Engaging in the business of multilingual customer support – Interview with Canada’s Koodo Mobile

Posted November 17, 2016

This interview is from Issue 2 of Customers First magazine – sharing global insights on customer strategy and innovation.

Dave Lowther is the Director of Operations for Koodo Mobile, a Canadian telecommunications company. His team is responsible for Customer Care, Tech Support, Loyalty and Retention, and Channel Support for Koodo; operating four contact centers in three countries, with 900 team members. We had the chance to ask him some questions about delivering effective multichannel, multilingual support in a highly competitive market.

Customers First: How does Koodo fit into the overall wireless market?

Dave Lowther: The wireless business in Canada is very similar to most in that it’s a crowded market with several providers. Koodo is positioned in the second tier of wireless services (a value carrier) and is a brand known for being fun. We aim to provide clear and simple messaging, products, and services – all while offering great customer service.

CF: How do you make sure the key elements of your brand experience make their way into your customer service culture?

DL: At Koodo, we want all our team members to live up to our “Choose Happy” brand promise. This message is the core DNA of our advertising and carries through to how we approach customer service. To validate it, Koodo leads the country with an 88% Likelihood to Recommend score (Net Promoter Score), and we were recently recognized with the JD Power “Highest in Customer Service Among Wireless Providers” award for all of Canada.

CF: What are some of the keys to achieving great multilingual customer service, and how does outsourcing play a role?

DL: Canada is a multilingual country with two official languages – French and English – so a multilingual strategy is a must. Outsourcing allows us to service both markets while maintaining great customer experience, a lowered cost structure, and robust business continuity. The most important element of great multilingual customer service is to have an ultra-focus on solving the customer’s individual problem. Far too many multilingual contact centers spend time trying to neutralize accents or hide the fact they are serving customers from abroad. We’ve found that, if you can help the customer, provide solutions and make a personal connection, they don’t really care about accents.

CF: How did you decide on a multichannel strategy for customer service?

DL: When we look at new channels, we try to answer two questions: will this make it easier for our customers to do business with us, and will it help reduce call volume to our contact centers? We began with just voice calls, but as the market changed and our customer base grew, we’ve had to adapt to their needs. We started offering email and then moved into social media. We’re now pushing our self-serve application and website in order to divert calls from the contact center. We built a very robust “Koodo Community” of customers that provide great tips, tricks and support to our customer base.

CF: What are some of the creative ways you engage your frontline team members?

DL: For me, there are four key pieces to engaging team members:

  1. Leverage fair process – always seek the input of those team members whose role will be impacted by a given decision.
  2. Communicate – link your actions back to how they are driving engagement, and continually recognize accomplishments.
  3. Allow people to fail – people won’t try to innovate if they aren’t allowed to fail.
  4. Have fun – we offer ice cream days, sports and community events, lip sync battles and lots of recognition.

CF: What are some of your most important KPIs, both internal and external?

DL: At the agent level, we measure performance with KPIs that reflect the customer experience. For example, we leverage Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Repeat and Transfer rates as a good indicator of how well the customer is served by the first agent. What we don’t do is measure Average Handle Time (AHT) at the agent level, as we always want our frontline team to take care of our customers’ requirements, regardless of how long it takes. All KPIs, however, take a back seat to overall team engagement. A great customer experience will only happen if you have a people-friendly culture that allows the team to thrive and grow.

CF: What are some of the ways you gather and/or analyze data to continuously improve the Koodo customer experience?

DL: As you can imagine, we have no shortage of data to review! The challenge is determining the overall trends that are appearing across a number of data points. You need to understand your business metrics as a whole in order to be successful. It’s also important not to put pressure on agents to achieve numbers just for the sake of achieving numbers. If your leadership team can manage, lead and inspire people, the numbers will continue to meet the target. When our Repeat Call Rate was getting too high, we brought together agents and team leads to brainstorm recommendations to improve. We didn’t talk about the number but focused on what was causing customers to call back. With our agents’ great ideas, we lowered our Repeat Call Rate by 22%.

CF: What other companies/brands do you think are doing customer service particularly well?

DL: Outside the industry, I look at companies like Apple that are good at getting their customers to leverage self-service when possible. I also look at much smaller companies for great examples of customer service. It’s easy to call out the big names, but for me, it’s the way the local paint store creates a relationship with their customers, or how the small hotel chain remembers the last time you stayed there. The challenge for us is to establish those personal connections on a larger scale.

At Koodo, we lead our industry in customer experience, so we aren’t looking at our competitors for ideas, but rather, are looking for creative ways to maintain our lead. One way is to focus on coaching, where team managers work with their agents to discover what they’re doing right and encourage that behavior, rather than looking for what they are doing wrong.

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For one large telecom, our Lean Six Sigma engagement improved CSAT by 39% and FCR by 21%.