A day in the life of Barry O’Shea

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Barry O'Shea, BT’s CX director talks everything customer experience, from Deep Insight to his day to day role at BT Ireland. He highlights the importance of the customer experience journey and how BT focuses building a strong relationship with their customers.

1.       What does your job entail?

I work in Customer Operations and am responsible for the service our customers receive, including their customer experience.

2.       Why is CX important?

Customer experience covers the entire life-cycle of a customer journey with BT Ireland, from when a company first becomes aware of a service they may need from BT, agreeing to buy through to service implementation and in-life, and finally retirement and/or service migration. Getting this journey right means our customers will become advocates for BT, which results in long term partnerships and positive referrals; this has a very positive impact on profitability and our revenue figures support this over the last ten years. Our CX programme at BT Ireland prioritises building trust with our customers, through meaningful engagement and demonstrations that their feedback results in action and tangible improvements.

3.       How important is Service?

Service can be a difficult place to work. Get it right and you are delivering on our contractual obligations, what our customers have paid us to do. Get it wrong and we are having a negative impact on our customers’ ability to do business, which in turn damages the relationship. Having worked in service for close on twenty years, I know that while customers accept that service issues will occur, the more important piece is how BT responds, both in the moment to restore the service and in the aftermath via in-depth assessment and promptly driving activity to prevent recurrence.

4.       What does good look like?

In service unfortunately you are only as good as your last game, because even when service has been stable for long periods, the reality for most of our customers is they supply 24/7 services to their end customers and any incident can have far-reaching consequences. So it’s an area of our business that requires constant focus and drive.

However it can also be a hugely rewarding place to work and when we get it right, our customers feel BT is not just selling them a box or a circuit, but we truly understand the service they provide and care about these consequences; this can set us apart from the competition. Green SLAs are an obvious barometer of whether our service is delivering on our commitments, but often it is the direct feedback we receive via our Deep Insight CX programme which tell us how they feel about our service; this can sometimes be the more important measure.

5.       How do we improve bad experience with customers?

If a customer is having a bad experience, we need to demonstrate that we are serious about addressing their concerns. So first thing is to meet face to face to listen directly to their feedback and commit to them that we are serious about improving the situation. Then we dive into the cycle of internal analysis, plan development and follow up with the customer to sense check the plan. We will agree target objectives and an appropriate timeline to demonstrate progress through to close. Once agreed, it’s about delivery and regular progress sessions with the client to ensure to remain on track. Our customers want us to succeed as it’s good for their business. When we demonstrate this, it is possible to turn a bad experience round but it is important that we learn from our mistakes and avoid repeat issues. Any service improvement or CX plan ultimately requires customer sign-off before it can formally be closed out.

6.       How are BT doing in terms of customer experience?

We are doing well but we are building on the hard work of many over the last thirteen years, from our first NPS score of -44% in 2008 right the way through to this year’s score of +45%. We know our current results mean we are getting some things right, but we also have plenty of feedback where we need to improve. Because we have been doing CX for many years, our more established customers understand the BT CX approach and readily buy-in to the annual cycle of feedback and tracking improvement. This engagement really helps us progress our plans but the trust is hard earned and easy to lose. So important we deliver year on year. Thankfully it’s now an established part of BT Ireland’s DNA and no one takes our good CX for granted. If we maintain the view that it’s a new challenge every year, we should maintain our good CX.

7.       Is there something we can improve on and what is the focus on 2020?

At a minimum we want to deliver excellent service for our customers; this is measured via our contractual SLAs and our CX survey results in February, so achieving associated targets will tell us whether we have had a successful year or not.

However there are also two areas I would like to see us improve on.

1.       Addressing the big issues: we have a good track record at delivering account specific CX plans; however we need to get better at delivering on the areas where many customers have provided similar feedback. Some of these issues are significant and require a company-wide response in areas of strategic execution. This year we will target one or two themes and commit to a company-wide plan in April to address. Important that we measure ourselves against associated target objectives in coming months through our 2021 survey next February.

2.       Promoting our CX: BT Ireland has come on a big journey since 2008 and in some ways, we take our CX programme for granted, it has become part of what we do. While this is a good thing, I think we are missing out on an opportunity to promote this achievement both internally with our staff and externally with existing and potentially new customers. We are looking at some exciting opportunities to address this in coming few months, so watch this space.

8.       What is a typical day for you?

Typically my time is split equally across service and CX. On a given week, I will meet with team members to discuss latest on their customer accounts, review service improvement initiatives and meet face to face with customers. The latter is particularly useful as it is always great to receive feedback direct and f2f, and it’s where both areas of my role come together. On CX front, it depends where we are on the annual programme which starts in Feb with our survey, plan development & deployment in Mar/Apr, plan progression through year end and preparing for following cycle in Dec/Jan. Continuous improvement is very important in both service and CX space and on any quarter, I like to focus on function initiatives to improve performance; recently we developed job standard RACI for our supplier managers which will help drive a better understanding of the function which in turn will improve CX.

Being involved with service means that your calendar can change at short notice in event of major service disruption. Thankfully I work with a talented and dedicated team of service managers who manage the majority of major incidents and escalations within the bubble of their customer account teams.

9.       What is your career to date?

I joined BT as an engineer in 2009 after spending eight years at Telefonica and O2 working in various engineering roles in the mobile sector. Initially I worked in similar roles in BT. I had an interest in learning more about the business and thankfully BT supports staff moving to different functions; this allowed me to take on secondment roles in project management and IT Service Management between 2012 and 2014. I took on my first management role at the start of 2014 and over the next three years, I managed engineering and process teams delivering service to BT Ireland customers across multiple private and public sectors, both here in Ireland and abroad. I started my current role at start of 2017 and took on the CX brief for Ireland in 2019.

I have really enjoyed the companies and customers I have worked with over the years. I am particularly fortunate that my employer has supported me returning to education on two occasions during this time which allowed me gain experience and insight into fields outside of day job in IT, something that has helped me take on new opportunities over the years. Not always easy balancing work, college and home life, but having an employer who understands the long term benefits of broadening your horizons has really helped me shape my career.

Barry O'Shea