Standing out through customer experience
Telia Carrier's VP Strategy, Johan Ottosson speaks to Capacity about their focus on customer experience.
Q. Why is customer experience (CX) a key differentiator for Telia Carrier?
Connectivity may be a key enabler for all things digital, but the reality is, many enterprise IT managers often see networks as source of friction, rather a than a source of value. And when you think about telecoms providers, I doubt “superior customer service” is the first thing that comes to mind. Examples are easy to come by – take slow and unpredictable deliveries, unresponsive call centers, siloed organizations and clunky buying procedures, to name a few. The whole discourse around SD-WAN is a good illustration to the problem: Many enterprises see SD-WAN as a way of taking back control or displacing their current network service providers altogether. And incumbent network providers tend to see it as a threat, rather than a way of improving customer experience.
At Telia Carrier, we have a different approach. With our #1 global network, extensive reach and award-winning customer experience, Telia Carrier simplifies connectivity for customers in more than 120 countries. Besides operating one of the world’s greatest networks – serving customers in more than 120 countries – we believe that the difference between us and other providers lies in the way we make connectivity easier for our customers. The numbers tell a story of success: Close to 80 percent of customer tickets are resolved on first call and in its latest customer survey, Telia Carrier saw a 20 percent increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS), reaching an all-time high of 53.
Q. What’s the key ingredient for providing an exceptional customer experience in global telecoms?
While CX seems simple, it’s hard to get right. It starts with culture. The humility to realize that your customers are more important than you. The curiosity to find out how to best build your organization, processes, and technology around their needs. The relentless drive towards simplicity and a sense of ownership for the customer experience is embodied across the entire organization. Because in the end, it’s all about people. Customers want real relationships with people who value them, understand their goals and pain points, are responsive, and communicate quickly and clearly. Customer empathy and communication are key parts of the hiring and onboarding evaluation process; customer experience wins are celebrated, and key CX metrics are used to individual performance measurements and are tied to compensation. This ensures the entire organization is consistently aligned to its core values and its culture is centered on the customer first.
Q. More specifically, how does your organization work with CX in practice?
Seven years back, customers appreciated us for our professional staff and the quality of our services, once up and running. But as any telco, the customer journey left much to be desired. We started by addressing real problems. Not just relieving pains but envisioning how we could make our buyers heroes within their organizations. In this regard, we saw – and still see – the sales, delivery, and incident resolution processes as the primary factors that move the needle when it comes to improving the customer experience.
In the sales process, one of our key priorities was to allow customers to interact with us on their own terms. Customers who want to order services through our website, can self-serve through our online portal. However, if they want to engage with our solutions team, we also have people who are thrilled to help them too. It’s really a matter of preference versus forcing customers through one channel or the other.
For many telcos, the delivery process is often when the customer experience begins to falter. Here, besides predictability and speed, the quality of communication is our primary focus. We organize our delivery organization by customer segment, who can promptly respond to customer requests and provide the right information quickly, openly, honestly, and transparently, according to their communication preferences. Even after the initial implementation project, dedicated delivery coordinators strive to understand what our buyer is seeking to achieve and recommend the right approach to optimize lead times and logistics. Once up, we offer customers full transparency on ongoing deliveries, service performance, consumption as well as planned changes through our portal, or via APIs.
If and when incidents happen, as they do in most real networks, we always take full ownership of the problem. To ensure the fastest possible resolution, Telia Carrier empowers its Customer Support Representatives (CSRs) both with training – more than 90% are university graduates in technology and 33% have double degrees – and with the right rapid-issue-resolution tools, including a self-learning, AI-based troubleshooting system. This system allows them to quickly identify the cause of issues customers are experiencing and identify the solutions with the highest probability to solve the underlying issue.
Q. How will you work and improve the customer experience over the coming year(s)?
Telia Carrier makes a concerted effort to listen to its customers. In addition to routine customer surveys, we embed customer feedback mechanisms into our customer communications to collect and act upon customer input in real-time. Each department runs its own Customer Excellence team, where process and IT improvements are identified for the next development sprint. However, we have identified a couple of key improvement areas:
While robust, core processes around delivery and incidents management can always be further improved. Any delay or problem is one too many. Telia Carrier is now experimenting with integrating more network data and alarm flows to make identifying and solving customer issues more predictive and proactive. We are also planning to evolve the tool to take and make autonomous actions, so that it can eventually prevent and resolve customers issues nonstop.
Online tools and access to data on our MyCarrier portal is being added with every new release, including even more service visibility and self-management/self-ordering, supported by new (near)real-time inventory-systems, autoprovisioning and streamlined quoting tools.
It’s really all about putting our customer’s network managers in the driver’s seat – letting them interact with us in the way they prefer, and always ensuring that they are one step ahead of their stakeholders, with a network so good, that it doesn’t even get noticed.
Johan Ottosson, VP Strategy
Johan Ottosson’s career is founded on two things: Curiosity and exploration. And, not to mention, an MSc. degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology. As an experienced strategist and manager, Johan led the development of growth strategies, M&A and long-term corporate strategic planning across various industries, before zeroing in on communications and technology. After ten years at a global consulting firm, Johan found Telia Carrier. Faced with task of extending its current leadership in wholesale while innovating further around global connectivity, Johan decided to take on the role as Vice President Strategy.
Johan believes that a firm commitment to innovation is the key to staying competitive, especially in an industry undergoing such profound transformations as the ICT market. His experience has also taught him that innovation is not defined by organizational charts and that many of the best ideas come from those on the front line, working with customers or engineering the network.
Beyond the office walls, music is an important part of Johan’s life. Niche and indie bands are his thing – that, and the sounds of his two small children.