Why delivering great service can often mean taking a step back for the Customer Operation.
New Year. Fresh start. Or is it? We all know that delivering great service is about focusing on the customer. But how often do we really take time-out to challenge why we do things a certain way? And is there a risk that by becoming too caught up in the detail, we could lose sight of the bigger picture?
In this blog post, Katie Tether, Abtran Consultant and Business Analysis Manager, explains why taking time to step back can often mean a big step forward for the customer as well as the bottom line.
Challenge the status quo
As we step into 2017, most Customer Operations will be working hard to deliver on their goals and putting in place the steps to achieve that. All too often, we can find ourselves becoming so consumed in the detail that it can be hard to see the world from the customer viewpoint. That’s why it’s important to regularly turn things on their head, challenge ourselves and look at the way the customer experiences your organisation from the outside-in.
All roads lead back to the customer
Today, most organisations are structured by function or by process. This can make it difficult to see things from the wider customer viewpoint. One tool that helps to connect around the bigger picture is Customer Journey Mapping (CJM). The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that your customer goes through when interacting with your organisation or your brand. Instead of focusing in on individual touch points or stages of the journey, CJM enables you to look across the customer’s end-to-end service experience as a whole.
At Abtran, we spend a lot of time working with clients in highly competitive and regulated markets where the customer experience is often the biggest differentiator for the brand.
By working with stakeholders across Sales, Billing, Marketing, Operations and Customer Service, we’ve been able to step clients through the end-to-end customer journey. Here it’s about creating customer personas and scenarios to highlight what the customer wants and where they’re having a good or bad experience. It then becomes possible to remove inconsistencies, improve processes and bridge gaps across the end-to-end journey from onboarding through to registration, sales and renewal.
So if the customer isn’t having a good experience, CJM can highlight what improvements are needed across the business as a whole from channels, to technologies, to process and performance improvements.
Of course, for Customer Journey Mapping to be effective, it needs to be based on real customer feedback and data driven insights. When conducted regularly, CJM can also be a powerful enabler, helping us to see the bigger picture more clearly while bringing it back to the journeys that matter most to our clients, their customers and our brand.
Publish Date: January 25, 2017 5:00 AM
If you’re in the business of service, then you’re in the business of change.
From the changing ways your customers interact with you, to the competitive, regulatory and legislative forces within your industry, delivering great service has a lot to do with an organisation’s ability to manage change.
In the Customer Contact environment, change can be about big-ticket items like technology reviews or large transformational projects. For others, it’s about embedding a continuous culture of change.
At Abtran, this is about taking the time to continuously revisit the fundamentals.
What’s the business case? How has it changed? How do our operational goals and measures stack up? How are we delivering the service right now? How does that need to change from a people, process and technology perspective to support the customer journey and deliver a better service experience
When it comes to leading change, engaging with your Customer Service Advisors to give open, and honest feedback is crucially important. That’s because your front line staff are very often the only connection with your customers. At Abtran, this is about encouraging a culture of being open and always challenging how we can do things better.
When we recruit and onboard new staff, we look for candidates who are open to change and have really strong service instincts. This means people who have an innate understanding of what it means to be a customer and who take time to listen to the customer and then feed back insights that can be converted into practical service improvements.
From a quality and training perspective, staff feedback can continuously inform the right coaching, performance and service improvement measures; initiatives that in turn support and empower your people to lead change and deliver a service experience that’s focused on the customer.
Change is often regarded as a disruptive force. For organisations that embrace change, it can become a positive enabler, empowering your people to become more open, your processes to become more agile and your customers to become more loyal and connected to your brand.
Christine has over ten years experience working across a number of organisations nationally and internationally, within the Utilities sector.
Outside of her day-to-day role as Training Manager, Christine provides practical consulting services to Abtran clients across a number of streams including onboarding of staff, training & development, quality improvement and managing change.
Publish Date: August 11, 2016 5:00 AM
In this video blog post, we invited some of our thought leaders to share their insights on the future of service within the ever changing Utilities space.
The importance of channel choice, digital and putting the customer front and centre, are just some of the themes covered in this special ‘futures’ edition of the Abtran Service Exchange.
Publish Date: May 31, 2016 5:00 AM
In this issue of the Abtran Service Exchange, we share a blog post by Aaron Long. Here, Aaron describes his own Abtran journey from Customer Service Advisor to Social Media Executive and how after ten years of seeing the company grow and expand, the great people culture remains unchanged.
Social Media Specialist
I began my Abtran journey just over ten years ago, when the company had less than 100 people filling a single site in Curraheen. Many things have changed massively over the last decade. There are now over 2,000 people employed across four sites, in both Cork and Dublin. The portfolio of prestigious clients and range of services has grown and established Abtran as one of the fastest growing business process management (BPM/BPO) providers in the world.
One thing that has not changed at all, since that day in November 2005, when I began my Abtran career, is the vibrant, energetic, people centric environment. I have had the opportunity to work across a spectrum of clients in various roles from Customer Service Advisor to Product Specialist, Administration Specialist to Social Media Executive. Wherever I have wanted to go, Abtran has been there to help me develop, to encourage and nurture that development and to provide me with a platform to further my career.
I last wrote a testimonial for the Abtran website in 2008. Back then my current role did not exist! As a Social Media Executive I am lucky to be part of one of the most exciting and innovative teams in the company. The Digital team is constantly evolving, as customers look to interact across more Digital channels. I am often asked if I now ‘tweet for a living’. While Twitter is certainly a big part of my daily routine, being a Social Media Executive involves so much more. Ten years into my service career I have found myself learning (and embracing) a whole new skillset, from reporting and analytics to outbound content creation. Inspired by this, I recently completed a Certificate in Digital Marketing and Online Strategy and am about to undertake a diploma. Going back to education is something I have aspired to do for many years, and I am so grateful to Abtran for giving me the inspiration and confidence to achieve this goal.
Looking back over the last decade I am thankful to have made wonderful, lifelong friends and to have turned a job into a career. If I have learned one important lesson, it is not to look back, but to look forward. And I will continue to do so on my onward journey with Abtran. I signed off my 2008 testimonial with the following: “Quite simply, it’s a wonderful place to work!” and in that sense, nothing has changed.
To find out more about careers at Abtran, click here.
Publish Date: April 19, 2016 5:00 AM
In today’s regulated service landscape, organisations must adhere to the highest standards of compliance to ensure customer data is handled, processed and stored in the most secure way possible.
Faced with such stringent requirements, how can organisations adhere to such strict regulatory protocol without compromising the service experience to the customer?
In this blog post, Maria Browne, Internal Auditor at Abtran, explains why being compliant and focusing on the customer, must go hand-in-hand.
Today’s customers are sharing more data across more channels than ever before. They need to feel confident that their details are secure whilst still being able to access the services they need in an easy and convenient way.
Working with clients across a wide range of regulated markets, we’ve found that partnering early with the client and the operation and service design teams, really enables us to focus on the customer right from the outset. Ultimately, it’s about working to ensure the right controls and measures are put in place to protect the customer and their data in a compliant yet balanced way whilst maintaining focus on the customer experience.
This means that compliance cannot be done in a vacuum. It requires engagement across all stakeholders from the outset and a practical, hands-on approach. Fostering a culture of compliance is very important here. It’s about putting the correct measures in place to ensure that staff are educated and given the tools and technology to make it easy for them to deliver a compliant service without compromising the customer experience. Through ‘Voice of the Advisor’ and regular feedback sessions, we are always looking at ways to make it easier for the customer by challenging the status quo in an open and compliant way.
It’s important for your customers to understand that putting a focus on compliance and security not only protects them, it can also lead to a better service experience. Educating the customer and integrating compliance with the service experience can in turn improve customer engagement and engender trust, which in turn leads to customer loyalty.
For the customer, a great service experience must be one that’s balanced. For the organisation, it’s about focusing on the customer, educating and empowering staff and adopting an approach that integrates compliance with the best service experience.
More about Abtran Accreditations
To provide additional assurance to our clients that customer data is processed in the most secure and efficient way possible, we have successfully been accredited to the following standards:
• ISO 27001 (Information Security)
• ISO 9001 (Quality Management)
• PCI DSS Level 1
More about Maria
Publish Date: March 8, 2016 5:00 AM
In this issue of the Abtran Service Exchange, Kabir Vaderaa, Chief Architect at Abtran, offers his insight into designing technology solutions that put the customer at the centre for a great service experience.
At Abtran, putting the customer at the heart of the design process begins with taking the time to listen and to really understand the customer needs.
Enabling a customer to securely engage on their preferred channels, such as Self-service, Mobile, Social, Chat, Voice, Email, Post or even Face-to-face is key. Where possible, there should be consistency across the channels to perform the same actions.
It’s important to note that different customers want different things. For example, I would prefer to self-serve entirely and rate companies on how they deliver that service to me. Others may prefer more traditional models like talking to someone. Therefore, the technology must deliver across all channels seamlessly.
There has been a massive shift over the last few years on companies realising that a good customer experience leads to long-term customer and referral business. Some of this shift was driven by the downturn in the market. The explosion of social media and the impact customers can have on brand, has truly focused companies around the truth that looking after the customer is vital to their organisation and their brand.
In this modern era where most customers expect immediate response, organisations can only deliver such quality of service with technology that enables both their business and customer service centres.
This also means becoming more connected internally as well as externally. Designing technology solutions cannot be done in a vacuum. It requires a customer-led approach from all relevant stakeholders.
At Abtran, we apply practice-based customer management consulting. This means we use our experience to design and then practically deliver solutions that connect people, process and technology.
For instance, when designing technology applications, we bring together our Service Design and User Experience (UX) teams from the outset. We leverage our 20 years’ experience with the customer, making sure we streamline and improve business processes. We also understand that this journey never ends and will constantly evolve.
Making it easy for Employees
When it comes to designing customer-led technology solutions, it’s critical to empower the people closest to your customer – that’s your front line staff.
This is about giving Customer Service Advisors the applications and tools to access the data they need without having to switch forth and back across multiple systems.
Most organisations have invested heavily in systems like billing, on-line self-service, case management and back-office applications. Many of these technologies were developed and implemented over a period of time and it’s not uncommon for them to be held across different parts of the organsiation.
Integrated CX Design – A Pragmatic Approach
Designing a customer led experience can be an opportunity to take a more pragmatic, (and often less expensive), approach by evaluating your existing technology and then designing applications or interfaces that connect customer information in a compliant, consistent and streamlined way.
This will in turn help your employees to interact more efficiently whilst delivering a better, more connected service experience to the customer.
Technology applications that are designed with the customer front of mind are likely to drive internal process improvement, better productivity and a more joined-up and efficient service experience for the customer.
In an ever-changing market where customers continue to engage and connect at different levels, the goal is to be agile, to listen and to connect around the customer. It’s to realise that customer-centric technology design is a journey – not a destination.
Publish Date: February 9, 2016 5:00 AM
In this issue of the Abtran Service Exchange, we share an article published by Eolas magazine and authored by Abtran Chief Technology Officer, Martin Leahy.
In this feature, Martin discusses the importance of data analytics in the digital age and asks how organisations can practically apply data analytics to help inform better decision-making and provide a better service experience.
In the digital age, the way that organisations capture and analyse data is shaping the way we live and work. Organisations across the globe have an unprecedented volume of data at their fingertips. Meanwhile, the digital shift is driving citizens to demand a more personalised and real-time service experience.
As organisations grapple with the sheer volume and velocity of data at their fingertips, how can government organisations practically apply data analytics to help inform better decision-making and provide a better service experience to the citizen?
To read the full article, click here.
Publish Date: January 12, 2016 5:00 AM
In Part I of our two Part blog series, Abtran Service Delivery Manager, Laura McCarthy shared some practical insights on how to scale the delivery of great service.
In Part II, Laura highlights the importance of open communications, flexibility and sharing know-how, for organisations looking to scale for success in the delivery of service excellence.
Keep the Communication Lines Open
A regular communications routine is really essential to ensure effective forecasting, resource planning as well as people performance and productivity. It’s about joining up departments to ensure the service operation, (the customer hub of the organisation), is always kept abreast of new developments. Of course, communications is a two-way process. The customer service operation has a pivotal role to play in keeping a finger on the pulse and feeding back any customer insights, suggestions and trends that can help to drive service innovation, improvement and efficiency.
There are peaks and troughs to almost every service operation as the customer goes through different stages of their service journey. At Abtran, being flexible is about having the right people, fostering the right attitudes and ensuring we have the most flexible delivery model in place that best matches the client’s needs whether that’s shared services to in-sourced to full outsourcing (BPO) models.
Build Once, Use often
Abtran is a big believer in this concept. Scaling an operation for success is often about looking at what’s been done really well elsewhere in the organisation and then looking to transfer that knowledge in an open and compliant way.
At Abtran, we bring that to bear by standardising processes and technologies that are proven and by having a strong team who can bring best practice to the operation as well as transferring that knowledge and expertise back to the client. Sharing our learnings and being that customer connector link is often where we can bring fresh insights to the table that can make really a difference in how service is innovated.
Do the small things well
Scaling for success is not all about the latest technologies or large-scale programmes. Often, it’s the little things that can make a significant impact in delivering really great service.
Doing the small things well stems from having a culture that’s relentlessly focused on making things better for the customer. At Abtran we are always challenging ourselves to make things easier for the customer. One of our Advisors recently received flowers for really going out of her way to help a customer. This was a fantastic compliment, not only for the Advisor but the team as a whole and proof that great service rarely goes unnoticed by the customer.
Connect around the Customer
For me, scaling for the delivery of great service is all about connecting around the customer. Here, the customer becomes the single focal point that drives collaboration, common goals, performance measures and innovation. A strong customer ethos that extends both inside and outside the service organisation is in my view the single most compelling factor for successfully scaling the delivery of service excellence.
To read more about Laura click here.
Publish Date: December 10, 2015 5:00 AM
In this two part blog series, Laura McCarthy, Service Delivery Manager for Government Services at Abtran, shares some practical know-how around scaling the delivery of a great service experience to the customer.
Put the right foundations in place
Whether it’s standing up a new service or scaling an existing one, it’s important to put the right customer foundations in place from the outset.
This is about having clear goals, listening to the customer and then taking the time to map and understand what really good service looks like from a People, Process and Technology perspective.
Keep the Customer at the centre
Putting the customer at the centre means avoiding technology for technology’s sake. A customer engagement plan that’s designed around the customer is one that’s flexible and gives the customer choice and access to the right channels. It’s about having the right mix of self-service and more traditional channels to make it easy for the customer to get the information they need as quickly and conveniently as possible.
Put the right measures in place
Scaling for success is about taking your strategic goals and converting them into practical performance and meaningful metrics that are customer led. In our experience, metrics should be a balance of operational KPIs and customer satisfaction to ensure the best overall quality of service is delivered to the customer in a compliant way.
Choose the right People
One of the foundation stones for scaling really good customer service is having access to the right people. Taking the time to choose Customer Service Advisors with the right experience and knowledge will help to ensure a more seamless and efficient delivery.
At Abtran, we invest a lot of time working with our clients and our training department. This ensures our People are armed with the right tools and empowered with the right skills to deliver the best possible service experience to the customer.
Test, Improve, then test again
When it comes to rolling out a new service, it pays to ensure that everything is operating as efficiently and seamlessly as possible prior to launch. Often, it’s during the very early period just before ramp-up that we get the opportunity to gather live customer insights. For instance, Social Media customer listening can be a great way of quickly identifying what people are saying publicly online about your organisation and anticipating and addressing queries before they begin to trend or arrive into the contact centre.
Of course scaling for success is not just about the launch period. It’s about consistently making improvements throughout the service journey. It’s about always ‘listening’ to the Voice of the Customer and identifying gaps and opportunities as their service needs change and evolve.
For me, it’s really about building a culture where people are encouraged to be open and to share-know around how to deliver a great service experience to the customer.
Check back for Part II of this Blog series where Laura will be talking about the importance of open communications, flexibility, customer connectivity and sharing-know how for scaling the delivery of a great service experience.
As a Service Delivery Manager at Abtran, Laura’s expertise is in the management and delivery of service on behalf of leading organisations across Government. With an extensive background in business and people management, Laura has in-depth experience of managing diverse, highly regulated and fast moving accounts.
Publish Date: November 17, 2015 5:00 AM
Some weeks back, we shared a blog on Abtran’s ‘Inspire’ Learning & Development Programme. We talked about how ‘Inspire’ is helping our people to grow and develop and to prepare them for leadership roles.
We’ve had some great success stories emerge from ‘Inspire’ so we thought we’d share some of these with you over the coming weeks as part of an Abtran ‘People Journey’ Series. This week we talk to Brendan Stapleton from Abtran’s Finance Department.
Having studied Accounting in college, Brendan’s ambition has always been to work in Finance.
Upon joining Abtran, Brendan initially worked as a Customer Service Advisor. After several months, he was transferred to a back office role where he particularly enjoyed the financial dynamic of his role within adjudication and application processing. From the very get-go, Brendan was proactive. He regularly made suggestions and his Team Leader listened and took these on board. He underwent the required accreditation exams to progress within the Operation and completed these as quickly as possible.
And, what was Brendan’s goal? To become a Team Leader or to get back into a more dedicated finance & accounting role. Brendan’s Team Leader encouraged him to apply for the Inspire Programme. Brendan’s application was successful. Throughout the four month programme, he was armed with People Management and Communication skills. Within the Operation, he was mentored and given more autonomy. With more responsibility came a better understanding around how back office processes worked. For Brendan, this meant the delivery of better performance and better results.
Before graduating from the Inspire Programme in August, Brendan applied for and was successful in being promoted to an Accounts role in Abtran’s Finance Department.
“To get ahead at Abtran, you need to work hard and show what you can do. For me, the ‘Inspire’ Programme gave me the confidence and communication skills to go for what I wanted. Just under two years since joining Abtran, I have arrived at where I wanted to be.”
Brendan is from Araglen in North Cork. He lives in Ballincollig with his wife, Travice and their three children, Mark, 8, Niamh, 5 and Stephanie, 2. In his spare time, Brendan enjoys playing sports and gardening.
About Abtran’s Inspire Programme:
‘Inspire’ is part of a suite of Management Development Programmes at Abtran. The four month programme is designed for people aspiring to be leaders and covers a range of learning opportunities, both classroom and ‘on the job’.
Inspire has been very successful with 75% of participants achieving promotions internally. There were 118 applications for the last programme. We’re delighted to be offering our fourth programme (2nd this year) starting in November 2015.
Publish Date: October 8, 2015 5:00 AM
In this blog issue, we share an article published by Eolas magazine and authored by Abtran Sales Director, Brian O’Brien.
Here, Bob speaks about connecting customers to a digital government, the importance of collaboration, joined-up thinking and keeping the customer at the centre, for the delivery of a great service experience.
“Today’s customers reside in a Digital Economy, one that’s mobile and social, where the new single currency is one of connectivity and exchange. The digitally evolving customer is collaborative. They are demanding faster and easier access to services online. Customers are looking for the freedom and flexibility to manage their own accounts and transactions online with email and phone support. The past three years has seen government organisations in Ireland make great strides towards digital service delivery…”
To read the article in full, click here
Publish Date: September 23, 2015 5:00 AM
Sharing our story of winning ‘Outsource Partner of the Year’ 2014.
Sharing know-how and experience across our people, our clients and our partners is core to our values and our brand. In this issue, we share our guest post published as part of a series of blogs by the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) in the run up to their annual awards.
As winner of the award for ‘Outsource Partner of the Year’ 2014, together with our client, Electric Ireland, our story talks to teamwork, collaboration and how our award win continues to be celebrated across the team as an enduring endorsement of excellence through partnership at the highest level.
Visit the CCMA award blog series to read more…
Publish Date: September 16, 2015 5:00 AM
The Abtran brand is all about delivering customers a great service experience.
This isn’t just an external process; it’s an internal process as well. It’s about instilling a culture of service excellence that starts with the internal customer: that’s the employee.
This month, thirteen employees graduated from Abtran’s Inspire programme, a learning & development initiative which is all around helping our people to progress their own brand journey at Abtran and to achieve their full potential.
Delivered over the course of four months, ‘Inspire’ is made up of training modules designed to develop skills and behaviours that are considered essential in good People Managers working in a customer-led environment.
The success of the programme is in the evidence. Over the past three years, 75% of employees completing the programme have been promoted within Abtran.
Dawn Robertson, who leads the Abtran Inspire Learning & Development programme, said,
“The Inspire programme is all about matching people with their talents and instilling them with the confidence to help reach their potential. We’re proud of everyone who graduated throughout the programme. This is something every person in Abtran should consider from a personal as well as from a career development perspective.”
Being your own brand means knowing who you are and what you aspire to be.
At Abtran, we recognise that our internal customers, our people are at the heart of our brand and success in delivering great service.
We’d like to congratulate all our ‘Inspire’ graduates as we continue to support them and all our employees in progressing their own service journeys at Abtran.
Publish Date: August 18, 2015 5:00 AM