Free Consulting for British Telecom

Why does the proliferation of customer or client communication channels rarely result in happier clients? In British Telecom’s case, if the objective is to profitably grow the business, in a world where Pay TV, broadband, fixed line and mobile,  are converging fast (“Four-Play”), shouldn’t you start by looking at the quality of your management and employees. You are rarely successful planting new vegetables where the the soil’s composition largely rejects the seeds.

  1. Cultural constraints: When the customer calls for help with a broadband or mobile connection difficulty at BT, the operating beliefs needs to be congruent with your strategy. If as I witness, “you are advised to contact us by email or online chat and in person, as a last resort” what you are really saying is “you must conform to our business model and needs i.e the lowest cost form of communication”. You have a misalignment. If you are the only game in town, the customer may have no option but when your fiercest competitors are snapping at your heels, you are endangering your business.
  2. Speed of Response: When your customer communications via telephone, online chat and email demand I invest 1 hour “waiting for an agent”, at my expense, you are further destroying our relationship.
  3. Public Profile: When I seek to contact you via social media and your response is so inadequate, you demand that I submit my difficulties online to a webpage that is inaccessible, you are hastening my exit.
  4. Quality of Response: When I finally speak to an agent in an offshore call centre and his default position is to assume that I am ignorant, necessitating 30 minutes testing a connection that has had a visible recurring fault, you are pushing my patience to an extreme.
  5. Accountability: when the “agent” needs authority from “Level 2”, presumably his supervisor, to set up an appointment at my home, you are further wasting my time.
  6. Aligning Customer Needs and Your Competencies: when your engineers will only visit a customer’s home between 8am – 5pm Monday to Friday, you are asking 90% of the working population in London will readily take “time off” work, at their expense. You are putting your cost base and business model, ahead of your customers’ lifestyle needs.  
  7. Risk and Reward: when the “agent” tells me (the customer) that in the event the engineer finds the fault is due to an electrical or structural issue in the premises, I will be charged £140 for the visit, you are telling me this is not a relationship of “equals”. I bare all the “risk” and you none.

BT has a CEO, Gavin Patterson, who has made highly assertive moves into Pay TV and mobile. What he is experiencing, is that the “strategic intent” at Board level in BT (profitable growth and expansion of existing customer relationships)  is being refracted in the operational layer of the business. Mid-level managers are putting their own mutual interests ahead of BT’s existing customers and demanding their subordinates do the same, irrespective of common sense. Why? The managers beliefs are to protect the firm’s business model at all costs, the rewards and feedback systems are reinforcing this “penny wise and pound foolish” message. You cannot profitably grow if you don’t first align the operating beliefs with the new strategy.  That may sound simple but in large organisations it is so rarely done well.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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