How Telus dominates rivals on customer experience

SVP Navin Arora says the secret to bottom-line growth is holistic CRM

Speaking at Dreamforce this week, Telus SVP of customer experience Navin Arora shared an inside perspective on how the company has managed to overtake Bell as Canada’s second-largest wireless provider.

It’s no secret that Telus’ customer experience ratings are dramatically higher than its competitors. Telus has had a customer churn rate below 1% for the past nine quarters, and it’s currently sitting at 0.86%, the lowest churn of any telecom provider in North America. Telus receives by far the fewest customer complaints of Canada’s big three: customers registered just 243 complaints in the latter half of 2014, compared to 1,240 at Rogers and 1,989 at Bell.

Not surprisingly, Arora credited Telus’ superior customer experience for its subscriber growth and high profitability. Happier customers churn less and buy more products, and more efficient complaint resolution means service reps spend less unproductive time on escalations and callbacks.

What’s less clear is just how Telus has been able to provide such consistently better service. Arora said the company’s journey began nearly six years ago, when the company decided to focus on customer experience as a way to stand out in the wireless market. Despite tough subscriber competition, the big three’s products were fairly similar, he reasoned — so experience was really the best way to get a leg up.

In the years since then, Telus has focused on consolidating its marketing, sales and service interactions to reduce the amount of effort customers need to put into managing their accounts and resolving problems. At the heart of this strategy is the so-called “single customer view.” Using Salesforce’s CRM platform, Telus is able to track all pertinent information about a customer, and make it readily accessible to any sales or service rep working on the case. That means the customer doesn’t have to tell their story multiple times to different agents before their problem gets resolved, and the job is finished a lot quicker. (It also means reps are happier with their jobs — Arora said Telus’ employee engagement rate is around 85%.)

The results of this strategy are hard to argue with. In 2014, Telus’ wireless revenue grew 7.5%, and its subscriber base reached 8.1 million — supplanting Bell as Canada’s second largest mobile provider. Meanwhile, its earnings per share grew 15%, a stat that’s had investors across North America eyeing its stocks.

The head of Salesforce’s global communications and media industry group, Andy Baer, who chatted with Arora during a keynote presentation Tuesday, said “Telus is leading the way, not just in Canada but in all of North America, on customer experience.”

Baer said in his experience with Salesforce clients — which include Rogers, Bell, AT&T and Verizon — the biggest hurdle to improving customer experience is legacy systems that are focused on recordkeeping rather than engagement. “They’re internally focused,” he said. “They are focused on just doing the transactions and getting employees to be effective. They aren’t platforms of engagement — they aren’t focused on delivering that great customer experience.”

Adopting a CRM platform doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating or replacing existing systems of record, he said, but rather layering engagement tools on top of them. Telus still uses many of its legacy systems, but now all of the data is synced with Salesforce to ensure that reps have it on hand whenever they’re dealing with a customer.

Arora said Telus has managed to secure enough executive buy-in with its CX strategy to shift the core metric it uses to report on subscriber satisfaction relative to the industry. Instead of using the industry-standard net promoter score, Telus now surveys customers on how likely the are to recommend its services to friends and family.

“We believe that the ultimate form of loyalty is when a customer is so happy with you that they’re likely to recommend your products and services to a co-worker or friend,” he said. Though he didn’t share hard numbers, he said since adopting the new metric, Telus has seen its scores rise in all six business-to-consumer and business-to-business segments where it operates.

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