Today’s article is different (but very important!). It will not tell you about techniques to perform cutting edge analytics! On the contrary, it is to emphasize the fact that at the end of the day, you are creating products / services for a customer out there. And until and unless your analysis / strategy / recommendation does not keep that person at the heart, you will struggle to benefit from those smart solutions.
In the remaining article, I’ll re-live one of the recent incidences, which happened to me and illustrate how a telecom giant provided one of the worst examples of customer service in today’s world. In parallel, I’ll leave you with some best practices to keep in mind, which you should keep in mind – irrespective of how awesome and sophisticated your analysis is.
P.S. I also happen to know that this telecom giant had been trying to reduce customer churn for years with the help of analytics and is running big TV campaign to get more postpaid customers!
Best Practice 1: The customer has to be at the heart of any analysis you do.
This tip stays as the mother of all tips I can provide on the subject. Whatever you do – no matter how smart your solution is – it has to work for the customer. It is the customer who is footing your salary at the end of the day. It is very easy (and can look to be very lucrative) to design a product which benefits your Organization / distributors or service providers at the cost of your customer – all I can say is try it out and find yourself out of your job in some time!
In my 8 years of experience with several BFSI companies across the globe, all successful products had a few things in common – they were simple to understand for the customer and were addressing their needs better than any other products in the market.
No other success mantra works better than this!
Let’s get back to the incident with the telecom giant:
I purchased a 3G USB dongle, some time back on a postpaid plan with them – lets name the company as Phone. After 4 months of usage, I had no need of keeping a postpaid connection. So I decided to call them and convert the plan into a pre-paid plan. Here is the sequence of event, which followed:
IVR Machine – Please press 1 to continue in English….followed by options to choose other languages
So, I pressed 1.
It then took me more than 15 minutes, numerous attempts on various IVR options, 3 calls and a highly complex series of numbers to figure out how to reach out to a customer executive over the phone.
Once I reached the customer executive queue, I figured out that there were quite a few other troubled souls like me who had to talk to the customer executive – 5 minutes wait before I could get someone to speak on the phone. During the process, I also learnt that Phone charges their customers – if they want to speak to a customer executive over the phone!
Best practice 2: Your processes cannot be designed in a manner to make it difficult for a customer to reach out to you (Remember tip 1 again)
In this particular case, I am sure some smart analyst would have done a calculation to come up with the idea that if we charge our customers – we can shave off huge cost (and possibly a lot of calls) and convert call centers into a profit center rather than a cost center!
Poor company – they didn’t realize that by the end of this event, I was sure that I am not calling them for a problem again!
Once I was connected to an executive, I heard a tired, dis-engaged voice from the other end saying “Namaskaar – Mein Phone se X baat kar raha hoon. Mein aapki kya sahayata kar sakta hoon?” (English translation – Hello, You are talking to X from Phone. How may I help you?). I was dead sure, I had chosen English as my way of communication – but since I had no problem in conversing in Hindi, I thought I would continue with the precious call, I had finally got!
Best practice 3: You have to think & create end to end process from customer point of view and not what works for you internally
If the first question which your IVR machine asks is the language I want to chose – why would you not segment your customer facing (or talking in this case) accordingly! What if – it was a foreign national or a non-Hindi speaking customer on the call? Most likely, the process was an end result of different people being responsible for different parts of process.
Next – what about the tone – why have executives who come across as tired?
My sympathy with those non-Hindi customers trying to contact this company!
I explained to the executive that I don’t need a regular Internet data plan anymore and asked if he can convert the plan into a pre-paid plan? Since I was not aware of the difference of charges in prepaid and postpaid plans, I also asked the person, what is the difference in charges on pre-paid plan for a recharge of 1 GB?
The person said “Don’t worry Sir! I’ll help you out. For providing this information, can I transfer your call to the pre-paid department?
After a split second of thought, I said – “No, please convert my plan directly.”
The executive on the other hand – “Thank you Sir, we are now transferring you to our pre-paid customer department.”
Best practice 4: Listen to your customer!
This was the second time the company was telling me that they don’t care to listen what I am telling them. I was fuming by this time! There is usually a hell lot of important information in listening to these conversations with your customers – but Phone seems to be ignoring them. Some of the best companies, I know of – actually ask their analysts to meet / call / listen a dedicated time with their customers. And these sessions always contain a bag full of information, which the analysts were not aware of!
Thankfully, there was no queue in the pre-paid department. The executive on the phone explained me the charges (again in Hinglish!). He also said that in order to take a pre-paid plan, I’ll need to visit their store and submit the documents. I thought that since the executive does not have the entire context (that I am already a post paid customer), let me talk to a person from postpaid department again – so I asked for a transfer back. To my surprise – the person said that he can not transfer the call back as the transfer can only happen from Postpaid department to prepaid and I’ll need to call back again! Phew!
Best practice 5 – Avoid processes which limit what your employees can do – ultimately it will limit what your customer can do!
Why on earth, would you design a system with these limitations and expect a customer to call back half way through the process! A far more empowering thing to do would be to provide equal access to both the departments. Also, for a customer like me (who already had all the documents in place and was a post paid customer) – why not create an easy transfer process where all I needed was to provide consent in some manner!
So I called back again! I rushed through the complex sequence of numbers (with a bit more ease) and was talking to a postpaid customer executive in about 5 – 7 minutes. The person informed me that even if I am a postpaid customer – the process of conversion can not happen unless I visit a store and re-submit all the documents! When I asked – can they arrange a pick-up for me as they did while I was taking the initial connection? The answer was “No Sir! we only do that for postpaid customers.”
I tried hard to explain to the person that I am the same customer – and am still a postpaid one – to no effect. When I asked where was the nearest store – the person said that he can not provide that information and in order to get that – I’ll need to send an SMS to a particular number.
By this time – I had lost it. How can a company investing millions in cutting edge analytics be so pathetic with such normal customer issues. So I asked the person: “Do I need to visit a store to disconnect the number?” And the answer was (Thankfully!) No!
My quick action was – “Please disconnect the number. I don’t want to deal with Phone any more!”
The incidence actually had many more quirks, which I have omitted in interest of time. Here is a quick 5 minute call I had just after the call with a different service provider:
Please dial x for mobile services -> Please dial 1 for postpaid, 2 for……9 for talking to our platinum adviser. Upon connection, the person greeted me: “How can I help you Mr. Kunal?” So re-assuring I thought! I told the adviser that I need a pre-paid data plan – “No worries Sir, we’ll send you an adviser – who will inform you about various plans and collect the necessary documents!”
Customer centricity is not something, which you can leave to be handled by a particular department or person. It has to be ingrained in the DNA of your Organization. You have to obsess about customer experience across the spectrum in order to make a difference for your customers. And if you do it well – it can by itself solve a lot of problems, which can be impossible to solve – even by the most sophisticated machine learning algorithm out there!
That’s it – I would probably show as a data point for churn on the books of Phone which analysts would analyze and try to understand over coming days. Sadly, I don’t think any of them would use the transcript of the calls I had before deciding to move on from Phone!
O Vod-a-phone! Oh! What a Phone!
Please note that this article is not intended to act as a reference to your calls with your customers, but to bring out the fact that as an analyst, you need to keep the end customer in your mind!