Differentiating through customer happiness

17 Sep 2018

In the Forrester report, 2018 Customer Service Trends: How Operations Become Faster, Cheaper – And Yet, More Human, author and principal analyst Kate Leggett wrote that ease, effectiveness and emotion are what drive great customer service.

For John Epok Pascual (pictured), head of Customer Happiness at Circles.Life, that sums up his purpose at the Singapore mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Launched in May 2016 Circles.Life entered Singapore’s crowded mobile market – now nine operators serving a population of 8.46 million mobile subscribers. The MVNO’s strategy is to offer no contract mobile plans via its Circle-X platform that is built entirely in the cloud – no physical retail stores.

Measuring satisfaction

The 2018 Q1 Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG), released by the Institute of Service Excellence (ISE) at the Singapore Management University (SMU), gave the Info-Communications sector a score of 70.4 points, up 1.1% increase over the same period last year. The report noted that while no significant upward movement in satisfaction was detected, notable improvements were seen in perceived quality and perceived value scores.

According to ISE, mobile telecom saw its score in perceived product quality go up by 3.3%. While product-related attributes such as ‘network coverage’ and ‘network reliability’ remained as key differentiators of perceived quality and customer loyalty, service-related attributes such as ‘makes the effort to understand your needs’ and ‘has your best interest at heart’, were stronger differentiators this year compared to 2017.

Neeta Lachmandas, executive director of the ISE, commented that “While having competitive product offerings continues to be important, we see service attributes as a stronger differentiator this year. Telcos may wish to consider efforts to improve customer service as a source of competitive advantage,” she added.

A happy customer is…

This recommendation is in line with Pascual’s customer happiness goal – that of providing outstanding customer service to their customers. “Basically my main goal is of course to provide happiness to our customers and train our agents in terms of replicating that happiness that I can exude for our customers,” he explained.

For Pascual the best customer experience is when you don’t hear [complaints] from the customer. But he concedes that difficulty of making everyone happy. His mandate to his team of customer happiness experts (agents) is to “understand the customer’s pain points and provide solutions by talking to them directly” – a strategy he says has worked well for the company.

Customer’s choice

Keeping customers happy means making sure the customer service team is available to the customer at the time convenient for them and on the channel they prefer. For Circles.Life this means operating an omni-channel model as part of its customer service strategy.

For Pascual, having ready access to a common set of tools for tracking customer engagements was an important part of delivering on the mantra of customer happiness. For him the choice came down to only one solution – Zendesk.

Having used the solution at a previous organization, Pascual commented that the Zendesk solution was easy to deploy and easy to use. With 50 agents spread out in Singapore and the Philippines, Zendesk’s cloud-based platform meant each agent will have access to the same tools and the same customer data records to ensure consistent experience for the customer. Pascual also highlighted the tool’s ease of use as important in the performance of their jobs. The agent onboarding process takes about two weeks, including Circles.Life product familiarization and Zendesk.

“What I really love about Zendesk is they know their customers. One example that I can give is basically when we decided to implement chat basically they were ready. They were ready in the sense that for Circle.Life they helped in terms of implementing it easily within our app which is Circles Care,” he concluded.

Responding to market dynamics

With the Zendesk platform delivered via cloud, access to data becomes less of a challenge for the 50 agents plus Pascual’s management team.

Sandie Overtveld, vice president for Asia Pacific at Zendesk, added that “the key driver for us is how quickly we can get to implement it, how quickly you can adapt to changing market situations. You talked about some of that earlier of you have legacy systems but if you’re sitting in a contact center or you’re managing social engagements or chats, you need the ability to see all that data in a central place. So we are completely open, an open source and able to connect and bring that data in without having to import everything. So we can do very easy system integrations into legacy systems that are then represented in a single interface for a customer happiness expert,” he added.

With shortening technology cycles and an evolving channel platform, companies like Circles.Life face the risk of implementing technology or solutions that will be obsolete faster than their business can recover the cost.

Overtveld said this is one of their key differentiator. “I think what really works for our customers is we take the risk away. If you’re doing a big enterprise implementation, it’s a long process. It’s very cost intensive and there’s a high risk involved. What we do is we try and take that away completely from the customer and say: Start small, its consumption based. Try it, iterate, see what value you get out of it and then build on top of that,” he concluded.

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