Service innovation: How customer inspiration makes all the difference

Posted on 6 Nov 2014 by Callum Bentley

Innovate or die. It’s a corporate mantra that has almost become cliché. But that familiarity makes it no less true. Rod Sheriff of Truphone explains.

Rodney Sheriff on_white 1
Rodney Sheriff

As we well know in the telecoms industry, competitive markets require organisations to work hard to stand apart. That could be through products or services that are inherently different or means of dealing with people that makes them feel something more.

At Truphone, for example, we have developed the world’s first global mobile network that transforms the way people communicate internationally. However, that alone is not enough. We have a clear mission to inspire our customers every time they deal with us and to do that we need to innovate.

Benchmarking beyond boundaries

As Voltaire says, “best is the enemy of good”. But that does not mean we shouldn’t always aim for it. A goal to be the best service organisation in the world won’t be completed over night, but it imbues your work with the standards to make real change.

That is why, to paraphrase Voltaire, narrow benchmarking is the enemy of best. If we were to measure ourselves only against telecoms companies we would be short changing our customers. We don’t judge ourselves against network operators, nor technology companies. We judge ourselves against every company in the world.

Innovate for your people as well as for your customers

Being the best means redefining every facet of the business, including the role of the service workforce. Using Joseph Pine’s ‘experience economy’ theory, we see each individual customer interaction as an opportunity to inspire. Not to satisfy queries, meet expectations or even to pleasingly resolve problems; inspiration is the goal.

But you cannot inspire others without being inspirational yourself. Culture is not part of the game, it is the game.

Emotional intelligence therefore becomes the most important trait of the workforce. We prize enthusiastic, smart and passionate people and we put them in a fast-paced environment where everyone can make a difference.

These people are your brand. They need to be nurtured and given the space to excel. Whether through training and immersion, access to the best CRM technology, a creative and engaging workplace or the opportunity to collaborate internationally, innovating for your people is as important as innovating for your customers.

Make inspirational decisions, and measure them

If your workforce is inspired, you can let them off the leash. The authority to make decisions that affect customers positively shouldn’t be bound by approval hierarchies. The opportunity to create an inspirational moment is fleeting, and making it happen in an authentic way depends on the nuanced judgement of a talented person who has the skills and freedom to make it happen. That’s one of the reasons we give people a huge amount of technical knowledge and cultural support – and then let them express themselves with freedom. So hiring the right talent is fundamental.

Those decisions are your customer service – so measure them.

You can only improve when you know the level you’re at. While standard templates like Net Promoter Score, employee engagement, first call resolution, and speed of response give you the basics, it is challenging to measure delight or inspiration.

At Truphone we track inspirational moments through our customers’ spontaneous feedback, every day we receive unprompted thanks in forms ranging from sincere words on the phone, to handwritten notes – we’ve even received homemade cakes! These are the moments that we value more than any other – we celebrate them throughout the business. We know that our best marketers are our customers. It is the inspirational moments that differentiate Truphone from our competition.

For example, a Spanish customer recently got lost in the Netherlands on the way to the airport, without speaking Dutch or English. Her first thought was to call her mobile operator. Truphone’s international teams worked together to find where she was, book and then translate her instructions to a taxi driver, and make sure she got to the airport on time.

Similarly, one of our staff established his customer was going to emigrate to Spain before his wife suddenly fell ill, postponing the move. We arranged a hamper of Spanish delicacies to be sent to the customer’s house with a personal note. The customer was overwhelmed.


The recognition that matters

The approach has brought us recognition around the world, including being shortlisted for the Best Customer Care at the World Communication Awards, and winning Best Customer Service Team in both APAC and EMEA in the Contact Centre Awards. This isn’t a telecoms award – it’s open to every customer service organisation in the region and is hotly contested. But the recognition we crave most of all is that of our customers.