Exceptional Customer Service Is No Longer Optional, It's Mandatory. Learnings from Telstra

It's official, Telstra has won me over. I now am an advocate, a fan and a promoter.  In the past year I have noticed a remarkable change in the customer service level of Australia's largest Telecommunications provider. Their service is now top notch and in this blog I will tell you the three lessons we can all learn from their turnaround and in the process how they doubled their share price. I'm sure we would all like to double the value of our businesses so read on!

Before I let you know how Telstra turned it all around, I need to be transparent on how I know a bit more than the average punter about Telstra. I have four different perspectives:

Firstly, I am a long term customer. For about 20 years I have used a variety of Telstra products from home phone (no longer using), mobile (now business instead of consumer) and internet. I have experience the pain of their bureaucracy and wasn't a happy camper for many years, but they have managed to turn me around.

Secondly, I use to work for Sensis the advertising arm of Telstra. I was the Digital Marketing Manager for four years from 2007 to 2011. During that time I was exposed to many areas of the business and saw David Thodey present live a few times. 

Thirdly, David Thodey's daughter did work experience for me for brief period so I got to see a little bit more about the CEO than most.

Finally, I have done a little bit of Personal Brand consulting work for the marketing area of Telstra. Nothing huge, just a bit here and there. I am currently not doing any paid work for them.

Now that's out of the way, here are my three learnings on customer service from Telstra.


1) Intent: I remember seeing David Thodey, Telstra CEO present in 2008. He was absolutely clear about his mission in the business, improve customer service. It was an internal presentation and so he was honest about the scale of challenge it would take to turn around consumer opinion.

There was so much bad news about the company and most of it based on the rubbish systems and services Telstra had at the time. It was a huge problem and exceedingly complex, but he was focused. He had a strong intent and thus went about improving the systems and bringing together all the different areas of the business under a central mission.

What's the intent for your business? Do you have a clear and galvanising focus for your business and team to work on each day. If not get one.

2) Measurement: To measure how they were going with this Intent they used a commonly known customer service measure called the Net Promoter Score. I have blogged on this previously as I am a big believer in this process. The system has been around for ages but most companies just can't implement it due to getting all areas of the business aligned to this one measure.

Telstra did and it has had a major impact on every area of their business. I know for a fact that the CEO's bonus is impacted by this one measure in the same way all retail staff members are.  I just bought a new internet device from Telstra and I know David was measured on this because he told me.

It's important to him, the CEO and everyone in between because it impacts their back pocket. We know what get's measured get's done but it is a brave man who can put this in place. How do you measure your staff? I highly recommend NPS as it simplifies it to one number and customers love it because surveys are super short!

3) Patience: It has taken 7 to 8 years to improve the back end systems and put in place effective measurement practices so that everyone now cares about the customer. But the proof is in the pudding.

Today David from the 406 Collins Street branch was super helpful, friendly and useful. I know his name because he gave me his card and asked me to call him personally if I have any questions or issues - imagine that 5 years ago!  He knows that tomorrow I will get an email survey asking me two simple questions. Am I happy with my service and would I recommend Telstra to my friends (NPS).

I know that my response of a 9 or 10 will get David and the CEO a bonus and right now I hope they get paid it as the service was exceptional.

Some people reading this will say it's too hard to implement such a system in their businesses. They are too big, too small, too diversified. It will take too long perhaps. I agree it is challenging if you are not the CEO, but the benefits are just to great to ignore. It literally turned around this gigantic company and doubled their value. When will you start?

Remember the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. Get started.

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Andrew Ford

Marketing expert Andrew Ford, the founder of Social Star, has discovered the secret of ‘Powerful Branding’. With a fire for unleashing people’s inner brand and developing business models to generate profit from an individual’s passions, Andrew leverages ground-breaking digital and social media marketing techniques to create digital strategies for clients to attract maximum opportunities. Having established a strong name for himself in the field, Andrew blends traditional business techniques with now-necessary tools for entrepreneurs to achieve scale, quality, and influence in their niche. Andrew’s comprehensive business background and qualifications consist of a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) (RMIT 2003), a Graduate Certificate in Management (MBA Executive Program, University of Sydney 2005), and a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (Swinburne University 2011). Continually on the cutting edge of his own education, Andrew has tested his marketing theories in forums such as the BCG Business Strategy Competition, which he won in 2005 against all Victorian MBA schools, and the Venture Cup Business Plan Competition (Swinburne University 2003), which he won in the Masters category. With experience working at Hewlett-Packard, Sensis (Telstra) and IBM, Andrew also has mentored dozens of junior staffs to help them achieve their professional goals. Meeting and influencing high-profile public figures helped Andrew to realise just how many professionals require more understanding and control of their public brands or appearance, and need help with the skills to use the many amazing free tools at their disposal to generate success. At Social Star, Andrew consults with clients to uncover their personal brand – both where it is today and where it can be tomorrow – and refine and define how that should be displayed in social media in order to attract their perfect target audience. Andrew mentors his clients to rapidly grow their business’ audiences, resulting in larger potential client bases and higher revenue. Applying formulas that integrate over twenty years of Andrew’s business experience and fifteen years of formal business education, Social Star specialises in building clarity and velocity for clients’ brands using the ‘Understand, Build and Leverage’ methodology. ‘Having a Personal Business enables people to have an authentic, congruent connection with their valued clients and partners, using their brand as the bridge,’ says Andrew. ‘I’m highly driven to work with the new breed of entrepreneurs and small business owners – people who have a passion for making the world a better place. Traditional business models are stepping aside as people follow their innermost dreams and my role is to see them operate within their values while creating wealth. Some people think you have to sacrifice what you love to be successful in your business, yet it is actually the opposite. Follow your passion and success will come.’ Lecturing at Swinburne University from 2009 to 2011 on brand dynamics and digital marketing, presenting at numerous conferences, and consulting to hundreds of clients, Andrew has seen his philosophy work that if you follow your unique path, based on your skills, experience, values and goals, you will automatically attract the opportunities you desire and achieve the success you deserve. Living his mantra, Andrew has created a successful business and attracts high-profile clients including musicians, athletes, authors, models, entrepreneurs, professionals and small business owners, helping them find their ‘why’ in their business and fulfilment in their lives. Business for Andrew is more than work, it’s personal. Running a personal business means that he is able to fulfil all of his values rather than separating his life from work. It supports his two boys while providing social opportunities, educational development, fitness opportunities, spiritual fulfilment and many valuable friendships. Social Star has now become the vehicle for Andrew to crystallise his mission in the world, to help people love what they do, supporting his ‘why’, that if more people loved what they did, the world would be a better place.