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Stellar - Blog

From best practices to breakthrough practices

‘Best practices’ is a term that is commonly used while referring to processes or procedures that are prescribed as being most effective. In the context of customer experience management, the question arises - can the implementation of best practices lead to differentiation?

One could argue that if best practices are defined as established practices, implementation of these practices would merely be playing catch-up with market leaders. Implementation of best practices would be similar to playing defence rather than playing offence, and would help a company survive rather than make a significant dent in the marketplace.

Here’s our point of view on the matter.

From a customer experience management perspective, companies need to look beyond 'best practices' and establish 'breakthrough practices'.

Breakthrough practices are policies, processes, and procedures that focus on driving what is possible to achieve differentiation. Breakthrough practices are 'fit to purpose' and reflect the vision, strategy, and brand values of a company. Best practices are objective and established; breakthrough practices are subjective, dynamic, and disruptive.

For example Zappos, a company that focuses on 'customer happiness' as a key brand value, ignores the best practice of measuring 'average handle time' as a measure of contact centre agent efficiency and instead uses ‘after call wrap up’. This frees up their agents to devote the necessary time to establish an emotional connection with their customers and address their issues to satisfaction. Then, while agents are not interacting with customers and their throughput becomes more relevant, they are measured on wrap-up time. Zappos' breakthrough practice is one of the key contributors to its legendary customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

In another example, EMC discovered that even though their customers were highly satisfied with their products, they did not necessarily demonstrate loyalty to the company. EMC decided to ignore the traditional measures of Customer Satisfaction and NPS to gauge customer experience, and instead established Customer Loyalty Index as a measure of customer experience and loyalty. The index hinges on three questions:

  1. Is the customer satisfied overall with EMC's people, products, and services?
  2. Is the customer likely to purchase EMC products and services again?
  3. Is the customer willing to recommend EMC's products and services?

Customers must answer "yes" to all three questions to be categorized as loyal.

Supported by a holistic, data driven closed-loop process, EMC’s award winning breakthrough practice of managing customer experience is now being adopted by other technology companies.

In summary, in the world of customer experience management, adopt a breakthrough practices mindset if you want to drive differentiation based on brand values.

  • Consider established best practices as a point of reference, and not the destination
  • Look beyond competitors into practices across other verticals and geographies
  • Feel free to ignore best practices, and define policies and procedures that are 'fit to purpose'
  • Innovate and differentiate

What breakthrough practices have you applied at your companies?

About the author
Amrita Bhattacharyya – Director of Consulting Services 

Amrita has over 12 years of management consulting experience with top-tier consulting firms in the US working for Fortune 500 clients, and executive leadership experience in Australia. As a former management consultant, she has had the benefit of exposure to a varied mix of business challenges across multiple industries, business models, organizational cultures, and enabling technologies.

The breadth of her experience enables her to look beyond the obvious, which is particularly powerful in the realm of customer strategy where success often is determined not only by operational and people excellence, but also by challenging established best practices and doing things differently.


Publish Date: June 12, 2015 5:00 AM

The changing face of contact centres

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Posted by: Andrew Hague, Business Solutions Executive, Stellar

It’s the thing we’ve read about, planned for, and braced ourselves to be ready to tackle for the last couple of years:  the reduced reliance on traditional voice channels that threatens to change the face of the contact centre industry forever.

As consumers ourselves, I doubt there would be much surprise that people are more readily embracing social media and web chat as channels of choice.  They’re always available, you can manage your grievance or enquiry while you’re also doing something else, and – most glorious of all – you don’t need to listen to hold music.

In January 2015, over 3% of the customer interactions Stellar managed for our clients were via social media or webchat.  And while that’s obviously proportionately small, it’s the relatively rapid growth, the variety of channels and enquiry types and immediate impact on the customer experience that is the truly astonishing part.  Across the travel, tourism, government, telco and ISP sectors, Stellar currently manages an online community of over 430,000 customers across our clients’ social media sites, and handles 455,000+ digital service interactions a year. In addition to the astonishing growth is the impact this has made on the service profile with smaller teams, a different agent skill set and new and emerging technologies, which are changing the look and feel of our existing contact centre environments.

We have been talking to a lot of our clients in a range of industries, navigating nervousness about brand protection to reach this inevitable tipping point. However, there are still plenty of organisations and companies still holding out on offering digital service to their customers – whether social media service, web chat support or emerging digital channels – and it’s a similar range of concerns that’s stopping them from embarking on this journey.

It’s risky

Digital and especially social media is still viewed by many to be a risky channel to open, citing issues around brand protection, complaint management and the prospect of issues being discussed openly in a public forum. However global evidence suggests that the greater risk is not doing anything at all and ignoring your customers online. Studies by Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers – a frightening statistic


Through this experience, Stellar has found that opening up and embracing these channels creates opportunities to interact, engage and rescue customers that in the pre-digital age would have moved on to a competitor or not used your product again. By setting up the correct processes and by giving your social team the power to resolve issues and manage them in the channel in which they’re raised, you have the ability to save customers, make them happy and turn them into brand advocates in that very same public forum.  That’s money-can’t-buy publicity, and it’s easy to do well.

It’s hard to prove success

Cost and Return on Investment are key elements of all digital discussions. These channels do require investment – in technology, people and time – and the return on this investment has often been difficult to measure.

Bain & Company found that when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company. Harvard Business Review found that customers who encounter positive social customer care experiences are nearly 3 times more likely to recommend a brand. What this shows is that when done well, the ROI for these channels will please even the digital sceptics within your organisation.

Social solutions have come a long way very quickly, and we can provide the technology, the processes and the tools to measure the tangible benefits of these strategies.  Whether the cost saving from call deflection, the incremental revenue of additional sales that wouldn’t have existed without a digital engagement approach, or the NPS and issue resolution of these channels, we have the ability to measure it and provide you with all the information needed to take back to your senior management team and prove the success of the channel.

It’s a fad!

Yes, there are still people out there claiming that the digital bubble will burst and we’ll all go back to sending letters any minute. The reality is that digital channels aren’t a pure replacement of traditional channels; they co-exist as complementary avenues, allowing you to engage with people who were previously out of reach for your organisation.  So don’t give up your pen license just yet, but it’s impossible to ignore what customers are trying to tell us, with every action they take. Where social media used to be focussed on pushing out marketing activities, the dynamic has changed, with 67% of consumers now using a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing (J.D. Power and Associates).

A Nielsen study found that 33% of users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.

Now, even though 67% still prefer other channels, that’s 33% of your customers who would have a better experience with your brand if you connected with them online.

The other piece of real data that’s too compelling to ignore is around the value of the experience from the customer perspective.  Regardless of industry, our existing web chat services are delivering an average Net Promoter Score of 55+.  And while social media satisfaction can be measured by sentiment as well as NPS, the trends are the same – digital service customers are happy customers. 

Customers are flocking to these channels because it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s where they already spend their time.  By meeting them there you can reduce risk, reduce costs and increase revenues, while gaining valuable insights into your processes, your products, your competitors and your industry in real time.

One customer’s story

Theory is one thing, but the most powerful motivator to get your social strategy started is seeing how other organisations are succeeding.  So below we’ve outlined the story of one of our early adopters of social media service – a Government transport client.

This amazing client, despite the perceived risk by some people in the industry, decided to tackle negative sentiment around product and services head on.  The service needed to be 24/7 and responsive to engage with the travelling public and ensure users returned to this channel again.

Over the course of a year, a channel that was previously entirely controlled by customers has turned into a two-way engagement, and the results and customer sentiment have been outstanding.  Happy customer, happy public. 

So is it all over for contact centres?

It’s so clear that “Digital” isn’t spelling the demise of contact centres, merely triggering the next evolution.  It’s an opportunity to have rich, rapid, rewarding engagements with your customers, and it enhances the contact centre opportunities, rather than replacing them.  It’s a really exciting time to be working in customer relationship management, and our “Stellar Enhance” offering is bundling up everything we’ve learnt so far and everything we’re delivering to our fearless customers already.

Customers have changed, and so has the humble contact centre.  If you’re ready to unleash its potential to create better customer relationships, give us a call (or a Tweet!).

About Andrew Hague

Andrew Hague is Stellar’s Business Solutions Digital Lead.  As a passionate advocate of the potential that digital presents for unparalleled engagement with customers, Andrew sits across the design and delivery of the digital strategy for all of Stellar’s clients.  Throughout the sales process, strategy development, implementation and ongoing operation of the service, he adds his expertise and understanding of how to manage social customer care well.  

Andrew brings his curiosity, expertise and hands-on enthusiasm to every engagement, and he firmly believes that continuity between strategy and day to day operations is the secret to a dynamic, successful digital solution. 

About Stellar

We are the voice behind some of the world’s biggest and brightest brands. As Australia’s leading contact centre and business process outsourcing provider, we’re instinctively restless in finding new ways to add value and potential to every customer interaction.

From traditional phone and email activities, to complex back office, cutting edge social and digital services, and multilingual operations, we don’t just deliver; we delight.  And we continue to add value to our partners by analysing our performance and suggesting better ways of doing business.  A Stellar partnership is about more than just having the solutions; it’s about helping to define the questions.

Frost and Sullivan have named us Contact Centre Outsourcing Service Provider of the Year for the last three years running.  Every day, across every industry and every medium, we create better customer relationships.  


Publish Date: February 17, 2015 5:00 AM

Getting The Best From Your Contact Centres

If you’re in the business of customer service, you’re probably also in the business of running a contact centre.  And while customer experience may be top of mind, that doesn’t mean that the contact centre can always be your core focus.  So how do you strike the balance between a welcoming customer experience, happy employees, and solid business outcomes? 

There are a lot of factors underpinning a successful centre, so it’s helpful to think about your centre’s performance in three major categories – setup, day-to-day operations and customer management strategy. Here are a few key questions to think about within each category:

1. The setup of your contact centre

The right contact centre location and a strong operating rhythm is critical to the success of attracting and retaining the right employees; in our experience, if you get these elements right, you can go a long way towards driving stronger outcomes for your customers.

  • Is your centre based in a location that provides good facilities for your employees, encouraging them to stay working with you?
  • Are you attracting and retaining the right people with the right skillsets to keep your centre running well?
  • Do you have the building blocks in place to establish and sustain a strong operating rhythm - keeping track of all your metrics and communicating your successes?

2. Day-to-day operations of your centre

Ensuring everyone is aware of their performance and the impact that they have on customers is a key part of success in a centre. Sharing information on the key performance attributes across the company will help to build a stronger emphasis on how individual contributions drive customer service and financial performance.

  • Are all of your employees aware of the right KPIs to target, and are there coaching processes and resources in place to help employees grow, and exceed expectations?
  • Do you have clear scorecards to observe trends in performance and identify areas for improvement?
  • Are incentive programs in place to encourage strong employee engagement

3. Alignment of your centre with your customer strategy

Your centre cannot operate separately from your overall strategy for customer engagement and your brand. The contact centre is on the frontline of how you define your customer management strategy.

  • Have you defined targeted outcomes for engaging with your customers across all channels, including digital channels like live chat, mobile and social media?
  • Is the quality of your customer interactions measured through a framework that aligns to your overall customer experience strategy? Is there consistent awareness amongst your agents as to how each interaction should look and feel for customers?
  • Are you aware of the drivers that impact your call quality, in relation to what customers expect?
  • Do you track the extent to which your customers are likely to be promoters or detractors of your services throughout the customer lifecycle?

It’s a lot to consider, but each of these factors relate your operations back to the same critical element: the customer.  Taking each of these areas into account will help you establish a scorecard to measure the health and success of your centre.  Each area will have a different priority to you depending on the scale of your business and the channels you use to deliver customer service. Invest some time to think about how you could improve functions and measure your ability to keep your customers happy.


Publish Date: August 25, 2014 5:00 AM

Evolving the Art of Conversation

Not so long ago, the art of conversation involved simply mastering your words and manners while in the same room as someone else. Then the contact centre arrived, and skills mastered in the face-to-face world transformed to rely on voice alone. Now, the digital age is driving us to even greater evolution.

Today, a conversation is borderless, timeless…and potentially not even a word is spoken. Five years ago, it would have seemed impossible that your customers would be able to contact you not just in person or by phone or email, but that they would be tweeting and sharing and pinning, demanding on-site web chat, and crowdsourcing their answers from a forum of informed strangers. But this is just the beginning of our new reality.

The explosion of new interaction technology over the last few years has unharnessed customer expectations, and shows no sign of abating. Customers are now able to ask what they want, where and when the question occurs to them. They can share their opinions with the world, rather than just their families. They can share experiences with strangers, and share ideas and tips on products and services. This new frontier of conversation is both exciting and challenging – how do we translate the skills of the old art, and turn our hand to the new?

The starting point is simple: discover what defines meaningful conversation to your customers. For each medium, what are they looking for? Low cost immediate service, bespoke service tailored to them as an individual, recognition of their previous interactions regardless of channel?

Just because a customer is online, don’t assume they want casual tone. Just because a customer calls, don’t assume they’ve got plenty of time. Find out what conversations they want to have with you, and how they want to have them. Technology doesn’t mean you have to throw away what you know – you just have to find out how to use it differently.

It’s time to let our craft evolve, creating the modern art of c


Publish Date: June 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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