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How Digital has changed the definition of good customer service

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Digital technology has transformed the world in ways that would have seemed unimaginable just a few decades ago.

It’s fascinating to watch but the most important changes for me haven’t been the ones that make catchy headlines; it’s the ones that have helped me provide my team and my customers with a better experience.

There’s really no two ways about it: digital has revolutionised the customer-supplier relationship and brought immense transparency to a world that was once anything but and as employers, that’s helped us to empower our staff and enrich their working lives.

Digital has had a hugely positive impact in these areas, but it’s also fundamentally transformed the way we and our customers do business; not to mention the challenges they now face so as their problems evolve, we too have to completely rethink the way we serve them.

This is as exciting as it is challenging. I take pride in making customers happy and take it very personally when I don’t! I’ve also always believed the way to do that is by making your people happy.

In fact, with technology rewriting the rule book faster than many can keep up, there’s a real opportunity for brands to use these new technologies to help their employees excel, and in turn, differentiate themselves from a customer experience excellence (CXX) perspective.

I’m proud to say we’ve already been focused on doing this at Vodafone Group Enterprise as part of our CXX initiative called The Red Line.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far…

Moving from proactive to predictive

There was a time when customers would accept that we could only fix a problem once we knew about it, and we’d only know about it once it had already happened. For as long as anyone can remember, that was the logical process of problem-solving.

Something breaks. You learn about it. You fix it.

But not anymore. Not even close.

Today, even being proactive isn’t enough; our customers expect us to predict the problems before they happen and ensure that they never come to pass.

This is now the normal expectation and it’s happened because of technology, not in spite of it.

The speed at which we can collect and interpret data today means we can learn more about our customers than ever before, and with this information we can provide a more personalised experience that improves CXX.

But we’re not the only ones. Customers, too, expect to have information at their fingertips, at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen; and so they should.

To cater for this, we’ve built a brand new portal that will allow customers to view the status of service in real time, whenever they want.

To some that might sound scary, giving our customers so much transparency. It may even have scared me twenty years ago!

But the truth is, digital technology means that there’s no longer anywhere to hide as service providers and trusted partners. If we’re serious about CXX I think we need to embrace that, not fear it.

And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do at Vodafone…

A new set of skills for a digital age

Of course, technology can only ever take you so far when it comes to CXX.

As I mentioned above, I’m a firm believer that our people’s happiness is the key to customer satisfaction. It’s these people who ultimately determine whether you can deliver on your CXX promises.

The way we’ve approached this at Vodafone is simple: look at the skills and traits that people need to thrive in the new world outlined above, then make sure each and every one of your team members exhibit those qualities.

For us this means recruiting people for softer skills, like problem-solving, empathy and good judgement. We know that we can’t predict what might happen in two or three years’ time, but what we can do is create a workforce that is better able to adapt to changes when they do happen.

And for our current team members, we’re providing targeted training to ensure we bring out these soft skills in our work force wherever we can.

Developing these new traits is only one part of the process; we also need to bring everyone together to make sure we’re a cohesive, consistent CXX unit.

To achieve this, we’re bringing our sales and service teams closer than ever before – breaking down the walls between communication and closing the gap than has existed between those two areas for decades.

Through our online social communication platform, all employees can share knowledge and experience with people they simply wouldn’t have come into contact with before.

This helps our people to support each other in delivering CXX, but more importantly it means that whenever a customer interacts with our business they’ll experience the same quality of service.

What digital transformation means to me?

Well, the phrase “digital transformation” has certainly become a business buzzword -  usually used to refer to some vague and overarching change that seems impossible to define.

I don’t think it’s about transforming your company IT system, it’s far more about using technology to support a more holistic cultural change to empower your people, who in turn, can then better serve your customers.

That’s why we supply our employees with the digital tools that allow them to communicate with one another, wherever they happen to be.

We want work to feel like a thing we do rather than a place we go, and that attitude shines through in the way we deal with customers.

There’s no doubt that cultural changes like this are powered by technology, they simply wouldn’t be possible without it. But it’s about using that digital tech to drive CXX rather than innovating just for the sake of it, or because you want to keep up with trends.

Thinking in this way has helped us to build much deeper partnerships with our customers, because the flexibility we get from using digital tools has a direct impact on the way we work with them.

Our artificial intelligence platform, for example, helps simplify and automate certain tasks for our agents. This means they have more time to focus on giving the customer a more personalised experience.

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer for which technologies you should be deploying in your business.

The answer, I think, is to make these decisions with your people and customers in mind. This gives you a very good chance of evolving in a way that helps to deliver CXX in years to come.

And as you’ve heard me say a few times now… I truly believe that CXX is the only way to sustainably differentiate yourself in the future.

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We are the world's largest IoT services provider

Vodafone IoT have connected over 74 million devices worldwide

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