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BT has over 15m customers who create more than 70m calls per year into BT’s customer service call centres and send more than 2.5m emails. 

Warren Buckley is responsible for all customer services activities for BT Retail Consumer Customers and now has a staff of 10,000 based in 45 centres in the UK and India. 

We spoke to Warren about the challenges of this role, and how far BT has moved towards a joined up customer service model. 

What are the channels customers use most often to contact you?

Broadly speaking, our biggest channel is still voice, which accounts for around 70m calls a year, and that doesn’t include the IVR environment. 

Let me break that down. There will be around 100m calls that are offered to us, and around 30m of those will fall into our automated channels, where customers will call us but they will choose to serve themselves via the IVR setup, to make a payment, or to find a balance. 

Then there's the remaining 70m that will fall directly into the contact centre.

After that there will be around 2.5m emails per year, and they are dealt with via our BT.com environment, and in addition we will get something in the region of 55m discrete uses of our self-service capability on the website BT.com. 

So that's looking at their bills and checking balances on BT.com?

It's a whole swathe of things, they will be getting help setting up on broadband or looking at their bills; and it's a big investment area for us at BT over the last two and half years. 

But we will still also get around 800,000 letters a year, and then possibly the smallest of the channels - but the fastest-growing - is the social media environment. 

For example, we have around 60,000 customers on Twitter, and then about 400,000 to 500,000 on our forums, and then on YouTube we have 300,000 hits on our videos on YouTube.

So what's the experience like for the customer on the different channels?

We try and keep as much consistency as possible across the different environments, but what changes more than anything else is the tone. 

The tone we would take in response to a letter would be more formal, and the people who write do tend to come from a particular generation. 

When we respond to email, we tend to respond to it in the way that it has been written. If it's quite an informal email then we will respond informally. Calls are very consistent across the space, but then for example in the social media, we will use an appropriate tone.

The service is consistent but the tone varies.

What are the costs to you for these different channels?

Letters are the most expensive, that would be followed by calls, then email, then pretty much everything else.

So do you have different teams covering all the different areas and are they joined up at all?

They’re not all in the same place. Our call centres are primarily in the UK or in India. The work that we do on what we describe as digital care for social media and email is in Northern Ireland so it varies.

Because of the history of BT, I have 8,000 staff distributed across 40 different sectors. 

So increasingly, we use things like live chat to communicate within the different teams, or a combination of instant messaging and live cha,t which we find is the most efficient. 

So there are different teams for different channels?

Yes, to some extent, the teams roughly split into two channels. We deal with all voice activity in one channel, and then all non-voice work, where an adviser is still involved like email, letters, chat, Twitter, or YouTube etc. 

We split those as it's very hard to integrate properly someone dealing with email and calls, and we have moved away from doing that.

We would tend to integrate people doing emails and live chat, rather than with calls. The calls are done separately.

Do you monitor when people move across channels?

Increasingly, I would say about 50% of the time at the moment. Strategically we are trying to move to be a multichannel service organisation. But where I would say we are at the moment is a multiple channels service organisation. 

Gradually we are starting to track across the channels. For example if someone uses BT.com and then calls us, we track that, but at the moment it's much harder for me to track if someone has emailed and then called in. 

I would describe this as is a 360° view of the customer.

Do you monitor your brand online? Are you looking at Twitter feeds to see what people are saying about BT? 

We're doing this constantly. We use a tool called Debatescape, which we developed internally. What that does is search across all of the public forum environments, things like Twitter, and external forums, using a whole bunch of search strings to find keywords.

Basically it tracks across all of those different environments, with this very significant set of search strings, and it then filters out things that aren’t to do with BT. For example there is a musician in the states called BT.

It takes those results and it delivers them through a workflow package to my dedicated advisors who will then respond.

So we do this tracking, but we use it more for the ability to react. For example, if we see someone with a problem we will reach out and say “can we help?”, and everything we do under social media is done under a single identity called BTcare.

What speeds of response do you have to these different channels?

We look to respond to those channels between 30 and 60 minutes. It varies slightly because sometimes with some other forums it takes slightly longer for a search to run, but effectively we look to respond within an hour.

So are you effectively a multichannel customer services director?

Yes, and that is quite an important element. I'm responsible for all the channels and I can look across them from a strategic point of view.

I have certainly talked to colleagues in other industries where that isn't the case, and that makes it much harder.

Is this something new that BT has done?

We made a change about two years ago, and we've also cottoned on to the fact that - although the internet has been around a long time - people using the internet to self-serve, and using social media has been something that has exploded phenomenally over the last two years. 

We saw this starting to happen and reacted to it, but we still have lots more we would like to do on it, but I guess what we have done is to have a consistent strategy.

One of the things I own is our contact strategy which includes any of our customer contacts both inbound and outbound.

For example every communication sent out whether it's a sales communication, a service marketing piece, goes out with my name on it. So the customer will have a consistent personality linked to the communication they’re dealing with.

What we've seen in the past is multiple different points of contact in the organisation are writing to customers, and one doesn't know what the other is saying.

Is customer service perceived as a cost burden or an investment in the future?

My strategy for customer service falls into three parts:

1) The quality of the customer service. That's the primary goal I have to deliver on. 

2) Cost reduction. Like most service organisations a huge amount of what we deal with is the cost of failure, and if you stop failing the customer whether that's process, system, product, or in the service experience then you can take that off. 

3) Value creation. We have to deliver financial benefits to the company, whether through cost reduction, or through sales in the service environment, or retention of customers.

How do you measure that?

The primary measure for us in a customer service point of view is one contact resolution, as a primary measure, it's similar to first call resolution but we try to make it as hard as we can.

Our definition is when a customer contacts us, and is dealt with on first contact, without transferring the contact elsewhere, without putting it to an off-line queue, and without the customer having to contact us again for any reason within the next 28 days. 

We are also trying to get one contact resolution to 85%. We are currently around 62% so we have way to go yet. 

From a value creation perspective we track that by two measures first of all customer retention, and secondly revenue generation.

How'd you link customers together? Is it their phone number or a customer number?

It's primarily by phone numbers, all of our customers clearly have a landline, or have a telephone number and the key customer ID to us is the telephone number, the only area that we can't do that is social media because we don't have that data, unless a customer responds when we reach out and help. 

I can associate an email with a telephone number because that is already in our system, though obviously customers can and do use different media IDs.

What about brand consistency?

We certainly keep the focus on keeping a consistent experience from a brand point of view, but as I say different channels use different tones, to just assume that what you would say on the phone is what you would write in a letter would be wrong, it's about appropriateness.

Is churn part of the metrics for customer services?

Churn is part of the value creation metric, we track all of the customer churn by a range of different metrics including customer service related churn, and we would track that specifically, and we also use net promoter score effectively across the organisation.

Graham Charlton

Published 13 September, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (7)

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Kay

Complete and utter 'bunkham'.

After desparately trying to achieve a positive outcome for me, the customer; a BT oeprative who wouldn't give his name this afternoon actually put the phone down on me! and all because he says ' I've spent too much time with your query, I have to move on. I can't answer your query'.

My service has now been restricted: and it would appear that BT have moved onto captive audience tactics - if you pay your bill we can sort the rest out. But hey they said that last month and the month before.

BT hasn't changed - not sure why I returned. It was a nothing than a mere circus 5 years ago, and today it remains. That is the totality of the 'consistency' of the BT brand. BT = Big Top (Circus).

almost 5 years ago

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V C Johnson

I learnt yesterday that you have put up your prices again, shocking in these days I am complaining to you now, please explain. I can not get any sense out of your online system I want a more human facility.

over 4 years ago

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Dave P

Thought I would google Warren Buckley as he sent me a chatty little letter about BT Infinity. By the picture he looks like a happy chappy , those little chubby chops !
I did wonder if the picture was taken before he discovered that he was heading up a department in a partly disfunctional company where the customer service is cr*p and when you get to a point where the BT engineers have to come out to you they all say that they are disgusted by the way that BT treat their existing loyal customers and are mainly focused on just getting more orders on their books. Does Warren reply on this site ?

over 4 years ago

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John Forrester

Mr Buckley has many methods of sharing his views with the world but he makes it very hard to contact him directly.
I received a letter from him on 6th December 2011 trying to recover a non existing debt! My wife and I have tried for months to sort out our BT problem via some confusing telephone calls with India. The best we have achieved is an acknowledgement that BT owes us money but that no one has the ability to deal with it. We have written to BT (and the Ombudsman) but letters don't work either. We now have a debt recovery agency asking for money we do not owe. Hope Sky broadband and phones works better once we switch

over 4 years ago

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steve

WARREN BUCKLEY AND CRONIES ARE A PAIN IN THE A--- TO TO US COS THEY ARE NOT CONSIDERING THE PLANET WOTSOEVER BY PUMPIN OUT TONS OF UNWANTED CRAP JUNK MAIL AND STICKIN IT THROUGH OUR DOORS AND IRRITATATING US.
WARREN BUCKLEY SHOULD BE SACKED!

over 4 years ago

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Anthony Ellams

To Warren Buckley
I am writing this as i am so disgusted with the service i have recieved from your so called call centers that are suppose to offer help and support to which i have recieved none. To my amazement you have given my phone number to someone else when i called to complain at BT they basically blanked me pretending not to hear me.
Also forcing me out of my original contract as i have moved property but i was paying until my contract was up but now i have had to cancel my direct debit as i am paying for someone else to use MY PHONE NUMBER. I WILL NEVER EVER RECOMMEND YOU TO ANYONE YOU ARE COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME AND EFFORT.

over 4 years ago

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R.H.Marks

Re Mr W.Buckley

I joined BT on the 22March 2013. I have asked for an engineer to be at the instalation of the three services ie, Tele , Tv and computer . no engineer came fo help with the TV and computer. I wrote to Mr Buckley on the25 March to Mr Buckley NO acknowledgement of receipt or action to date .

Whilst the literature and all the documents and welcoming letter are well writen , the telephone help line system is ,to say the least, maddening . It took me three days to obtain Mr Buckley`s address.

I have sympathy with the previous gentleman`s comments but still hope my situation will be sorted soon.

over 3 years ago

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