Off Center
(Reprinted with permission from 1to1Media.)

Organizations serious about making the best decisions for their customers are often challenged with ensuring that everybody within the company, from decision-makers to frontline employees, is fully aware of the needs of their customers. In order to do this, customer-centric organizations are trying to eliminate any disconnect between the C-Suite and their end customers.

Canadian telecommunications company Telus wanted to make sure its senior leaders were sensitive to customer needs. The organization was happy with the products and services it was providing, but recognized that delivering an outstanding customer experience was the main differentiator in the competitive telecom sector. Thus, it decided to embark on a journey to dramatically improve its customer experience. As Carol Borghesi, senior vice president of Telus' Customers First Culture, explains, the organization essentially turned its attention to putting customers at the heart of everything it does.

As part of its overall strategy of understanding the customer experience and putting the customer first, Telus embarked in 2010 on what Borghesi describes as a "lifestyle change." This company-wide initiative brought together decision-makers with frontline employees to map the customer journey and identify problems – small and large – which could be addressed to improve the ultimate experience.

The journey started by pairing the company's most senior executives with a frontline employee from a different department for an entire shift.. "We told them to clear their calendars so that they weren't disturbed and could sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the frontline employee," Borghesi explains.

This initiative was meant to give the organization's decision-makers a glimpse into the problems that frontline employees were facing on a daily basis as well as provide face-time with customers. "It was a truly eye-opening experience and meant that people who wouldn't normally know what's going on in the frontline had the opportunity to [do so]," Borghesi says.

But Telus didn't want this to be solely a data-gathering exercise. The organization wanted to take action on the insights it gathered. Borghesi says at the end of the day each two-person team agreed to present one specific issue that the frontline worker was facing and which was preventing him from providing the best experience to customers. These issues were then discussed during four senior leadership forums across Canada and the organization outlined a number of recommendations generated from those meetings that could help improve customer experience. Borghesi says within two years about 70% of the list has been addressed.

Although the initiative started with pairing about 350 senior managers with frontline workers, it was so successful that the organization decided to extend the program. Today about 4,000 people – a tenth of Telus' staff – have gone through the experience. "We've included everyone, including network technologists and architects," Borghesi says, adding that the initiative has "ignited renewed vigor and passion around doing what's best for customers."

Borghesi explains that the second part of Telus' Customers First strategy included gathering and making sense of customer intelligence from a variety of different touchpoints, including emails, chat sessions, calls to the contact center, and escalations.  Additionally, the organization wanted to determine its customers' likelihood to recommend Telus and wanted every employee to be privy to customer insights and "likelihood to recommend" results on its Intranet landing page. Further, Telus shares customer comments on the same page and encourages employees to read them.

Insights Lead to Results

Being closer to customers has helped Telus make remarkable improvements in its customers' likelihood to recommend the company. According to Borghesi, Telus has registered a 15% year-over-year improvement when compared to its competitors, something she described as a "huge result" when considering the effort needed to improve this key metric.

Borghesi also points toward an "enormous improvement" in employee engagement, specifically employees' likelihood to recommend the company. "We realized that [customer satisfaction and employee engagement] move together. As employee engagement improves, so does the customer experience. And as we work to improve customer experience, in turn we're improving employee engagement," Borghesi says.

Telus believes that it achieved these results because every employee is living and breathing the Customers First strategy. "We've turned up the volume in listening to customers and in doing so have focused on dissatisfaction, which is where customers were experiencing pain." For example, Telus was aware that the repair experience has been traditionally problematic for the wireless industry. "People are giving a lot of importance to their smartphones and if something goes wrong with their phones, they can barely live without them," Borghesi says. However, the organization didn't have a great track record in delivering a seamless repair experience. By drilling down into customer insights and recognizing the need to improve the repair experience, Telus has reduced overall dissatisfaction by 50% in less than two years. "We've taken listening to customers and paying attention to voice-of-the-customer to heart and are channeling our attention to what customers are telling us."

Prioritizing the Mobile Experience

The next step in Telus' Customers First strategy was to be mobile-savvy and integrate mobile service within the overall service strategy. Customers are increasingly interacting with companies over their smartphones and Telus knew that it needed to focus on giving its customers the ability to seamlessly interact via mobile. "If something goes awry when interacting with an account via smartphone, customers need a seamless way to access a contact center agent," says Borghesi.

The result of this goal was the Mobile First strategy, which focuses on facilitating customers' need to self-serve over their smartphones. According to Borghesi, Telus' mobile strategy has been a success. Not only has customer feedback been positive, but the organization has seen deflection in contact center calls. This win-win-win situation means that customers are happy because they're getting their issues resolved without having to contact Telus, the company is saving money, and employees are satisfied because they can focus on more complicated issues which require greater attention.

According to Borghesi this is the way forward for organizations which need to focus on making transactions simple so that customers can serve themselves. But first, business leaders need to put their ears to the ground and listen to what their customers are saying before taking action. Sometimes they will be surprised by what they learn.

This article was originally published in 1to1Magazine in July by 1to1Media, who has granted Off Center permission to use it here. The article, originally titled “Telus Focuses on Customer Experience”, was written by 1to1Media’s Senior Writer Cynthia Clark.