THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY HAS SEEN enormous growth in the last few years as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and online. With developments ranging from government deregulation to new 5G technology, large telecoms companies are encountering a variety of exciting opportunities for new revenue streams. But more opportunity creates more competition, making the pressure to stay customer-focused and provide the best customer service more important than ever.
Listening to customers across a continent
ExperiencePoint recently partnered with Africa’s largest mobile network operator to achieve the overall goal of improving customer service through a digital transformation. With a major presence in 19 countries and more than 280 million subscribers in Africa and Asia, this booming multinational company provides services across an incredible spectrum of regions, political environments and languages. Having traditionally relied on external consultants for customer experience improvement, leaders wanted to find a more effective and sustainable way to solve organizational problems and to tap into the potential of their dispersed workforce. Executives identified three major priorities that they wanted to work on immediately: the improvement of Net Promoter Scores (NPS), the decrease of the “cost to serve” in call centers through digitization without losing sight of the customer and the simplification of customer enrolment into mobile and fixed connectivity subscriptions.
The company began working with James van der Westhuizen, the founder and CEO of People Power Limited and an ExperiencePoint partner and facilitator of many years. James was drawn to the idea of a virtual sprint platform, which would eliminate the enormous expense of relocating teams across the continent and allow people with busy schedules to work asynchronously. He suspected that our new virtual platform, Innolab by ExperiencePoint™, would be the perfect fit for an eight-week sprint that assembled 50 people from cross-functional teams.
A virtual sprint for a dispersed workforce
With Innolab as his foundation, James designed a process with three key engagement dimensions. The first involved weekly learning with Spark by ExperiencePoint™, a series of interactive episodes that provide thought-provoking ways of applying the key concepts of human-centered design and change. Then, at alternating weeks, participants worked directly on the Innolab platform with ExperiencePoint’s support or underwent coaching sessions with James. When a concept was introduced through a Spark episode, such as the principles and techniques of generative brainstorming, it could be put to use immediately on the Innolab platform. So an energizing rhythm was established, in which work on the platform was supported by micro-learning that reinforced design thinking tools and by hands-on guidance.
Over the course of the sprint, the team developed a common language, toolset and methodology. A multiplier effect came into being, in which the use of shared terminology precipitated better communication and collaboration across other projects. Since the platform allows external people to log in and comment on the work, participants benefited from ongoing feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including people who work in the call centers, technology vendors and internal providers. Meanwhile, participants gleaned the profound value of deep customer observation and rapid prototyping when solving user-centered problems.
As a facilitator, James benefited from several useful Innolab features. The platform consistently evaluates people’s contributions, which makes it easy to track participation and celebrate top performers. Soft-spoken people, who may not have felt as comfortable sharing their ideas in a traditional in-person sprint, were able to contribute in a powerful way, some emerging as leaders. James was also able to identify clusters of innovators and creative people throughout the company who might not have been otherwise discovered, and pass on this information to senior executives, thus speeding up future team-building and elevating the quality of future initiatives.
The confidence to solve their own problems
When the project ended, participants had saturated the customer experience pipeline for 2023 with customer-centric projects, and they were energized to begin implementing these initiatives with their brand new skillset. Having developed these solutions themselves, the company had automatic internal buy-in and widespread commitment to seeing the projects through, increasing the likelihood for their successful implementation. By empowering employees to solve their own problems, the company eliminated the need for external consultants and saved tens of thousands of dollars.
Overall, the sprint successfully addressed critical issues for maintaining a profitable mobile network across the African continent. By building the confidence to solve their own problems, participants discovered their aptitude for creative thinking and uncovered more agile ways of working that will propel and sustain future projects. Most importantly, teams developed and honed the skills they’ll need to help the company stay customer-focused as it continues to lead the African telecoms market and expand beyond.