Tony Sceales Tony Sceales Head of Programme Development - 5G Programme - Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - UK Government

Featured Blogs

Partnering for holistic customer experience orchestration

  • I wanted to share with you a real-life tale of customer experience gone sadly awry.  The point of the story is that when you partner to deliver a service, the ownership of the customer journey can easily get fragmented and reflect badly on all parties, but also that the Digital Economy both highlights and provides opportunities to overcome such challenges.

    Holistic Customer Experience Tony ScealesAfter four years my BT Youview set top box was beginning to show its age.  Not surprising really, most consumer electronics have a useful life rather less than that - mobile phones, laptops are often upgraded every couple of years.

    So when the box started to take 10-15 minutes to start up, freezing regularly and not responding to the remote I consulted my best friend – Google.  I followed the directions on the BT site on how to reset the box (losing all my recorded content on the way), but saw zero improvement. 

    Then I searched a bit wider and found a load of forum content confirming that I was far from alone in my pain - but that there were rumours that BT would upgrade the box for a modest sum.

    Great - all I have to do now is phone BT customer services and ask for the upgrade, right?  Well, after being passed between 5 different customer and tech service reps and over an hour on the line, I finally found a brilliant lady who not only ordered the new box, but also reviewed and lowered my monthly tariff.  It shouldn't have taken so long or been so hard to find Mrs Wonderful, but we’ll come back to that.

    BT then sent me a set of promising texts welcoming me to my new service and forecasting the arrival of the box on the following Monday.  Yes, sometime between 8am and 6pm on Monday - I just have to be there all day as the box is valuable and must be signed for at the account address.  Hmmm - okay, I make arrangements for the house to be manned throughout the day and wait.

    Fast forward to 4:30 pm Monday afternoon and no sign of a delivery or message, so I decide to check the BT website for progress.  It has a comforting message telling me that my order is complete, which is odd as I haven’t got the box yet.  I then notice there is a symbol underneath the ‘order complete’ message which I duly click and discover that there is more information from Parcelforce, BT’s delivery partner.  Under this there is a further message telling me the delivery could not be made due to a problem with the address, but that I can contact Parcelforce to discuss re-delivery.

    Super – I now have a new hobby – calling Parcelforce.  After a few more calls to various Parcelforce staff (all helpful and polite) it turns out that the address on the parcel is perfectly transcribed, hasn’t been torn off or sent to another customer.  I’ve been at this address for 5 years, and no-one has ever failed to find it using a map or a sat-nav system.  Turns out the Parcelforce drive is not blessed with such technology, nor can he apparently read a map.

    In exasperation I decided to go to the Parcelforce office to collect the box, which I self-installed and the family TV viewing is now thankfully restored.

    Let’s wind back – how could this have been a better customer experience?

    • BT could be monitoring the performance of their Youview set-top-boxes as they age, and (like the mobile operators) design a pro-active upgrade programme to ensure customers don’t have to live with the truly dreadful service I got to see. I assume someone in BT is aware they have a challenge with aging set-top-boxes – it’s all over the web forums.  Both of these matters are significant data points a digital business should be on top of.
    • I’m a 30+ year customer, former employee and shareholder of BT, I’m lucky to have two properties both served by BT, as well as having bought a lot of business services from BT over the years. I’m not asking for (very) special treatment, but I was quite underwhelmed by the response from 4 out of 5 service agents I dealt with in this process.  Only the last one seemed to understand that keeping my business was worth a bit of effort.  It is common knowledge that the cost of customer acquisition is very high compared with retaining existing ones, and especially customers like me who have fixed line, broadband and TV services.
    • BT is my supplier – I don’t have a relationship with Parcelforce, and nor do I want one. BT’s order status should not say it is complete until their partner has actually delivered their part of the service.  Moreover BT should take responsibility for ensuring their partner delivers – that should not be the customer’s job. 

    I understand that BT is serving tens of millions and customers, and I'm sure that that for the most part their customers are content with the service they get.  Complexity comes with scale when serving mass markets, but the standard expected by customers is raising all the time, driven by digitally native businesses like Amazon, Google and Apple.   

    The good news is that the Digital Economy is now also demanding a new generation of smart technology products designed to address these challenges. I can tell you about the products that are combining open master data about Products and Services, Customers with fast transaction handling and advanced analytics to enable real-time predictive, context-sensitive decisions that would solve all of the issues highlighted above, delivering a fully orchestrated flow of high-quality customer experiences to maximise lifetime value from the relationship. Come on BT - it'd be good to talk!

    Tony Sceales
    About Tony Sceales Tony Sceales works as Head of Programme Development - 5G Programme at Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - UK Government
    More information :