TalkTalk walks the walk with digital customer service strategy
Five years ago, TalkTalk was one of the most complained about telecoms operators in Britain. Today the company has completely turned things by revamping the contact centre operating model and finding new ways for customers to get the support they need across digital channels. As a result, TalkTalk is succeeding in its mission to be a value champion taking on the traditional giants in one of the toughest industries in Britain.
After being handed the Daily Mail’s ‘Wooden Spoon’, given to companies their readers deem have the worst customer service, TalkTalk, which delivers value for money phone, broadband and TV packages to more than 4 million UK customers, realised it needed to change. One of the problems was that it had recently acquired several different companies who all had their own customer service networks. As a result it was working with many different outsourcing providers, making it incredibly hard to deliver a consistent customer experience.
A decision was made to simplify and streamline the number of partners and at each stage, TalkTalk chose to stick with Transcom, despite the fact that Transcom’s Manila-based operations were so far from the UK. “The temptation was to work with someone closer, so that’s a testament to the quality of Transcom’s services that it negated the distance,” says Sholto Mee, Head of Customer Service for TalkTalk. “We wanted to move to a larger strategic partnership where we could develop a deeply embedded relationship, one with equal respect where we share in each other’s successes and have to work together in order to be successful together.”
The results have been remarkable, and today TalkTalk outperforms larger players such as BT in the regulator’s formal reports on customer satisfaction and complaint handling. One of the main reasons is because TalkTalk has realised that customers increasingly want to interact with companies using a variety of channels, especially digital ones. One of the company’s main strategies has been to invest in innovations such as Live Chat functionality and online self-service so that customers can solve their problems digitally, thereby reducing the numbers of calls into contact centres.
“We are seeing customers migrate to digital channels more and more, and customer satisfaction is much higher in those areas as a result. Today 40 percent of our frontline customer service is through live chat, compared to 5 percent a few years ago,” says Sholto Mee. And consumers are more demanding, and more likely to switch than ever before, keeping those customers happy is crucial.
“Internet connectivity is as important to consumers today as electricity or water. People expect to be able to be online 24/7, and expectations are on a completely different level than they were five or 10 years ago. It's crucial we deliver support in a way that retains those customers,” says Mark Lyndsell, Transcom’s Country Manager for UK and Asia Pacific Accounts.
New solutions changing the game
Today about 1,800 agents in two of Transcom’s delivery centers in Manilla handle all types of customer queries for TalkTalk, from billing to technical support. And TalkTalk is constantly adopting innovative solutions, such as voice biometric software that helps identify customers without having to go through lengthy security questions. Transcom has also created escalation layers so that more skilled agents can deal with callers who have urgent problems or complaints. And TalkTalk is planning to launch a new WhatsApp-style messaging application where customers can send questions and replies to agents at any time, without the need for instant responses.
“That’s really exciting because it fundamentally changes the experience from the customer’s point of view. They can engage with us on their terms, when it suits them. If they need an instant response, they get one. But if they want to send a message, then get on the train and check the response later, they can fit in their questions around their day-to-day lives,” says Sholto Mee.
It’s clear that TalkTalk is determined to stay ahead of the game and isn’t afraid to make fast and sweeping changes to the way the company operates. That means their partners must have the same attitude, and willingness to evolve.
“The reason why our partnership has lasted so long is that Transcom has been able to align to their culture,” says Mark Lyndsell. “TalkTalk is very entrepreneurial. They like to zig when everybody else zags. They like to buck the trend. That means you have be very agile and flexible in terms of your thinking when you're working with them.”
And that’s also why TalkTalk feel they have found the perfect partner in Transcom. “We operate at the value-end of the market which means we can’t outspend our competition, we have to outthink them. That means we have a culture of moving quickly and delivering innovative products. So all our partners have to be flexible with us,” says Sholto Mee.
“Transcom is great at that because they have a flexible management team with the ability to deal with ambiguity and deal with change. We talk about challenging with integrity. It’s a two-way dialogue, and that’s based on trust.”
This article, written by Mattias Karén, appeared in the latest issue of the Hello Transcom magazine.