NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! -- When Tuesday's keynote panel with two industry chairmen kicked off discussing "smile moments," I wasn't optimistic. Turned out I needn't have worried: The next 30 minutes had a lot of useful tips on how to be a customer-centric company.
For me, it also brought to mind T-Mobile US Inc. , even though the carrier was never mentioned.
David Moffatt, former CEO of Lebara Group and current board member on Asurion Limited's Asia-Pacific advisory board, and Michael Matthews, former Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) CMO and chairman of the board at Archer Mobile, took the stage to talk about what being a company that truly cares about its customers looks like. It seems obvious, but it's not something many telcos have mastered.
Both agreed that it had to start with the leadership and some radically new thinking. Some of the key takeaways included:
- Allow employees to be individuals and have "spontaneous engagement" with customers. "If you let too much process and system get in the way, then people aren't equipped to deal with people with humanity," Matthews said.
- Build a culture of transparency and authenticity in leadership, which requires a cultural shift.
- The CEO needs to spearhead this cultural change by meeting with his or her employees face-to-face (even if there are thousands of them) and speaking with honesty and passion about what the company is doing.
- Analytics is important, but bear in mind that Steve Jobs never used it. "At best, it allows you to eliminate the things you should perhaps not be concentrating on," Matthews said. And, Moffatt added, data needs to be harnessed in a systematic way. "In most organizations, particularly telco, you need to think about the customer in isolation from all the other noise and systematize it," he said.
- As the CEO, get your board aligned with your vision and act as a mediator to break down silos, which exist because of the systems and structures for allocating budgets and how people are rewarded, not because of any ill-will between groups.
A lot of this has been said before, of course, but it rings true -- or at least truer than hearing telcos themselves talk about how innovation-driven and customer centric they are. The men never named names, but it is easy to see why T-Mobile came to mind. The self-proclaimed "uncarrier" has spent the last year upending the traditional modus operandi in the telecom industry. It's also done a good job of convincing consumers it truly cares about the customer, even if some of its pricing changes have been policy shifts than deep pricing cuts. (See T-Mobile Petitions Operators to Kill Overages, Look Inside T-Mobile's 'Uncarrier' Transformation, and T-Mobile Shuns Overage Charges.)
I did think it was interesting when Moffatt pointed out that, "it's not about evangelizing or being the hero CEO." Legere, of course, relishes that role. I occasionally doubt the authenticity in his curse-laden keynotes, but you can't deny his attitude and changes are working. His competitors are noticing and customers are flocking to the Magenta brand. (See T-Mobile Sacrifices Costs for Customers and Getting Your Magenta Kicks.)
At any rate, it's the closest example we have within the telco industry of the principles Moffatt and Matthews were extolling, and I think the rest of the industry is wise to take notice and heed the boardmen's advice to change their mindset and their companies.
"We still have a very defensive mindset, added to by regulators who are adding taxes," Moffatt said, adding, however, that blaming regulation is an excuse. "It's about culture. You have to move from being defensive to being offensive and engaging and have 'a big why.' That will drive your innovation."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading