30 June 2023
Interview with Claire Smith, Director, Optus
Reinventing amazing customer care
A high performing Optus executive with more than 18 years’ experience in telecommunication leadership, Claire Smith was recently appointed the Director for Capability and Enablement, leading a group of functions with a connected focus on empowering retail and contact centre frontline teams to deliver consistently amazing customer experiences. CSIA spoke Claire about her recent presentation in CSIA’s CX Showcase event on Optus’ Community of Experts.
What is Optus’ Community of Experts and how does it work?
Our vision is to become Australia’s most loved everyday brand with lasting customer relationships. To achieve this we knew we needed to give our customers the best care and exceed expectations. Our contact centre was traditional in that it had a complex phone menu experience, distinct operational business units with specialist skills, high transfers between these groups and limited end-to-end ownership. The Optus Community of Experts model is customer-centric, our experts are multi-skilled and equipped to take full ownership for each customer’s enquiry, resulting in nearly 0% transfers (we are at 0.2% and aiming for 0%). Customers are supported by a dedicated community, assigned to a specific geo-region, and supporting all multiple channels. Customers are routed to their contact centre community dependent on their postcode. Each community is run as a business by the community manager and is typically made up of 40 experts, four coaches and a manager.
Why do you think the traditional contact centre model – using an IVR followed by experts – fails?
Customers faced barriers such as complicated phone menus and complex contact centre routing. They were being bounced around 25% of the time. Removing the dreaded IVR makes it easier for our customers to speak to someone in seconds, and with confidence they’ll take ownership of the issue.
What are some of the ways Optus delivers consistently amazing customer experiences?
Our experts can handle all customer conversations. Our people are empowered to resolve nearly all queries and when they do need assistance, they do that instantly by swivelling their chair or dialling that person (with a specific skill) into the customer call. Our communities operate as a small business with a focus on a specific geography, driving outcomes in our customer’s best interest. Our call centre technology delivers dynamic, intelligent and meaningful experiences for each customer and we’re using AI to simplify tasks so experts can spend more time focusing on the customer.
What do you believe is shaping the future of customer service?
Customers want us to know them and personalise the experience, they want an omni channel experience, they don’t want to have to repeat their personal transaction and account history, and not surprisingly, they want us to get it right the first time.
A continuing area of focus in Optus this year is simplification, automation and self-serve, that’s across internal and external processes and technology. There continues to be large investments in technology including self-serve tasks using My Optus App and using AI to support automating work. Chatbots and virtual assistants continue to increase the tasks they can handle.
Optus has also invested in non-traditional products which differentiate us such as Smart Spaces (connected devices) and O-Team, Sub-hub, Optus Sport and the Living Network – “Why Optus” forms a large part of our strategy. Data analytics is another key focus.
How can companies leverage new tech to prioritise customer expectations without sacrificing the human touch?
The Community of Experts model connects digital and human experiences to benefit our customers and our people. Technology has enabled this customer centric model, which means the communities have a good understanding of the local area that they serve, making customer care more personal than ever. Since partnering with Google we’ve been building more intelligent experiences for our experts to enable a frictionless handover for customers with experts getting accurate notes from their peers/previous interactions and our virtual agent (Optus Assistant). This allows us to spend more time building lasting relationships with less admin.
How can organisations foster a customer-centric culture within call centre teams?
This begins with how you go to market attracting talent, how you advertise the role, the selection process and importantly, the induction. A day in the life of the Community starts off with delivering a daily briefing in a quick high energy stand up. It’s agile, collaborative and energetic! It's all focused on what matters to customers in that local area. These rituals and ceremonies, on top of coaching, maintain employee productivity and ensure experts have a voice to be an advocate for our customers.
What are some of the desirable qualities of efficient and effective call centre agents?
The Optus behaviours that are most relevant to the contact centre roles are ‘Take Ownership and Follow Up’, ‘Remove Complexity’ for our customers, ‘Articulate’ implications before acting, ‘Speaking Up’. These are the behaviours that we surface in the recruitment process, and focus strongly on during training. Emotional intelligence is one of the qualities we look for as we need to ensure our experts add value with every interaction. We look for people that genuinely love putting the customer front and centre.