tickets still in process, spikes in specific types of queries, and percentages of tickets associated with particular journals.
The customer support solution continues to serve as a cost-effective mechanism, providing a central source of information to support cross-functional teams and offering additional capacity to support broader system applications within the journal.
Optimizing Peer Review Workflows to Enhance Editorial Office Efficiency and Improve Customer Support
In the last 20 years, scholarly publishers have transitioned from print-based environments to primarily operating their entire enterprise via electronic environments and tools. Online and electronic publishing has resulted in the development of flexible and dynamic operating platforms and tools that are designed to improve the speed and accuracy of peer review and publication. New environments have opened up opportunities for effective and efficient staffing and workflows associated with the submission and peer review process.
Skilled staff, located onsite or working remotely, can now provide, high-quality support of editors, authors, and reviewers in a timely and professional manner. The question we asked ourselves as a fully virtual organization was “How do we optimize our staffing and workflows to enhance our services across a journal while supporting editors seamlessly?”
THE GOAL? Create a new staffing environment that is agile, customer-focused, and team-based to deliver seamless and high-quality support to editors and publishers.
We began by envisioning a knowledge environment whereby staff members dedicated to a specific journal or publisher would have access to key information about individual editors’ preferred workflows, with an emphasis on leveraging collaboration rather than individual contributions. The approach is referred to as Collaborative Support.
A senior analyst from SalientContent with extensive experience in organizational strategy and operations was assigned to lead the initiative. She and her associates began by documenting each discreet action, (including actions by the managing editor, editor-in-chief, associate editors, and editorial support staff) in the peer review workflow. A detailed mapping of editor preferences and required tasks followed, with editorial support profiles developed for each editor within a journal. Profile documents included information such as institutional contact information and links to biographies and research groups, but also specific practices, modes of communication, and general schedules for working used by the editor.
To pilot the process, a large, international journal was selected, and the team of editorial support staff met to review the knowledge environment that had been created for the journal. When any particular editor’s workload increased significantly, members of the team were reallocated to provide support services. When a team member was out of the office, team members stepped in to cover their assigned editors. When a new editor came on board, the mapping and profile documents were used to fully capture preferences and practices up front.
With the underlying knowledge environment, staff could seamlessly move from support of one editor to another. As a result, the journal became less reliant on specifically assigned editorial staff and we were able to leverage a small team of people to successfully tackle increasing submissions while reducing decision times and maintaining or enhancing the support experience for editors. From a team experience, the new environment gave us the ability to continuously improve the process by leveraging the skills and strengths of each team member for the good of the team and, ultimately, the client.
Ensuring Consistent and Accurate Author Communications
There was a point of time when the primary information needed by an author to prepare a manuscript for submission to a journal was available in the Author Guidelines. With the evolution of online environments for submission, peer review, and publishing, the options for presenting the information in more effective, discreet packages has expanded. In addition, policies and requirements also grew. For example,
- Authors are now commonly asked to provide their manuscript and supporting information in specific file types
- Authors routinely search for instructions for navigating online submission sites
- Authors need to understand options associated with various policies such as Open Access, licensing and copyright options, and increasingly, transfer among journals.
In addressing the changing requirements and opportunities, it is not unusual for publishers to find that that the information available for authors on their Web site and style guide lacks consistency and organization. A scholarly publisher reached out to SalientContent to inventory the author requirements available across their journal publishing environment, their templated emails, and their journal style guide.
THE GOAL? Consistent and comprehensive messaging and communication to authors.
Based on the commitment to build a diverse workforce, there were several staff members appropriate to lead the project. A senior analyst was selected. He was versed in research and publishing, familiar with the content of the publisher, and had 7 years of experience with the Library of Congress. Working hand in hand with the publisher, a mechanism was developed for systematically capturing, and categorizing, and comparing the various requirements available on the publishing environment and in the journal style guide. Using onsite and online working sessions, inconsistencies were resolved and documented. In tandem, an online survey was developed, asking editors-in-chief to rate what they considered the level of importance of various manuscript requirements, with an emphasis on those requirements considered essential before beginning the peer review process.
The publisher was able to use the deliverables from the project to do a thorough updating of content on their publishing site and in relevant, templated author emails as well as the side benefit of distinguishing between manuscript requirements essential for peer review from those essential for accepted manuscripts.