From passive to proactive

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Capita Customer Management 29th June 2017 5 minute read

From passive to proactive

On Tuesday June 27th, Capita’s fourth Innovation Breakfast saw a table of experts convened to explore the opportunities for generating more value – and extra revenue - from the customer experience.

What can sales through service offer, and is it even the best model for the future? How can customer service truly add value while it remains the prisoner of a cost-out mentality? Where do outbound sales teams fit in? What does the agent of the future look like?

Tackling these questions and more were Phil Hoggarth, MD Divisional Trading at Capita; James Hinchliffe, MD the Voice Group; Steve Bent, Sales Propositions Director, Blue Sky Performance Improvement; and Simon Hunt, Director of Products and Solutions, Capita Customer Management. The session and the workshop that followed were facilitated by Ember Services director Mike Havard and introduced by Capita’s Executive Director of Customer Management and International, Mike Barnard.

Phil Hoggarth began by teasing apart the traditional shape of an organisation’s approach to customers - acquiring them, servicing them and retaining them – and noting that service often languished as the poor relation in terms of spend. Businesses will invest to gain customers and keep customers, but in the middle of that sandwich it’s inevitably about driving down cost to serve.

This, said Hoggarth, had hobbled service’s ability to add value. We’re missing the opportunities to cross sell, up sell and build the deeper relationships that come with advisors having more time to talk to customers.

“We’ve seen over recent years a move to sales through service, though it’s a term I dislike. In reality what we’re essentially doing is asking a cost sensitive area to handle sales while still being measured on efficiencies, cost out, cost reduction, average handling times and service levels.”

Applying the right lens

Viewing service through a different lens, less fixated on cost, better reveals the long term value and revenue that can come from conversations not harried by average handling time targets.

Hoggarth cited an example where a client had tried to assess the benefits of rolling out welcome calls via a service centre. Through the service lens it was about improving predictability and driving CSAT and resolution rates, which it did. But contrary to expectations it actually drove up rather than reduced propensity to call, so costs rose and the trial was deemed a failure. The project was pulled.

Yet subsequently, when the data was analysed through a sales lens, the project had in fact been a success. Over two years the stronger relationships those calls had fostered led to customers spending more in general and with a wider product penetration. Loyalty was greater so customers stayed longer and spent more, and NPS was substantially higher.

Who are we doing this for?

So what prevents today’s customer conversations from generating the extra value that they might? Partly it’s about whose interests they serve, argued Simon Hunt. “Where it’s in the interest of the business to have a conversation with a customer, we’ll set up a channel and it will be very easy to get to. Where the customer wants to have a conversation with the business, we can make that very difficult. I think customers feel that, so I’m worried about the imbalance between sales and service, and the fact that, over time, the customer will punish us for it.”

Essentially organisations are teaching customers that while they’re happy to talk to them person-to-person in the early stages of a relationship, the longer that relationship goes on, the more likely they are to be pushed to automation and self-serve.

Taking the customer’s view

The attitude of customers towards service, and their expectations of it, is changing faster than at any time in the past, said Steve Bent. In the industry we recognise that ‘super-agents’ able to handle every type of enquiry are a near impossible dream, but customers don’t see why that should be the case. “The lines are blurring around what advisors are required to do. Customers just expect to be served by one person, whatever their need.”

This will only rise in importance as consumers adopt more subscription services in place of their one-off purchases of the past – a sentiment echoed by many in the audience. With so many products now offered as a subscription rather than a ‘buy-and-forget’ experience, customers are coming to expect a lot of additional value from that deal. If they’re being asked to commit to a relationship for 12, 18 or 24 months, there sure better be some continual value along the way for them to remain satisfied.

The problem with data

Meanwhile consumers are telling organisations more and more vocally that ‘it has to be about me’. The call for personalisation is constantly growing louder, noted Phil Hoggarth, yet next year’s introduction of GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations) can only make this harder for organisations to deliver.

The question of when customers are happy to have their data used as part of a relationship and when it feels like Big Brother remains a knotty one that, in truth, no member of the panel or audience had an answer for. It continues to be a confused area, with timing, relevance, medium, age, and demographics all factoring into the equation. And no one really knows what the answer to that sum is.

The July 2017 edition of Intelligence is devoted to to the questions raised at the breakfast and the answers of the panel. Visit our Intelligence report hub to read it along with the rest of our archive.

Innovation Breakfasts are regular Capita events that give clients a chance to listen to industry experts on some of the hottest topics in customer management. They include question sessions and workshops where smaller groups can explore solutions and ways forward for their own organisations. Oh, and a handy bit of networking too.

They take place in London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ tower, kindly hosted by DWF Law and are by invitation only.

If you’d like to attend a forthcoming event, or even suggest a subject we could place under the Innovation Breakfast microscope, please contact:

Jo Knight, Client Experience, Customer Management at

07710 384705

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