Five questions for… Keri Gilder, Chief Commercial Officer, Colt Technology Services. Can Connectivity be linked to Customer Experience?

Customer experience, or CX, is one of those areas that makes you wonder why it’s being discussed: after all, which organisation would go out of it way to say that customers were not a priority? Nonetheless, talking about customers can be very different to actually improving how they interact with the business, not least because the link between theory and technical practicality will not always be evident.

In the case of connectivity, the task is even harder. In principle there should be a connection – if you (as a customer) can’t connect to the service you need, or if it is slow or unresponsive, your experience will be less good. In practice however, connectivity is often seen as low-level infrastructure, with little value to add beyond linking things up.

These challenges made our research on the link between connectivity and CX, conducted in partnership with Colt, all the more fascinating. The top-line finding was that organizations did see a link, and furthermore, were actively looking for ways to improve CX via connectivity. Following the research, I sat down with Keri Gilder, Chief Commercial Officer, Colt Technology Services, to find out what she thought of the findings, and what the provider was doing in response.

  1. From the perspective of a connectivity provider, how are you framing the increasing attention on customer experience? How is it impacting both your wholesale and enterprise customers, and what do you think is behind this?

Customers in all sectors are demanding much more from their providers – the consumerisation of IT isn’t a new trend but it’s still highly relevant. People look at the flexibility and service they get from consumer facing companies and are asking why that doesn’t apply to their B2B suppliers. Many telco companies have been slow to adapt to these demands, so the result is that connectivity can be treated as a commodity rather than a differentiator.

Our customers are dealing with massive change, from the growth in cloud applications and the changing structure of the workplace, to security challenges and the constant state of digital transformation. This means the network becomes even more critical for those with a focus on delivering the best experience to customers.

When customers are dealing with these challenges it’s not good enough to sit back and wait for them to tell us what they need – we need to work together to help shape requirements, acting as advisors instead of just a supplier.

  1. In the report, we saw a number of challenges getting in the way of improving CX delivery, not least how difficult it is to draw a clear picture of what customer experience actually means. How is this manifesting itself in the organisations you speak to?

A ‘good’ customer experience can mean different things to different people and sectors, so it’s not a surprise to see people struggling to identify the best course of action. To some degree it’s the obvious things that people expect – delivering quickly and on time, while ensuring they have access to the information they need.

But for suppliers it’s also about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes; what challenges are they facing and what are their customers demanding of them? From there it’s easier to see how to make a difference to their business and, in turn, how you can improve their experience of working with you.

  1. A fascinating and repeated finding was that enterprises want connectivity that ‘just works’ from the outset, whether or not it has more advanced capabilities such as flexibility over time. How does this map onto what your customers are asking for?

Our customers have always expected connectivity that just works – the challenge we’re seeing now is that it’s much harder to predict network demand for the coming years or even months. CIOs are having to manage capacity requirements for applications or activities that might not even be on their radar and that’s driving a need for flexibility. This shows how connectivity can directly impact customer experience goals – if the network can’t manage these new services or if it doesn’t have the ability to quickly add new locations or services then it’ll be seen as a barrier, rather than a platform for innovation.

  1. Also interesting was the low level of importance assigned to Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Is it that such metrics have had their time, or how else would you explain this? [Probably that NPS is an aggregated view, of the consequences of other metrics]

We closely track our NPS score – it’s an excellent way for us to measure ourselves as it covers so many aspects of what we provide to customers. But we know it isn’t and shouldn’t be the only measure of good customer experience. It’s the other factors identified in the research like delivering on time and how you respond if something goes wrong.

If you don’t deliver on promises, meet expectations or go above and beyond to keep the customer happy then you won’t score highly. I don’t think it was a surprise to see that people don’t use NPS as a way to measure their suppliers, but if suppliers are getting everything else right, then their NPS score will naturally improve.

  1. Respondents told us that the most important way to improve the link between connectivity and CX, was to get their own houses in order, improving skills sets and operational processes. How is Colt as an organisation helping its customers achieve this goal?

We’ve always been focussed on customer experience, and our vision is to be known as the most customer-oriented businesses in the industry. This means that we need to do much more than providing connectivity to our customers. Whether that’s Enterprise, Capital Markets or Wholesale, it’s about working in partnership with our customers to find out what their goals are and then collaborating to show how we can help achieve them.

A crucial part of achieving this comes from listening to our customers and taking the time to understand the challenges they’re facing; one way in which we do this is through Innovation Workshops. These take part in the early stages of an engagement, bringing together multiple stakeholders with Colt experts to fully understand the broader business problems and how we can use technology to solve them. This means we’re providing more than just technology – we’re helping customers with their business objectives.

The other aspect is in leading from the front – everyone at Colt has a performance objective relating to customer experience. We also have several internal programs running which don’t just superficially look at customer experience but are seeing the business invest in new tools and create new processes to ensure we’re going above and beyond what people expect from a connectivity supplier.