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Telus stakes out new ground in customer loyalty

The carrier has created a program, and put a key exec at the helm, to drive a customer-first strategy throughout the company

With all the hype around enhancing the customer experience, Connected Planet went to speak to someone whose job is doing just that - Carol Borghesi, Senior Vice-President of Customers First Culture at TELUS. Quite a title, that one : >

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Connected Planet: What is the role and scope of a Senior Vice-President of Customers First Culture?

Carol Borghesi: What we’ve done is, we’ve created a program and a lifestyle change that involves all of the customer facing business units at Telus. We have six of those, including the traditional enabling units of HR, finance, IT, operations, and strategy. My job is to reinvigorate our focus on putting customers first. I’m responsible for programs relating to voice of the customer, voice of the employee, ‘right first time’ initiatives and customer management infrastructure programs.

We’ve seen green shoots of success in customer outcomes and employee engagements, but you can’t declare victory on putting customers first until the customers say you can.

Organizations can be fragmented or tactical about CEM without taking a step back to understand the who, what, when, why and how and to understand your segments, the journeys customers take through your organization and the experiences they have in the channels they use to interact with you.

Connected Planet: Where do you live in the org chart?

Carol Borghesi: I report to the EVP of human resources and admin services, so while it may sound odd to be placed there my boss also has responsibility for strategic initiatives. My colleagues in the industry have been fascinated by my title as well and it has been received more positively than I would have expected. I’m a ‘dyed in the wool’ operations person and am very left brained, but I now realize it really is about the culture.

Connected Planet: How are you measured in regard to business performance or contribution?

Carol Borghesi: I am measured on a couple of things – first, on the voice of the customer. We set targets for our company on the ‘likelihood to recommend’ and I am accountable for those results in all of the markets we serve, on an annual basis. And the second piece is on employee engagement and employee likelihood to recommend, with a specific focus on work progress. That comes from analyzing where our areas of opportunity are. We’ve beaten our targets this year for improving likelihood to recommend and on employee engagement; and not by a little bit, but by a lot.

Connected Planet: What’s your view of Social Networks as CRM channels? How big a role can they play?

Carol Borghesi: Social media has come to the fore and it is very powerful, it democratizes and puts customers in control. It democratizes customer experience because it packs a more powerful punch for the positive or negative when firms are not paying attention to what it being said in the social network sphere. The point we’ve been making and focus on is not only social media because it’s a tiny percentage of our total volume. I’m long in the tooth enough to remember when email, then chat, then web came to the fore and it was believed it would remove or reduce the number of (inbound) calls and that didn’t happen. Customer contact across industries continues unabated. I’m not sure it can replace more than about 20 percent or so of total volume.

Regardless of channel, the subjects people want to address are the same. Across our channels we’re seeing the same relative volume and severity of billing issues. We do see other channels being exhausted, or customer accessibility being thwarted, but the skills needed to engage the customers are the same as if the customer (had engaged us through any other channel). So the goal has to be understanding customer pain points and responding to that. Social media can be helpful there, but it needs to be integrated into your overall strategy.

Connected Planet: Is it representative of the customer base? More of the squeaky wheel syndrome? Does it matter?

Carol Borghesi: Customer support through social networks is a clear opportunity. If companies are measuring sentiment through social media without having the ability to address the problems, you’re going down the wrong path. However, if you do address the issues, it does create positive sentiment, and that can raise brand perception for the whole company.

If an employee at hockey game runs into a customer who has an issue, they can post it on ‘buzz’ (internal version of social media) and someone picks it up right away, we can address that issue.

You need to incubate new channels of communication like this to know how to scale and operationalize it in ways that are positive. It ultimately makes sense to have it integrated and that is the next-generation for social media. There’s some noise in the industry that needs to be handled separately, or have people supporting it that have a different profile. You need the same skill sets, tools and experience to support customers through social media – they are all the same.

Many organizations felt you had to create a second line of business as your web presence, but that went the way of the Dodo bird. I hope that firms don’t make those mistakes again because it is costly and fragments your overall customer experience. The hallmark of a good experience is consistency.

The instance (where retailers/channel partners are running wild in social media) is very common. I think what people realize is that the role of governance and how they manage PR, corporate communications, and marketing is challenged because you’re in a very public space, but those that do it well have already established – as we have – rules that govern how you operate in cyberspace. But any company should really have a measure of what customers are saying about it and I think that’s a good thing.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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