Foxtel is embarking on a large-scale customer service transformation that could ultimately allow the company to "proactively intervene" when technical or other issues are detected that impact an individual customer's entertainment experience.
The entertainment provider made a number of largely-forced changes to its customer service model post-Covid when it lost access to offshored contact centre resources due to Covid lockdowns in the Philippines and South Africa.
But director of service and agent experience, Jason Smith, told Customer Contact Week Digital ANZ 2021 that the company will now pursue a broader transformation, underpinned by a Salesforce cloud stack, over the next 18 months.
"There's a large suite of products with Salesforce that we're going to be rolling out over the next 18 months so everything that our customers and agents are doing in the service experience is fully on the Salesforce platform," Smith said.
"At the minute, we've got a lot of non-integrated, siloed, different tools and systems that our agents are using.
"It's quite disconnected from what we're doing digitally with our customers, so this is really going to help us bring that together."
Smith said Foxtel had identified several experiences that it ultimately wanted to enable for customers.
"It's really important for us to bring a seamless omnichannel experience to our customers, whether they're troubleshooting an issue, trying to find the next best show that they want to watch, or they want to make a change to their services," Smith said.
"We really do see ourselves [having] a true omnichannel business strategy from a servicing perspective, so letting our customers start their troubleshooting on our website, being able to integrate rich data from the set top boxes and the streaming they're doing to help them troubleshoot their issues, wrapping our chat teams around that to make sure they've got the required support if they need it, and if they get a little bit stuck, being able to speak to someone in our call centres, that then has the right diagnostic information, the right history of that customer and the right visibility of everything they've done."
Smith also flagged the possibility of Foxtel being able to use data to address issues, potentially before they were noticed or acted on by customers.
"We're really looking at monitoring our customer health, our customer value and engagement and proactively engaging with them to make sure they're getting more out of their value of the product, but also starting to proactively intervene," he said.
"Where we can see they're having challenges, whether it be changes to their bill that we want to discuss with them early; whether we can see diagnostics off their box and there's some problems with how it's been working; not waiting for them to actually have to get on the front foot to fix their problems but starting to engage to maximize their value and viewing, but also reducing their effort before it happens [is desirable]."
Foxtel offers customer service through three main channels: voice, "assisted digital", and self-service.
Though voice is historically its single largest channel by volume, this had changed during Covid as its offshore contact centre operations were knocked offline, and it - like telcos and others - had to quickly stand up digital chat systems and local "surge" resources to cope with increased support volumes.
Smith indicated there was a significant increase in support requests as customers processed the uncertainty of Covid on their ability to pay, and the extent to which the lack of live sport at the time altered their desire to maintain a subscription at all.
Some of this additional volume was able to be handled by chatbots, with Smith noting "containment" - or the ability of the bot to solve a customer's problem by itself - is now up to 60 percent.
Other customers were directed to an updated knowledge base, a resource which Smith noted had been under-utilised pre-Covid.
“We've done as much as we can to accelerate our digital care and containment. We're very much focused on creating low-effort experiences where people just want to get stuff done and do it quickly," Smith said.
“We've looked at where we have the best capability that we could leverage quickly."
Smith said Foxtel now sees about two-thirds of customers “naturally going online to troubleshoot themselves first” and booking their own technicians or replacement equipment off the Foxtel website.
He said that the bots had been kept relatively simple, "focusing again on general knowledge FAQs and troubleshooting."
“We're not using any natural language learning at the minute," he said.
"We're very much doing it menu-based and again, driving into the relevant containment FAQs or containment applications that we have online.
Right service options
Smith said that Foxtel is now focused on encouraging a subset of customers that just want their problem solved, but have no preference for the channel they use, to favour digital.
"We have 40 percent of customers that want to do everything in digital, we have 40 percent that want to speak to call centres still, but we have 20 percent that actually just want to get [support] done in the right channel, so whatever channel they trust the most," Smith said.
"We're focusing on not how do we try and move the 40 percent at the minute that are in voice. We want to wrap our arms around them and give them the care that they need.
"But the 20 percent that are actually just want to be in the right channel, how do we give them confidence to digitise and get them across there before we start to create that confidence with those that still prefer a contact centre call? [That's our current focus.]"
Smith also indicated that Foxtel is restructuring its more traditional contact centres.
The company is increasing multiskilling of agents across its sites, so that if one site goes offline, it does not take with it an entire business process.
It is also pursuing a customer service model championed by the likes of Optus to prevent calls being handed off between different teams and departments.
"We're really creating areas of excellence and communities in our contact centres that actually manage those customers end-to-end," Smith said.
"That might be their initial onboarding experience at Foxtel through to getting them settled in, to different cohorts of customers that have different product types.
"But rather than having a skills-based [routing model] where you're transferred between areas, we're allowing our customers to shift within a community that's responsible fully for them, that looks after their technical, their billing, their change, but also intimately understands the products that they have, the type of customer they are, so we can really personalise the experience for them."