The world has become customer-centric. Customer expectations have never been higher and the perception of a brand is a factor that is increasingly going to mean the difference between success and failure for businesses according to analysts. Research shows that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, and is the foundation on which all companies will need to build in order to gain a competitive edge.

“As the voice of the customer continues to get louder, effective customer engagement, loyalty, and retention is no longer optional. Particularly in competitive industries and markets, a happy customer base is the key to staying relevant in the mind of clients, and ultimately the factor that will have the biggest impact on the bottom line,” says Michael Renzon, CEO of inQuba.

He adds that while customer experience is perceived by many to be on the “soft” side of business, those visionary companies that are effectively engaging with their customer bases are seeing tangible business results. “The recent South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) ratings of mobile service providers in South Africa proves the tangible business results that can be offered by a formal customer experience management initiative,” Renzon says.

Surveying more than 1 200 mobile subscribers, the SAcsi index showed an unexpected clear leader: Telkom Mobile. Based on customer complaints and customer loyalty, the research found that Telkom Mobile was the only provider that managed to exceed customer expectations in terms of overall quality and reliability.

This was achieved through a concerted effort to ensure customer experience was at the forefront of its strategy, says Fuaad Noormohamed, Senior Manager of Service Management and Quality Assurance at Telkom Mobile. “Any organisation knows that customer service is important. It’s something the market has accepted. But it’s what you do with it, and how you do it, that makes the difference.”

Noormohamed explains that Telkom Mobile started from the perspective of wanting to know where the operator stood in the industry, and identified a number of ways in which it wanted to create a unique value proposition through the way it engaged and serviced customers. Partnering with inQuba from the beginning of this journey, Telkom Mobile’s focus on improved customer experience has resulted in a number of hard gains.

Over and above the SAcsi rating, these include an overall 12th place rating in South Africa’s customer satisfaction and experience index, the Orange Index, up from a ranking of 46th in the preceding year, as well as winning the MyBroadband Mobile provider of the year award in 2013. According to the MyBroadband survey, Telkom Mobile had the highest compliments to complaints ratio from consumers, an indication that the company’s service levels are higher than its peers.

In addition, the operator has improved its first call resolution rates from just under 50% to 70%. However, Noormohamed says the biggest difference has been in the changes made to the business by listening to customers.

“Having the right tools in place is just as important as implementing the right processes to get them to work. The tools are invaluable, but it’s what you do after you have implemented them that gives the results. Our collaboration with inQuba, based on the inQuba CX voice-of-the-customer software platform and supporting customer experience program, has resulted in a range of measures and operational improvements that have been implemented across our stores and contact centres based directly on customer feedback,” says Noormohamed.

Renzon adds that understanding the customer story is impossible without a structured, methodical approach, and effective customer engagement rests on this understanding. “Telkom Mobile’s willingness to follow our model enabled the correct action at every touch point, ensuring that the operator maximised on all the gains available. This will continue to show an impact on the organisation, as more gains are unlocked.”

Noormohamed says the biggest difference the inQuba platform has made to the operator’s business is the ability to listen to the voice of our customers at a single click of button. “In no more than two minutes, I can see what all our customers think of us. Every morning, this helps me see what I need to work on that day to ensure we keep improving our customers’ experience. The solution has been so effective that it has now been rolled out through the Telkom Fixed line business, which is being driven by a dedicated Customer Experience Team,” he concludes.