Our race to great customer service is a marathon, not a sprint

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At BT Ireland, our customers are at the heart of everything we do.

That’s why we’ve spent the last twelve years on a journey to shake up the way we do things, from gathering insight to applying our knowledge to our service. For the first time, we’d like to share our process with you to show that developing great customer service is a marathon, not a sprint. Read on to discover our learnings, and how our customer service journey could inspire change in your business too.

The starting line

“When we started this journey, we knew we had a problem and that we needed to change our approach to customer service,” explains Shay Walsh, MD of BT Ireland. “In 2008, we knew that some of our corporate and government customer relationships were suffering.” Between hefty customer service issues like negative feedback and high churn, it was clear that our customers weren’t satisfied with our service. We knew we had to take action, but we didn’t have an accurate way to measure whether our efforts to improve our service and strengthen our relationships were working.

That’s when we started digging deeper. We needed to know exactly where we weren’t meeting customer expectations so we could come up with a plan of action.

We teamed up with leading European B2B customer experience company Deep-Insight to begin checking in with our customers. We wanted to discover the good, the bad and the ugly: what we were getting right, what we were getting wrong, and how they really felt about our service. We launched a customer satisfaction survey to learn more about how our customers felt about our products and services, customer service, operations, and many other areas.

Setting the pace

With the help of Deep-Insight, we recognised that certain aspects of the businesses needed to be in order before we could start to make meaningful change. For us, that meant four key areas needed to be working in sync:

  • Leadership was key and we understood change had to come from the top
  • Strategy had to follow: we needed a plan in place to make sure our customer feedback was being stitched into the fabric of company strategy
  • Execution was next, and change had to be driven with pragmatism
  • Culture was the final piece of the puzzle: to create lasting change, a customer-centric culture within the whole organisation was essential.

With our priorities in order, we were finally able to start collecting meaningful feedback and creating tangible results for our wholesale and business customers.

In the wholesale market, we focus on being a true partner, and offering our customers the right solutions to help them grow their business. For our business customers, we provide global voice and network services. We have a strong track record of providing multiple integrated voice and data service towers, supporting key aspects of their comms strategy, and our goal is to retain and grow our existing customer base, acquire new customers and launch a channel partner programme to provide our business customers with the products they need to be successful in their respective markets.

The final stretch: this year’s results

We strive to be transparent with the feedback that we get, so our customers can have a clear view of where we currently are, and where we’re going.

We’ve received exceptional results this year, driven by the quality of our people:

  • Business relationship average length of nine years
  • Four / five years average remaining / total length of current contracts
  • 3.5x average contract revenue expansion multiple since FY11
  • 57% of our customers are ‘ambassadors’ – this means they value our service as much as our commercial offering would recommend us to others

Our net promoter score jumped from +30 to +45, which is the best experience score across the board since we began our customer experience journey more than twelve years ago.

We also had a fantastic level of engagement, with an 88% completion rate and 100% account completion rate. Our Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) went up from 5.7 to 5.9, which places us in the top 10% of companies for CRQ as ranked by Deep-Insight.

BT's performance from 2008 to 2019:

Things are looking bright, but of course there’s always room for improvement and we’re grateful for our customers’ constructive feedback to help us grow.

Our customers asked us to be even more proactive, and some would like self-reporting and self-service capabilities. While our innovation has been praised, some customers have reported that we’re sometimes pipped to the post by smaller and more nimble players, who know less about their services than we do. In these cases, we need to better understand our customer requirements and bring to the table solutions that overcome these challenges.

We’re also looking to up our game with delivery speed and access to resources. Getting something new up and working can be a challenge and can vary depending on location, partnerships, or season, but our customers come to us to overcome these obstacles to get it right first time. While we often get delivery right, it is the times we get it wrong that is remembered due to the knock-on impact to our end-customer services. Understanding the challenges on delivery and co-ordinating the right resources at the right time, all the while keeping the customer informed with forecast dates that our customers can rely on.

Our customers expect us to use the best of the design expertise available globally across multiple technologies. Doing so isn’t always straightforward and can sometimes be cumbersome. We need to better leverage our global expertise, so the right people and technologies are available at the right times to allow our customers move at the pace of their business.

We were also presented with plenty of ideas to make our customer relationships even stronger. Our customers want advice on the latest tech to help their businesses, more regular updates on innovation, automation, and toolsets – such as chat bots and self-serve capabilities on existing services. This gives us tangible considerations for the future.

The finish line

The nature of customer service means the race never ends. We’re only as good as our last results. Our customers supply their end customers with 24/7 service, and so our focus must remain on maintaining our stamina. “We’ve come a long way in our customer service journey since 2008,” explains Shay. “We’ve gone from strength to strength, and our customers are taking note, but we can’t afford to grow complacent.”

We’re delighted that Barry O’Shea will be at the helm in 2020 as our customer experience expert, leading our marketing communications strategy. “Getting this journey right means our customers will become advocates for BT,” explains Barry, “which will result in long term partnerships and positive referrals.”

If you want to find out more about our story or how to put the customer at the heart of your company, contact us today.

Barry O'Shea

BT Ireland Blog