Gioele La Para started at Allstream about 25 years ago as a customer service agent, eventually moving into a team leader role and gaining experience as a customer advocate. Now, as customer service manager at Allstream, he’s seen how Allstream’s approach to customer support has evolved over the years and become a fundamental part of the company’s business philosophy.
Can you explain your role at Allstream?
One thing that’s been consistent over the years is having my team aligned with the business strategy so they can all contribute to Allstream’s success. As a leader of the team, I try to lead by example and to guide and inspire my team members. Having said that, one of my primary focuses has always been the wellbeing of my employees — this is fundamental in achieving our business objectives. Over the past year we’ve all been remote and the wellbeing of employees has been even more important.
A big part of my role is recruiting talent. It all starts with making sure we recruit the right people. It’s not just their experience — we look at their character and personality, if they have what it takes to be focused on customers, so no matter who’s calling in or what the issue is, at the end of the call they’ve established a rapport and the customer is happy.
How has Allstream reinvented its customer support over the past couple of years?
Offering customers more self-serve options has been our priority, including our web portal. It allows customers to securely access account management tools from anywhere in the world, with a chat feature available during business hours. There are always opportunities to improve what we offer, so we have regular portal meetings internally where we identify new ideas and what we can work on. We also regularly review our call drivers and different trends so that we can improve some of our internal processes that may negatively impact the customer experience.
What does Allstream do differently when it comes to customer support?
We have a continuous focus on customer service. Everybody, no matter their role, has an impact on customer service, even people who don’t interact directly with customers — what they do behind the scenes can be beneficial or detrimental. When a customer calls in, it’s not only an opportunity to resolve their inquiry, but to ask questions to try to anticipate the customer’s future needs — that’s the next level of first-call resolution. Let’s say a customer can’t get access to the portal, so we send the customer a link. But what else can we do there? We’re trained to go above and beyond. We’re going to ensure the customer is comfortable using the portal — we might give them an overview and guide them through it.
How does Allstream handle customer issues?
When a customer wants to escalate an issue to our senior leadership team, we take every one of those escalations very seriously. We have a customer advocate on staff — we’ve always had that at Allstream — and that person handles any escalations. We look at the root cause and see what we can learn from that particular experience. Maybe a customer service rep needs more coaching, or maybe a process needs to be improved. We ensure that proper action is taken to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future.
Being customer-centric is one of Allstream’s core values. What exactly does that mean?
Being customer-centric means always putting the customer’s needs first and being proactive by communicating with them. For example, in unforeseen circumstances where we’re unable to meet an expectation, we will reach out to keep them updated. That’s another way of being customer-centric — you respond to a customer need but also look at what could become an issue and resolve it before it does.
At Allstream, everybody’s in sales and everybody’s in customer service. Although there’s one customer service department, everyone in the company is accountable for making sure customers feel special. If we want to differentiate ourselves, everyone needs to wear that customer service hat and make sure every interaction is a positive one. The customer doesn’t really care who they’re speaking to — they’re speaking to someone from Allstream, so everyone’s actions have an impact, and every action can have a repercussion on the overall feeling of the customer experience.
What does customer service mean to you?
The answer to this question is pretty simple: to consistently exceed our customers’ expectations. And we do that by being attentive to their needs and always trying to go above and beyond to resolve their issues. Like in any relationship, it all starts with being a good listener. You build rapport with the customer, and that helps the customer experience because we’re able to grasp what we need to do.
Images: PeopleImages/iStock; Contributed