Every year, just before my mind wanders to which taverna I’ll frequent, or I admonish myself for the bottle of raki I’ve yet to consume, I eagerly await the publication of OFCOM’s latest league table. Now, you might find this a strange preoccupation for someone who should be busy worrying themselves about brand values, media buys, content strategies and fonts. This is, after all, fundamentally a rather dull graph that charts the rise and fall of customer complaints about the UK’s major telco and pay TV providers. So, why the Xmas morning spirit mid-July? Why am I so eager to see what Santa OFCOM has shoved down the chimney and served up on my dish? Well, when your company spends all its time thinking, innovating and building to make sure the communication between a company and its customers is intelligent and seamless, and your company looks after half the companies on said graph, it’s a fair old barometer of how your endeavours are going.
Now, I’m not so daft to espouse that, if you are a telco and work with us, your customers will never ever complain again, or arrogant enough to proclaim that we alone are responsible for the state of the league table. There are quite obviously a myriad of issues that can lead to complaints over which we have zero control over. For example, we cannot control download speeds, we cannot schedule an engineer for a repair, we cannot foresee little Jonny getting a tooth ache and you needing to rush him to the dentist when your broadband install is due to happen. However, what we can do is give voice to customers to let their telco provider know that there is an issue with internet speed, or when the engineer is meant to turn up, or even that Jonny needs to have a filling. By giving consumers a channel (any channel) to have a conversation with their provider, by asking the right questions at the right time, invariably these issues will be picked up immediately, or, better still, mitigated before they even arise. Indeed, a wise old doctor once said if you just ask every now and again how everything is going, you’ll be astonished at the information you receive back. Now, if you then put that information through clever old AI (the odd random forest here and a few neural networks there) and let the silicon do most of the heavy lifting, the machines get better and better at spotting what might turn into a big old festering complaint and let a grown-up (an actual human agent) who can empathise know about it... something computers are unsurprisingly rather bad at right now!
So, back to the league table. To save folks’ blushes, and because we’re a modest bunch, let’s work with footballing metaphors. It does give me satisfaction to see the winner firmly in our stable and it would be fair to say we’ve been coaching them and Croatia for some years now. It is also very pleasing to see the waist coated ones, the perennial underperformers that have given us 52 years of hurt (to be precise Mr Skinner), improving so rapidly. Coincidence, perhaps, but given that we’re a very binary business, I’d like to think it was the bag of oranges that we ran on with late last year that raised their game and has given their legions of fans less to complain about. The others still appear to be playing to a rather more South American rhythm with rash challenges, wrestling in the penalty area and overt histrionics directed at the referee, all seeming to leave viewers at home with rather a lot to yell about. If only these teams would converse with their fans in a more intelligent fashion before they arrived at the penalty shootout, then they might find them more amenable to forgiving them when poor number 7 inevitably skews one over the bar.
This chart represents my mini World Cup and, when you and colleagues have poured your energy, time and brain power into your teams, you care. You care deeply. We’ve rubbed calves, made substitutions, tinkered with the 3-5-2 format and pored over the VAR. To see our teams grabbing the glory really does make that first beer of the summer holiday just that little bit better.
Play clever, play smart, play fair and the sky really is the limit for your customers.