Great Expectations – The service customers want and how to provide it.

Justin Conry
On: 15 Feb 2018
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Justin Conry Three

Customer service expectations are rising faster than most businesses can react.

The big, global businesses are anticipating the future needs of their customers and finding efficient ways to meet those needs now. As those businesses raise their standards, the expectations of all of our customers rise too.

Justin Conry, Head of Transformation with the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) team at Three and Nicola Mortimer, Head of Business Products, Marketing and Operations at Three, share their views on how Irish SMEs can keep up.

Customer service has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. It plays a role in the acquisition and retention of customers, and the strengthening of your customer relationships, making it an important consideration for every business.

How do you know you’re getting it right? With the right measurements.

What to Measure

Customers’ demands have risen faster than the industry can keep up with, however one core principle holds true: Three’s customers, just like any others, want simplicity and ease of use. This has led us to not only measure the usual Right First Time and Net Promoter Scores as a means of assessing service delivery, but also customer effort is now measured across all areas of the business.

Every aspect of every customer interaction with the business needs to be measured; not just service but the full experience of interacting with a brand. In Three’s case we measure not just buying a phone, but also the experience of making a call or using unlimited data on our network. We measure the service experience, digital self-service, 3Plus (our loyalty programme) and we even measure collections. Finally, I believe it is critical to measure employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) together; EX and CX alignment is paramount as an empowered and satisfied EX positively drives a great CX.

How to Improve

“The only way to understand and improve these interactions”, says Nicola, “is to walk in the shoes of the customer. Things don’t always work as they should and can be more complicated and frustrating for the customer than we might think.

“Three continually asks customers for feedback to establish their wants and needs. One example of an outcome of this feedback was the decision to move Voice Care back to Ireland from India.

“Efficient internal operations, supported by the right technology infrastructure, are required to ensure an effortless and consistent experience for the customer. This may require significant changes and some investment, but when you have the measures in place, you will be able to quickly see a return on investment.”

Matching the Pace of Change

The fast pace of change in customer service expectations is a challenge. New and better ways of providing customer service quickly become the norm, so businesses must continually raise the bar. Customers’ service expectations come from their experiences of the best customer service of any business they interact with, not just yours and not even necessarily within your sector. This means that an SME in Ireland could be competing with the likes of Amazon and Apple.

An SME in Ireland must strive to match the customer service of Amazon and Apple.

Even if you set your sights on the standards of the leaders in the field, such as Amazon, by the time you have adopted their latest CX innovation they will have moved on. So your customers will still be left wanting more. This highlights the need for the CX and Continuous Improvement teams to work closely together, as they do at Three, even if this requires organisational design changes.

The Digital Solution

80% of the Irish market is either a digital native or digital adopter. This means businesses in Ireland have no option but to become more digital. Many businesses are taking advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness of cloud-based solutions to measure and monitor their engagements with their customers online – though this is only the start. The key to successful customer service is not the measurement action, but the reaction. Data and analysis must be translated into real action.

These actions don’t necessarily require high levels of investment. Many improvements are process related or small technology fixes. Some areas do require investment, web-chat for example was key for us. Over half of our customers prefer to use web-chat than to talk to an agent. Offering web-chat across key touch-points (website, app, IVR) can help meet customer needs while providing a more personal service online. Similarly, customers now interact with each other through messaging apps like WhatsApp, which is why Three launched chat-messaging as a service channel through its new self-service app, My3. Early feedback is that customers are loving it as it puts control back with the customer and takes very little effort.

Delivering Beyond the Expected

It’s not just about meeting customer expectations but exceeding them. Apple didn’t simply change the buying experience; they changed the whole idea of a retail store – no tills, the ability to pay on a tablet, in-store Q and A sessions, and so on. Now Amazon has gone a step further with their latest `just walk out’ store concept.

“SMEs don’t have to slavishly copy these businesses but can learn from them and emulate their innovative approach,” says Nicola. “Collaboration is the key. Collaborate with your customers, employees and partners to get ideas.”

An example of Three’s innovation in customer service is the restructuring of the Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) system. (This is the system that tells you to dial 1 for Service, 2 for Sales etc. when you call a business.) Most businesses bury the option to speak to a person at the very end as it’s the most costly option to run. However, analysis by Three revealed that customers calling directly either want simple IVR based self-service or they want to talk to someone. Yet they won’t necessarily be prepared to hold and listen to a long list of options to do so, leaving them feeling dissatisfied. That’s why, in what I would describe as counter-intuitive restructuring, Three has placed access to the top four self-service calls plus access to an agent right at the top of the IVR options.

It’s another demonstration of the importance of monitoring your customers, understanding them, and then using the knowledge you gain so you can not only meet their expectations but exceed them.


Three Business Mobile Plans are packed full of extra value with All You Can Eat Data and 4G. We’ve included UK and International calls and texts, roaming and Irish Based Customer Care.