Good customer service is no longer good enough: Optus

Good customer service is no longer good enough: Optus

Summary: A recent study by Optus has shown that Australian organisations still have a long way to go in achieving 'outstanding' customer experience.

TOPICS: Telcos, Optus, Australia

If businesses were put to a customer satisfaction test, only 12 percent of Australian organisations would pass in delivering outstanding customer experience — the benchmark needed to retain customer loyalty, according to the Optus Future of Business Report 2014.

The report showed that 95 percent of the time customers are likely to remain a customer after receiving an outstanding experience versus only 39 percent if they had a good experience.

While 45 percent of decision makers understand there is a clear link the impact customer experience can have on revenue and profits, only 7 percent of Australian businesses understand what customers really want from a business, which is to interact with friendly or polite staff, followed by having their needs met and to interact with knowledgeable staff.

Optus Business managing director John Paitaridis told ZDNet aligning customer experience and technology strategy is key to improving customer experience, as well as improving profit and revenue through acquiring and retaining customers, and growing repeat purchases.

"The organisation needs to map their business to customer needs. They need to ensure which channels customers are engaging them with, and then start to link that IT technology investment to those particular channels, and then they need to take a multichannel approach for that," he said.

"An example is with mobile. We're seeing the proliferation of mobile services in Australia where we're seeing almost 11 million smartphones capable of data, internet, and applications, that's manifesting change in the way consumers in Australia engage with enterprise and government.

"There needs to be conventional investment in your mobile platform, applications, and technology, and that needs to be as seamless as possible with your contact centre, your online, your retail, and your social."

The report also showed that bad news travels fast with 79 percent of survey customers admitting to acting after a bad experience, where nearly half (46 percent) told a friend, family member, or colleague, and another 28 percent called to make a complaint. Meanwhile, if customers had a good experience only 59 percent would actually share that experience with others.

Paitaridis said it's important to recognise that good is no longer good enough, and that businesses need to strive to create a "business your customers love".

"There needs to a realisation with organisation that the alignment of technology with a customer experience strategy and customer experience priorities will create an outcome," he said.

"It comes back to why customer experience is important. If organisations understand that good is not good enough and that getting to an outstanding customer experience is what drives loyalty and advocacy, it will ultimately drive retention, new business, and repeat business.

"Once you create that connection then you need to instil that into your organisation, and a number of its key initiatives and program. One ways is to align technology with your customer strategy and ensure you're taking a multichannel approach because there's no point having a great retail store experience if your online or mobile experience isn't also optimised and integrated in a seamless way."

But customer expectations are rising fast. The report showed in the next one to two years, 57 percent of customers expect to get quick results compared to the current 49 percent of customers.

Paitaridis said 48 percent of businesses believe the lack of alignment between departments within organisations is a major factor impeding on operations that are trying to deliver a better customer experience.

"There's a mandate for organisations to take customer experience seriously. We talk about them having to listen to their customers and define with the customers the ideal experience, and that needs to inform a customer experience vision and strategy," he said.

"The key point however is that it needs to have senior executive stakeholder support, right through to the managing director to the CEO and the board, and then you need a structured feedback program that is actionable.

"If you get that executive support at the top of the organisation, typically it will define for the rest of the organisation what the priority is, and the department visions will line up and the key functions will line up."

Reflecting on Optus' own customer service strategy, Paitaridis said the company has been able to drive its customer satisfaction numbers up, especially in the last 12 months where the telco has achieved a +5 net promoter score. This is despite the fact that Optus' customer numbers only grew by 1,000 net mobile customers in the three months to March 31, 2014, and that parent company SingTel is putting pressure on the company to boost its customer numbers.

"Our view is customer experience is the driver of loyalty, winning new business, and winning repeat business. We have a customer experience strategy, and it's well articulated and well communicated throughout our business. We have customer feedback programs, which are actionable. We are embracing the use of omnichannel, the use of technology," he said.

"We're empowering our people with tools and processes that they need to get on with their job. Our view is that it needs to be a customer centric strategy and if we can drive and deliver, improve customer satisfaction, which we have done in the last 12 months, then that will lead to the kind of growth we need."

Topics: Telcos, Optus, Australia


Since completing a degree in journalism, Aimee has had her fair share of covering various topics, including business, retail, manufacturing, and travel. She continues to expand her repertoire as a tech journalist with ZDNet.

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  • Seems Legit

    As what I've learned the policy now is not the customer is always right but it should be put first. You as an organization should think about also pleasing your employees so that they can make the customers happy as well.
  • Address the customers issues

    I think the biggest problem with customer service in the US and probably elsewhere is that lack of showing a connection with the customer. You notice phrases like "I understand you problem" or "I will work hard to solve your issue". But its lip service and the customer can smell that out.
    I have issue with companies like Google who push you into a customer service nightmare of self service or seeking out advice from either snooty Google fans or just more users who face similar issues with no clue either. Finally finding a Ninja connection that again, is non personal. Its like talking to a Siri or Cortana or whatever you call a computer generated helper. They are not compassionate or understanding. Your problem is not their problem. I would be more inclined to stay with a company who admits fault and wants to fix it. I think many people today, simple give up on even trying customer service. They buy a bad product, they return it or never buy from that company again. Not even bothering with trying customer service. But that to me simply let's the company off the hook for a bad product. I make them make good on their product. Its only after the warranty period do I weigh fixing or simply replacing a product. You can always tell right away from a customer service experience if that company really cares, or just has lip service for you.
  • Customer service

    I believe that Johnny S has it right. The Telcos think that if they say they Customer Service often enough that it will become true, they have said it so often they may have even convinced themselves.
    David Boyd
  • Companies ALWAYS get customer service wrong.

    This can be applied to so much more.

    Apple devices - "you'll use it how WE want you to use it"
    Media content in Australia - "We'll sell you content when WE want to sell you content"
    Replace the word "WE" with "YOU" and you pretty much have what nearly all companies get wrong with customer service.

    If you want to be known for good customer service, you need to be a company that sells customer service as your primary product. The actual product or service you sell has to be secondary.
  • Optus service is a dogs dinner?


    Optus service is great if you plan your conversations to optimise your satisfaction. That usually means knowing more than the customer service officer you will be dealing with. Often it means dealing with a different person for each part of your problem. It also means spending 1 hour on the phone.

    However the average customer can't do this. They will be shunted from service person to service person... each one is only capable of a partial solution. Meanwhile the customer tries to find one service person who can tie up all their problems with a simple solution.

    No wonder customers are frustrated?

    As a result of this piecemeal approach the solutions proposed are also piecemeal.

    This has only got worst since most technical support has moved overseas. The overseas rep has very poor product knowledge and training... and often offers inappropriate solutions.

    This means the customer can not rely on whatever the service rep says.

    This results in a lot of very angry customers.

    In summary... Optus service is great if you design your own solution... but it usually sucks if you reply on Optus.

    Loyalty or lack of it is a direct result of which experience you create.

    What is missing here is Optus intervening to make sure the customer experience is always a good one.

  • Customer-side service

    I like to think of customer service from the customer's side. I ask myself at the onset: "What can I do to make this transaction smooth and quick?" How can I make that person want to help me?

    The answer is usually be nice, polite, assertive, friendly, and don't take "no" for an answer. There are plenty of things a customer can say to elicit a better attitude from the employee.