Why this customer chief is picking up the phone

Belong chief customer officer shares her remit, customer experience dos and don'ts, and the role of accessibility in building connection

Amy Childs
Amy Childs

The ascent of the digitally savvy consumer has accordingly given rise to the fully digital brand. But in an era where experience trumps almost everything else, sometimes even the most sophisticated digital solutions fall short of what a customer actually needs.

For Australian telecommunications brand, Belong, being a fully digital Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) on the Telstra network provides a way to create a differentiated low-cost proposition that appeals to customer segments whose monthly spend is lower than that of the average Telstra customer. But even budget-conscious consumers have needs and expectations for exceptional service – something fully digital models do not always provide.

So when Amy Childs took on the role of Belong’s chief customer officer in October 2021, one of her first tasks was to understand the experience of her new cohort of customers. That quickly led to a seemingly simple but significant action – reinstating phone support.

“My observation very early into the role was that that needed to be revisited for customers - there was a sense of frustration that you could see,” Childs tells CMO. “I saw that as an opportunity to readjust and think about how we ‘turn up’ in a useful way to customers.”

Childs had noted the propensity for digital support channels to lose some of the important nuances contained in spoken conversations.

“I saw that happening in digital support, where the intent on the Belong side is great, and the intent on the customer side is great, and if we had just had a quick conversation we wouldn’t have gone around in circles,” she says.

Reinstating phone support took much more than just putting a phone number on the website. Childs was conscious from the outset of not wanting to open the floodgates for her people, or see customers stuck in lengthy queues.

Customer accessibility

Childs joined Belong from her previous position as managing director at energy retailer, Momentum Energy, in part due to the telco’s intent to transition to a customer-led culture. She has a long history in service-related industries, including energy, insurance, and financial services, and says the opportunity to exercise her skills on a larger scale was too good to pass up.

“The brand attributes of Belong are pretty special - allowing more people to participate in the digital world across simple products with a simple proposition,” Childs says. “There are 2.5 million people that don’t have access digitally and are not connected. Belong has an awesome opportunity to play in that space and deliver more and more things to give more and more people access. That has to come down to really, really simple product structures, really simple service and other ways to help people connect.”

At the same time, Childs is conscious of the need to provide exceptional experiences at all times to the customers that Belong already has.

“It is quite a stable market in telecommunications, so someone else has to fail for you to be successful,” Childs says. “Sticking to the knitting and being straight down the line on making sure that is delivered, is the way you win.”

Childs’ strategy for Belong is to invest heavily in her frontline teams to ensure they can deliver the ‘moments that matter’ in the eyes of customers.

“There is a saying that happy people sell,” she says. “If a customer has to get support, and they have an experience with somebody who really nails that kind of brand feeling, that is far more powerful than anything we could do in digital or comms to customers.

“If you call us because something has gone wrong in your life, how we respond to that is how we differentiate. I feel so passionate about that.”

Her history in service has given Childs significant insight into the things that matter for customers, and where changes can be made to have the most impact. She cites many similarities between the needs of customers in the energy and telecommunications sectors.

“People don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about you as a service provider,” Childs says. “They just want to trust and know that you have ‘got it’, and you’ll let them know when something goes wrong, and you’ll have good remedies when it does. You want to be that silent partner in the background that people don’t want to have to think about too much.”

One area of attention for Childs now is accessibility, to ensure that Belong is adequately servicing those customers for whom English language literacy is not a strength. This includes investigating solutions for translation into the formats and languages that are best for customers.

“It is very easy to look at service through the mirror and think only of yourself,”: Childs says. “The challenge is it is not serving me; it is serving lots and lots of different people and meeting them where they are at.”

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