“We’re not just co-workers: we’re friends”

Posted on 17/01/2022, Giorgia Cavicchia

Interview with Tania Garcia, the Customer Support agent

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at Customer Support of Kiwi.com? Well, you’re about to find out! We met up with three of our employees, Tania from Spain, Barbora from the Czech Republic, and Dario from Bosnia and Herzegovina. We talked about their Kiwi.com experience: why they chose to join Kiwi.com, what their journey has been like so far, and what makes working at Kiwi.com special. 

Tania Garcia is a Front Office agent in the Spanish team. Despite the stress of joining Kiwi.com at the peak of the pandemic, she’s now making the most of her position and the numerous growth opportunities that have come her way.

Hey Tania! When did you join Kiwi.com?

I joined Kiwi.com on 1 November 2020, so it’s already been over a year!

In a nutshell, what do you do? What are your main tasks?

I’m part of the Customer Support department at Kiwi.com. As a Front Office agent, I’m replying to customers’ questions, handling requests for additional services, helping them if they have problems with the check-in, or any other issue they might encounter, before departure, during their trip, or at a later stage.

Unlike Guarantee agents, who assist passengers when there’s a disruption in their itinerary, I’m not dealing with flight issues or booking alternative flights for them. Most of the time I’m taking calls from the Spanish line, but now that there are six people in my team I’m also handling inbound messages sent via Helpdesk, the contact webform available in the Help section of the Manage My Booking page.

It’s interesting, because to work on these two channels you have to apply very different skill sets. On the phone you’re expected to provide immediate answers and solutions, so you have to be ready and quick-thinking. With Helpdesk messages, you can take a more in-depth look into the case, check all the tools, and then reply to the message.

How did you find out about Kiwi.com?

Through LinkedIn. I studied Tourism and was looking for a job opportunity connected with this industry. When I finished my studies, I started working in a travel agency. Then Covid came, and everyone was fired. So I thought, ‘Okay, instead of trying to find something here, let’s try to move abroad’. I’d already traveled a lot around Europe by then, and I was already familiar with the Balkans because I did my Erasmus in Croatia. So I only applied for job positions in two countries: the Czech Republic (the Kiwi.com application) and Portugal. I had never lived in this part of Central Europe, so I thought it would be interesting to try. As for Portugal, well, it was an ‘easy’ choice, as it’s quite close to Madrid, the city where I’m from.

What made you apply for the Front Office position?

The position was ‘Front Office agent with Spanish’. I think the easiest way to move abroad would be to find something where you can use your native language. And then, once you’re there, you can improve other skills. For example, when I arrived here I didn’t feel proficient in English, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to assist passengers in English. I felt more comfortable knowing I would be using my native language.

Do you like your job?

In the beginning it was stressful, but that’s because I started in the middle of the pandemic. Everything happened online, training included, so if I had to ask questions about a case, I had to write in detail what the passenger was asking, and then wait for a reply. It was very challenging. And I think it was also very demanding on the trainers, because we often had Internet issues, so there were frequent interruptions, we had to wait for each other, and the trainers had to make sure we were all there and we hadn’t lost any information along the way.

We were a close group of four trainees from different teams (Spanish, Portuguese and Polish), and we helped and supported each other a lot. We shared all the notes and tips we had. For most of us this was, if not the first, one of our first job experiences, and we really wanted to learn as best as we could.

We were also living together in the flat Kiwi.com offers to new arrivals as part of the relocation package. We told each other, ‘We’re in this together, we can do it!’. I think at that moment Front Office became a team, a real team. We never stopped working together, and we also became friends outside work. By now the team has changed quite a lot, but that feeling still remains very much alive today, it hasn’t changed one bit.

What do you like the most about your job?

I like the international nature of both my team and the company as a whole. In Front Office alone we have people from so many different countries, and we’re all there together sharing our experiences with each other. We are in different teams, but in fact, we really are all just one amazing team.

I also think that Kiwi.com gives us lots of incentives: the gym, free breakfast once a week, free after-work drinks, also once a week. Thanks to all these initiatives we get to spend more time and connect with each other, also across departments. We’re not just co-workers: we’re also friends.

What do you find most challenging about it?

The period at the peak of the pandemic was the most difficult of all. At the beginning, I was taking Spanish calls the whole time. There were only two people in the team, so we were just taking call after call after call. It was quite stressful, and by the end of the shift, I was really tired.

Also, if one had to take a day off or go to the doctor’s, the other would be covering the Spanish line alone, and that wasn’t easy. But everyone, including our Team Manager, always told us that that was not our problem, and we would just use the days off when we needed them. Everyone helped and supported us as much as they could. Now that we have more people in the team it’s much, much better.

What I like about taking calls is that you can establish a connection with the passengers, and when they thank you for your help, it’s great. Also, they can ask more questions, sometimes you get to solve multiple problems at the same time, wait for them to check something from their end, and so on. Some are really nice and friendly. Of course, not all calls are like that, but difficult calls occur less frequently than one might think. There were more of those at the peak of the pandemic.

Do you usually work from home or in the office?

I usually work from the office. As I mentioned, at the beginning we were all sharing the same Kiwi.com flat, and then we moved to a different flat, but still altogether. We were not going to the office because the home office was strongly recommended, so even if we’d been there, no one else would have been around.

Now it’s different, I’m always in the office. And it’s amazing because every day you have lunch with a different person, there are newbies around, and you’re sharing all your experiences and knowledge. I also tell them, ‘You’re lucky because you’re having training in the office!’ Also the incentives I mentioned before help bring people together in the office.

You are a Front Office agent and of course handle cases on your own, but you’re also part of a team, what do you like about it? What are the greatest advantages of working in a team?

It’s great to work with other people. Of course, the team has changed over the course of the months, and it’s always sad to see someone leave, but it’s also great to meet the new people joining the team.

What’s it like to be the most experienced in your team?

It’s great because I really get the feeling that my co-workers trust me. Sometimes they might have a question, and maybe they don’t want to approach a Team Manager right away, because it’s something minor. Sometimes they have ‘a stupid question’, (which it never is, but I understand what they mean!), and they ask me instead. Having someone that trusts me and listens to me is the best feeling. And if I, too, don’t have the answer on the spot, I’ll just tell them, “No worries, we will find the answer together”.

And more in general, what’s so special about Kiwi.com?

I think that Kiwi.com has something that other companies don’t have, and it’s the opportunity to grow within the company. It’s not that you just change departments right away, but you do learn something about other departments.

For example, as one of the most experienced agents in the Front Office, I have just received Training to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME). This means that, when new Front Office hires have their first period of training after joining the company, I help them handle their first cases, familiarize themselves with the processes, and so on. My Team Manager, too, helped with that, he asked me, ‘Why don’t you give it a try?’ I love helping people, so I was super happy about this opportunity.

It’s great to be able to learn more about other departments. When you’ve been working in the same company for one, two years, it’s important not only because you understand how other departments work or you understand a process better, but also for your own career growth, because you gain extra basic knowledge of other lines of business. For example, I would be especially interested in learning more about our Guarantee and also about GDS (Global Distribution System).

How do you like living in Brno?

I love it. In the beginning, it was really difficult, because I arrived in Brno shortly after the beginning of the second lockdown. Everything was closed, and it was almost impossible to meet new people because we were locked in. The other trainees that joined with me and I spent the first three months together, only the four of us. We didn’t know anyone else, it was really tough. I even asked myself, ‘What am I even doing here?’, but I didn’t want to tell my family that I was struggling.

But then things got better, because the pandemic situation improved, and I started doing as much of everything as I could! Going out for beers with friends, going for a barbecue in the park, you name one, I’d join in! Barbecues in the park are great, no one does that in Spain, while here it’s so common, and I really like it a lot.

I’ve also done a bit of domestic traveling. I’ve been to Prague quite a few times already, and I’ve also visited other cities, smaller but equally stunning, like Český Krumlov, Karlovy Vary, or Mikulov, to name one closer to Brno. 

What do you like about it the most?

Brno is surrounded by beautiful nature. Step out of Brno, and forests are only twenty minutes away. I mean, I used to live in Madrid, a large, crowded capital city, and Brno is nothing like that. I love Madrid, I think it’s a beautiful city, but I’m also enjoying the lifestyle Brno has to offer. When you go to the forest, you see lots of families with children, and when you go down the high street you can easily bump into one of your colleagues from Kiwi.com. I can no longer afford to wear my pyjamas, not even when I’m popping down to the store next door!

Something else I like about Brno is its location, it’s right in the heart of Europe, so you can easily travel to a lot of places from here. Once we rented a car and we went hiking in the Tatra Mountains [in Slovakia]. We had people from Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece in our little group, and it was amazing. We kind of improvised the trip, we decided to go, and we went. I’d never done this kind of thing before. It’s not as easy to go on this kind of trip in your home country: you tell yourself ‘We could take this trip’, but then you take your time to plan it, you tell yourself you have to think about it first.

Here I feel like I can live in the moment, and it’s great.

What do you miss about your home country?

There are things I miss about Spain. I miss understanding more of the local cultural offer, experiencing things in a language other than English. For example, if I go to the cinema it’s okay, because it will be in English, but if I want to go to the theater here, the show will be in Czech.

And I miss my family of course, though having lived abroad for a year now, I also don’t feel the pressure of living with my parents. I would like to go back, but not go back to living with my family. I’m not thinking about going back to Spain now, but at some point, I would like to go back.

What do you find challenging?

The weather! Here in winter, it’s already dark at four, five in the afternoon. I’m not used to that. In Spain it doesn’t get dark till six, seven, even in winter. I can’t wait to go home for Christmas and enjoy some sun, with my coat on, but still, more daylight!

Is there anything about Brno or the Czech Republic that reminds you of Spain? Anything at all that you find even remotely similar?

It’s hard to say, because Spanish people and Czech people are really very different. In Spain, we get closer to each other more easily, even when you don’t know the person well. Here people tend to keep their distance a bit more.

But it’s also true that Brno is very international, and Spanish, Italian, Portuguese people are everywhere! This makes it easier to experience a truly homey feeling here. After all, most of us are here for the same reason, because we found a job here. So we’re all sharing similar experiences, and we try to help and support each other. At the end of the day, you feel at home.

How about the people? Have you met a lot of people since you’ve been here?

I have, I’ve made really good friends here. Some of them have left Kiwi.com, but they’ve become very important to me. We’d meet as often as possible at each other’s places, have international dinners, or country-specific meals, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tried in my life. There’s a kind of ‘Erasmus feel’ to it, it’s amazing.

Interested in boosting your career in Customer Support with Tania? Hurry up and check our open positions!