A Personal Journey to a Customer-centric Service Culture

Last month, we attended the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) 2014 Insight Exchange at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, where one of the key presentations was from Bob Johnson, president of Sprint Retail and chief service and information technology officer.

In his presentation, Johnson talked about the personal nature of the customer experience and how to build a customer-centric service culture. The key in order to empower your frontline staff, said Johnson, is to keep it simple and stay focused on three things:

#1: Start at the top. The goal is to improve the customer experience, which must be mandated by the CEO and communicated to and supported by every level of the organization.

#2: No silver bullets. Strengthening your brand in turn drives profitable growth, but this takes a lot of hard work and focus on process and passion to execute.

#3: It has to make money. To generate cash, you must reduce your overall cost structure.

These priorities, Johnson said, were set by Sprint’s CEO in 2007 and are still relevant today and shared at every operational review and shareholder meeting.

Employees are your brand, Johnson explains, and continuously reinforcing what your brand is all about with your employees helps them reflect it to your customers. At Sprint, the single most important metric is customer churn, so it’s critical that employees understand how they impact the bottom line.

For Sprint, focusing on the customer and moving beyond traditional service metrics is a three-way stop between retail, customer management and information technology. The goal is to make customers feel that they are part of a community – not just purchasing a device.

Starting at the top

Since 2004, Sprint and its brands have initiated and managed robust, but discreet social media initiatives and programs aimed at improving customer satisfaction and retention. These initiatives include digital marketing, Facebook, social care, blogger engagement and the creation of social media “Ninjas.”

As a result, Sprint has nearly two million online followers and fans of its brands, 1.2 million visits to the Sprint.com Community each month, 2,800 monthly product reviews on sprint.com, five million Sprint Space views each quarter, 3,300 subject matter expert advocates (Ninjas) that have been developed and activated throughout the entire organization, and more than 5,000 unique profiles responded to by social care each week.

Volunteer employees monitor blogs daily and reach out to proactively help customers and promote the Sprint brand. They have hand-written more than 900,000 thank you notes to customers as part of this effort! When it comes to building a customer-centric service culture, the message from the top is simple: volunteer to make a difference, perpetuate the brand, and be proactive!

No silver bullets

There isn’t a single technology or tool that will transform your organization overnight. When Johnson came on board, he first implemented a performance measurement system to focus on improvements and call drivers and a call routing system to optimize call delivery. Understanding call volume drivers highlighted opportunities to deliver faster and more frequent communication.

The next technology opportunity was the implementation of Intradiem to recover time and improve agent performance through repeatable, self-taught, self-paced training. (Johnson said this piece was the best thing they ever did to improve the overall customer experience.)

Sprint also began using customer surveys to evaluate customers’ willingness to recommend Sprint’s products and services to others.

By focusing on what drives customers to call in, Sprint was able to better understand its highest volume of calls, anticipate customer needs, and solve issues on the first try, therefore increasing FCR and preventing customer callbacks.

It has to make money!

Sprint’s two biggest expenses were call volume and credit and adjustments.

As a result of these initiatives, call volume was reduced and Sprint was able to reduce its total number of call centers from 74 to 40. Sprint was also able to train agents to only give customers adjustments when necessary and to not “train” customers to ask for credits. Ultimately, operating expenses were reduced by 50% and credits and adjustments were reduced by 80%.

These reductions ultimately save the company one billion dollars per year.

And that’s not all! Sprint has also been named the most improved company in customer satisfaction across all 43 industries during the last five years.

About the author

John Wolf

John is Intradiem's chief technology officer. Before joining Intradiem to lead product development, John was assistant vice president of product management at Equifax Personal Solutions, where he was responsible for managing a $53 million online product line. Prior to Equifax, John founded MyoMarkets, where he created an online marketing and e-commerce solution that developed integrated marketing plans across online marketplaces and retail channels. John graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering and holds a master’s degree from Emory University.

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