Ian Semple is Head of Customer Experience for telecommunications giant Everything Everywhere in the United Kingdom, and Chair of the final judging committee for the support awards categories in The 2012 International Business Awards, the world's premier business awards competition. (The final entry deadline for the 2012 IBAs has been extended to July 18. Get your entry kit today.) Here Ian shares three tips for best customer service practices.
What are your top 3 tips for companies aiming to provide award-winning customer service and support?
1. Plan Ahead: The biggest challenge facing support and customer services in the mobile telecommunications industry today is the increasing complexity of the product. Three to four years ago, the market was fairly stable, but in the past two years ownership of smartphones has exploded. With that explosion has come increasingly complex technology coupled with higher customer expectation.
Smartphone products are not easy to set up, and customers often struggle with the technology. As a result, the number of calls for technical support has at least tripled, and that in turn has brought support costs under immense pressure.
At Everything Everywhere we introduced a new work model for our support staff to ensure our cost model remained roughly the same while keeping customer satisfaction high. Our staff had previously been multi-skilled, but we were able to plan ahead and change our training strategy to specialization. This new work model is able to handle the growing customer demand while ensuring costs are stabilized.
Technology, however, waits for no man, and with 4G networks, tethering of different devices, etc., we are being kept on our toes!
2. Improve the Business Model: As with most service industries, the majority of calls that we handle are either an account query (billing for mobile telecommunications can be highly complex) or a technical query. Dealing with mergers and acquisitions is also something that affects many businesses. At Everything Everywhere we took the best practices of both Orange and T-Mobile, and we were able to learn and grow. We were able to improve our business model—the hardware didn’t change, but the business processes did—and create an award-winning support team.
3. Always Keep an Eye on the Competition: In customer service and support you really need to know what other companies might be doing better than you. There are different industry regulatory bodies—such as OfCom for the communications industry in the U.K.—that provide information for different national markets, while JD Power provides useful industry information globally.
What item of news recently caught your eye and why?
The fact that mobile data will shortly replace landlines for communication around the world. Everyone is going to need high-speed data. With the advent of 4G connectivity, more machines will be talking to each other: in cars, in the home, in industry. Mobile telephony will create a whole new infrastructure. We are already looking at making payments using mobile devices instead of credit cards or cash. The expansion of mobile technology into all areas of our lives will most certainly add to the complexity of customer service in the mobile telecommunications industry, and I’m already working on ways to support these changes.
What is your favorite app?
I’d love to have a crystal ball app, but as a guitar player, my current favorite is Songsterr. It’s a kind of self-help guitar instructor that shows the fingering. I learnt “Twist & Shout” in under 5 minutes.
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
What quality or qualities do you most value in your business associates?
Enthusiasm. Passion. Looking for opportunities to improve, and for making technical things easier to use.
As someone at the top of your profession, what keeps you inspired or makes you hit the ground running in the morning?
For me, it’s the fact that my department has the opportunity to improve the lives of the majority of mobile telephony customers in the UK. Everything Everywhere currently has 27 million users. The mobile phone is more like a utility and has turned into a tool that people can’t live without. We have the power to make a significant change for the better.
About Ian Semple:
Ian Semple is Head of Customer Experience for Everything Everywhere, the UK’s largest telecommunications provider running two of Britain’s best known brands: Orange, and T-Mobile. His role focuses on customer excellence, ensuring that processes, systems, and knowledge are functionally and operationally of the highest quality, and that sales and service teams can provide the best possible support. Ian has been with Everything Everywhere for five years, joining Orange UK in 2007 to manage its Business Customer Services. In 2009 he moved to head up the Device and Network areas in Service Design. Prior to Everything Everywhere Ian held senior positions in Virgin Media, NTL, and Cable and Wireless, in a variety of operational and change management roles. Ian is based in the North East of England.
About Everything Everywhere:
Everything Everywhere is the UK’s largest communications company, providing mobile and fixed-broadband communications services to more than 27 million customers through the Orange and T-Mobile brands. Recognized for award-winning customer service, Everything Everywhere employs more than 15,000 people and operates over 720 retail stores across the UK. For more information, go to http://everythingeverywhere.com/.