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Three Ireland’s pursuit of the ultimate customer experience

Contributor: Zarina de Ruiter
Posted: 09/04/2017

Interview with Head of Transformation, Justin Conry, about CX, omni-channel, building a customer-first culture and how create a frictionless experience in the digital space.

Justin Conry is currently Head of Transformation (CRM) for Three Ireland. He has 20 years of industry experience in senior roles leading change, CX, strategy and planning, programme management and process improvement.

Conry worked for another Irish Telco for 10 years as Head of Strategy and Planning. He then moved to Aviva Europe as European Head of Planning and Governance across 10 markets and then to Microsoft as Director of Channel and Programs for EMEA.

Immediately prior to joining Three, Conry worked in the business, strategy and transformation practice with Bearingpoint, across the public and private sector.

In this interview he discusses digital transformation, building an omni-channel strategy, creating a customer-first culture and the true goal of their digital strategy: to provide a frictionless experience.

Hi Justin, welcome to CX Network. First of all, can you tell us about your role and key responsibilities at Three Ireland?

JR: I am the head of the Transformation team at Three Ireland, which means I am responsible for change within the CRM (operations) directorate. I have five areas in my remit, spanning programme management, continuous process improvement, customer experience (NPS), digital and self-care transformation and lastly, CRM capability.

In terms of CX at Three Ireland, we’re in pursuit of what we call ‘ultimate customer service’ and we are building that ultimate experience. We’ve made a number of big changes over the last few years, such as on-shoring our voice-care offering, bringing it back from India to Ireland and conversely building a massive web chat presence in India, which our customers are loving.

In fact, we’ve started to see a really fundamental shift towards web chat whereby we are now at about 50/50 between voice care and web chat. And we’re offering all channels to all customers in order to let them choose.

As the Head of Transformation you’re right on trend when it comes to digital transformation, which is a big topic for CX today. While many organisations want to achieve a really successful digital transformation the journey isn’t always easy for them. What advice can you give, especially if they’re at the start of the journey and they don’t really know where to begin?

JC: Not being afraid of it and actually listening to what your customers are asking for is the key. A lot of people will look at digital and compare it directly to voice, concluding that voice is high cost so we need to move everything to digital because it’s low cost. However, what we’ve seen is this perfect harmony in terms of the demographics. If we look at population age categories and consumer bias for voice care versus digital, we can see the massive shift to digital.

In Three, we estimate that 80 per cent of our customer base are either digital natives or digital adopters that we can ‘teach digital’ to. So in the old paradigm, when one excludes full self-serve, we would have seen a voice to webchat ratio of roughly 80:20. We now see an opportunity to invert that ratio. The key is that webchat costs roughly one third of voice care and our customers want digital and a seamless CX. So, we can run a more cost effective operation and still reinvest to offer a premium service across traditional and digital media.

We believe it’s a unique position within the history of customer service to be able to offer customers across all demographics a premium service on their channel of first choice and do it at a lower cost than the voice-centric paradigm. For the first time, we see the customer preference and the cost equation balancing and allowing us to reinvest into our service proposition.

And to make sure that the customer stays at the heart of that digital transformation do you think that listening is the key or are there any other elements that organisations should look at?

JC: I think listening is absolutely the key. We use a mix of traditional data and CX data; we measure NPS, customer effort, rich verbatim insights, research data and even hold customer focus groups. We are lucky to have invested in best-in-class technology by partnering with Qualtrics so now we can focus on looking at what customers are telling us they want. There’s one golden rule for us, which is to make the customer’s life easy. We call that a frictionless experience and that is the true goal of our digital strategy.

We recently did research into trends, challenges and investment priorities when it comes to customer experience. And the top three trends that came out of that were customer loyalty and retention, the digital customer experience, and data and analytics. Is this in line with your experience at Three?

JC: Yes, I think those three are absolutely key and they work together very well for us. For example, it is only through using data and analytics, correlated with CX data, that you can really achieve proper robust customer loyalty. So we’re investing in all three and are reacting to the insights that we’re seeing from customers to reinvest further.

We’ve invested heavily in the customer journey to make it as easy as possible for people to go digital. And, similarly, we’ve invested in having all channels work hand-in-hand. We are becoming clear on what customer activities should ideally be catered to in which channel. We have no problem, in a digital scenario, with asking people to go to retail if it’s a better experience.

We are building omni-channel with digital at the centre but are not afraid to let the channels do what they’re good at.

Our research also showed the biggest challenge for customer experience leaders today, and the top one was building a customer-first culture. How does this work within Three Ireland?

JC: For us, the customer-first culture is very important. One of our core company values is ‘We focus on the customer’, so the CX programme was pushing an open door in getting executive and employee support. I believe that building a customer-first culture and CX can live harmoniously within most company cultures. And that for me is the key.

How do you go about integrating it into your existing culture?

JC: I think it is important to understand the prevalent culture of your organisation first and then consider how to entwine CX within that, as opposed to replacing that culture. All companies have their own unique culture or identity, which is very often what makes them successful. My advice is don’t seek to replace that secret sauce with CX – seek to have CX work with it, to improve it, to offer a further edge and ultimately competitive advantage.

You mentioned executive support as a key to achieving this, which is a big challenge for CX leaders as they have to demonstrate ROI of new initiatives. What have you done to get that buy-in?

JC: At Three, we are very lucky as the executive team was supportive from the very start and indeed centred much of our company strategy around building advocacy from our customers. I think that intrinsically executives understand the value of CX, what it delivers in terms of loyalty and what that then delivers in terms of the bottom line, so it wasn’t a hard leap for me and the team to get buy in at Three.

My advice would be to keep it pretty simple and don’t over-engineer things in terms of explanations. Obtain clear and consistent CX measurement and don’t seek to change what you measure too much, as it dilutes the insight. Having obtained credibility and consistency on the measures, the key is to actually make positive changes based on insights and let the data inform strategy, plan and tactics, creating a virtuous circle of insight – action – insight.

I believe that a customer-first culture, if done correctly, can lead to a better employee experience and customer experience pure and simple, and that will lead to you keeping your customers longer and selling them more.

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Contributor: Zarina de Ruiter
Posted: 09/04/2017