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‘You can’t measure yourself by an aspiration to fail less’

MTS Allstream’s CMO offers a pointed critique on customer service that IT pros everywhere should heed


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Heather Tulk describes the kind of discussion about customer service metrics that would be familiar to many IT departments. It’s the one where someone says, “We did a great job last month. We answered the phone 80 percent of the time within ‘X’ number of seconds.”

Having worked in telecom for much of her adult life, Tulk knows it’s not good enough.

“I’ve been meetings where I’ve had to say, ‘Wow, how did that feel to the 20 percent?’” said Tulk, speaking as part of a panel discussion at the Canadian Telecom Summit earlier this month. Tulk, who joined MTS Allstream as its CMO this year, says playing with statistics is one of the most common mistakes companies make. Their real goal should be responding to customers as people, not numbers.

While Baby Boomers might have been more accepting of failure, Tulk said Gen X and Millennials are a different story entirely. “They just don’t take it. They are not only going to tell you (when they’re dissatisfied), they’re going to tell everyone they know. They are going to talk about it on social media. They’re going to walk, and they’re going to walk quickly. Companies who continue to let their customers down will not survive.”

Tulk’s comments applied not only to the telecom industry, but to IT professionals as a whole. It’s not just a case of being more responsive and kind, but creating a customer experience that acts more one-on-one, rather than one-to-many.

“(Customers) want to set all their own rules. They want personalized, controllable, customized, real-time experiences,” Tulk said. “Companies need to already be thinking about how we get there and how that customer can truly drive that experience that’s right for them.”

Besides using technology like unified communications-as-a-service and creating a more collaborative workforce, Tulk suggested employers ensure they treat their employees with respect and empower them to pursue their calling. This is true not only of the best telecom providers, but even help desks within many enterprise environments.

“I can honestly tell you, the problem is not in the intent of those people. They are some of the most committed, wonderful people,” Tulk said. “If you spend your day working in a a call centre and all you hear is how the company you work for let them down, that’s no fun, and all you want to do is fix that.”

Of course, there is growing awareness across most industries that customer service is a foundational component of driving revenue and creating a strong brand. Tulk said she’s never been more optimistic about what companies can do to improve in this area, particularly if they embrace a zero-tolerance approach for letting customers down.

“I have yet to hear anyone say that their strategy is to provide poor service,” she added, but when you’re only shooting for that 80 percent, “you’re accepting that some of your customers are worth failing.”

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