Companies that thrive don’t only think about the sale

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies is often help up as an example of an entrepreneur who started small and over the years has built a global empire of businesses – and all along following his own sense of how a business should operate.

He recently wrote a feature in Entrepreneur magazine that sends a logical message about business, but one that is often forgotten – your company does not exist to only serve customers.

Branson says: “Companies that survive and thrive over the long term have more significant interactions with their customers than just conducting transactions; great businesses are places where problems are solved and lives are improved. A sense of mission helps such enterprises to keep sight of the bigger picture.”

He suggests that all kinds of interactions with customers and potential customers beyond just the process of selling them something can be significant for a company – it’s all about interacting with the community around your business.

This kind of advice flies in the face of many business gurus who advise a laser-like focus on making the sale, but I think Branson’s view is right – in the long term a business needs to find a place in the community where it exists.

Branson suggests sending your team into local schools as volunteers. This helps to give the kids a real view on what people do at work and the business starts forming a relationship with future customers and employees at an early age.

This is just one idea, but it’s a good one. At Teleperformance our Citizen of the World programme encourages similar activities that allow our team to interact with their community. It’s not just about doing good for the sake of it – it helps the community and it can help your business too.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson during the opening keynote at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas, NV.


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Every telco complaint in a single database

Imagine a database of complaints against telcos that is freely available online for customers. It’s a proposal that has been put forward by public utility regulators in the USA recently as an idea that would allow consumers to easily compare the customer service of competing firms.

Of course this is not a radical idea, it is just a regulator suggesting that those in charge of managing regulated companies might want to learn from review and comparison tools that already exist. In the hotels business, everyone takes Tripadvisor seriously now, but an industry regulator did not create it and it works globally – not in just one market.

Regulated businesses such as telcos, banks, and insurance firms do need to start taking the service they provide more seriously. They do compete with each other in their own markets, but that competition is usually on price. If the USA example shows that regulators want to start highlighting service too then there is nothing to stop similar measures in the UK.

Many comparison engines already exist in the UK allowing customers to compare pre and post pay packages from every phone operator. It would not need a regulator to add service quality and complaints on these existing tools – how long before it happens anyway?

Leave a comment on the blog here if you think this will happen soon or just tweet me on @simondillsworth.

complaint deptPhoto by Tamara licensed under Creative Commons


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Are people really worried about protecting their personal data?

A recent article on the Engage Customer blog described new research by Mintel that found how consumers of all ages are concerned about data privacy online, but younger Millennial consumers are over-sharing data far more than their Baby Boomer parents.

At first sight, this is obvious. Take a look at the Facebook wall of a younger person and it’s often filled with photos and highly personal information shared openly to a relatively large group of friends – usually numbering several hundred people. This is usually not the case when looking at the Facebook wall of their parents – who often find the concept of openly sharing information slightly bizarre and dangerous.

But the Mintel study did notice some specific differences in attitude beyond this generic difference in attitudes to privacy.

60% of Millennials will happily share personal information with marketers, but older consumers are much more protective when contacted by brands. Millennials would even reveal highly personal information if they were going to be rewarded in return – like a shopping voucher in return for their age, contact details, and ‘likes’ on Facebook.

But when asked for an old-fashioned home address, rather than a like on Facebook, the older consumers are much more likely to give this away than the Millennial generation. 40% of Baby Boomers are happy to give brands their home address compared to 38% of Millenials.

We are entering a new generation where social sharing has become a way of life for an entire generation. A major change in attitudes to privacy could be the only thing that derails this social future, but it doesn’t look like this will change any time soon – not for the Millennial generation anyway.


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When will the set-top box be replaced by an app?

Total Telecom published an article recently that featured several commentators arguing that the set-top box (STB) is here to stay. It is argued that the operators can create much stickier customers if the customer is forced to use a piece of hardware, rather than just selecting the operator as an app on their smart TV.

The numbers do support this theory. 270 million STBs were sold worldwide in 2013, up 8% on the year before and this is predicted to increase further to 286 million units this year. The market for STBs is expected to be worth over $2bn by 2017.

But doesn’t all this excitement about the sale of STBs rather miss the point?

Do the operators really believe that their customers are staying loyal to them just because they cannot find the time or energy to replace their STB with that used by a rival operator?

If my own provider suggested that they could eliminate my STB and replace all that functionality with a cloud-based app on the TV then I would feel more inclined to remain with them.

There is a strange contradiction in the growth of the STB market because pressure on margins means that they are almost certainly going to be discarded at some point in the future. Once one major operator ditches the STBs and goes for the cloud, surely all of them will need to follow?

What do you think? Is the set-top box really here for the long term? Leave a comment on the blog here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Something satisfying about hacking hardware


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Will Hillary be the contact centre manager of the year?

Each year, the Call Centre Management Association runs the UK National Contact Centre Awards. This is one of the most prestigious awards in the UK customer service industry – the ceremony this year will be on May 15th.

I’m really proud to say that one of our team has been shortlisted for the contact centre manager of the year award. Hillary Stewart works for our client Vodafone and I could not say anything better than what they said about her:

“I am absolutely delighted that Hilary has been shortlisted for the award as she is truly deserving of this. Over the past year Hilary has done a fantastic job on the Vodafone account in terms of a cultural transformation. As a result of her focus, energy & drive the contact centre is now a place of enthusiasm where people are striving and delivering a really great customer experience. Hilary has been instrumental in this turn around.”

The prize itself is now up to the judges and as you can see from the list of judges, they are all industry practitioners who really appreciate what it takes to run a contact centre today.

Whether Hillary wins or not, just reaching the shortlist is already a great achievement. Good luck for the ceremony in May Hillary, the Teleperformance team will all be cheering for you that evening!

Ricoh 500GX, cheaper alternative to the LC-A+ ?


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Great #custserv where it is least expected

The customer service feedback pages in most newspapers are littered with horror stories about poor service and disasters where unsuspecting customers hand over their money and fail to receive the service they expected.

What a pleasant surprise then to read about Monarch Airlines recently in The Guardian. A customer booked flights for his entire family only to realise that he had booked the wrong dates – exactly a week later than planned.

The customer called Monarch and they immediately changed the flights without even charging the standard fee usually required to change a booking.

This may sound trivial, but airline customers have learned long ago that changing a flight once booked is incredibly difficult. It’s no wonder this customer wrote his astonished letter to the newspaper.

What clearly happened was that the agent could see the booking was made minutes earlier. The customer was anxious and needed flights that were exactly one week apart from those booked. The agent had the ability and flexibility to cancel, rebook, and take the decision to not charge a fee.

It’s a good example of showing how some autonomy granted to the agents can lead to very happy customers who will no doubt return to the company again in future.

185gs - Monarch Airlines Boeing 757-2T7; G-MONB@PMI;17.08.2002

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Are customers moving to mobiles for #custserv?

Earlier this year, Kate Leggett from Forrester published her top ten predications for customer service in 2014. One of them was particularly interesting to me:

Trend 2: Customer Service Will Adopt a Mobile-First Mindset

Customer service mobile applications remain nascent as more companies focus on their mobile marketing, sales and ecommerce mobility strategies. In 2014, companies will look to aligning mobile strategies, technology investments and user experiences across functional groups like marketing, customer service, ecommerce and IT. More companies will move away from duplicating their web presence for their mobile offering, and will focus on deploying the right usage scenarios that add value to customers in a mobile environment, with focused user experiences that allow tasks to be efficiently accomplished.

Since Forrester published this we have seen the acquisition of mobile messaging service Whatsapp by Facebook. The value of the deal – around £11.4bn – shows how much value is now placed on mobile services.

And tools like Whatsapp have been mobile since day one. You don’t need an email address or a computer to sign up for Whatsapp, you just connect using your phone. It’s always been a mobile-oriented service.

And as more widely used services go mobile-only we will find that the industry needs to think in more detail about what Forrester suggests – how customer service needs to be different to support services that are mobile-only.

What are the differences you expect to find between a service used on a laptop and a phone? Leave a comment here on the blog or just tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Telephones - Bangkok ;   "City Of Angels"

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