Vincent Potier Q&A Part I: Humanisation, not Personalisation, is Key

We produced the following interview in preparation for our upcoming eTail Europe event, being held in London, hence the (very) authentic use of “s’s” in place of “z’s,” in case you were wondering. But that’s really not the point – the point is that Vincent has some super interesting things to say about the online experience and how we should look more toward making it emulate an in-person experience. Enjoy!

For the past few years, one of the buzzwords of multi-channel retail has been “personalisation.” Vincent Potier, Managing Director at Vonage UK, says we really should be talking about “humanisation” instead. According to Potier, people want a more human experience when interacting with their favorite brands digitally. That’s why Vonage was one of the first companies to launch a chat function on its website and also one of the only British Telcos to offer free customer support.

Vincent Potier

Kelly: No matter where and to whom you’re selling products, these days a customer experience strategy is a must. And no, we don’t mean customer service, we mean customer experience. There’s a difference. In a world where multi-channel retail prevails, it’s important to keep your customer front of mind when planning and implementing any and all sales and marketing strategies. Welcome listeners to WBR Radio and our eTail podcast. I’m Kelly Hushin, Editor of the eTail Blog. I’m here today to talk with Vincent Potier, the Managing Director for Vonage, UK. He is on the advisory board and will be speaking at the eTail Europe conference, taking place this June in London. Welcome Vincent.

Vincent: Thank you very much for having me.

Kelly: Thank you for being here. Vincent, I want to start by asking you, what’s the difference between customer service and customer experience?

Vincent: It’s very different, actually. I would say that customer service is one part of the overall customer experience. I mean customer experience is obviously something of a newer concept than customer service, and stems from the fact that the classical role of the customer, which used to be limited to, there is a seller and then the customer is someone you want to get the attention of, and sell something to – basically, it has changed. And basically the customer is now at the center of everything.

The customer not only buys but influences other customers, other non-customers, but also influences the company which supplies the certain service to him. And what we try to do is to have as coherent and synergistic a customer experience as possible. So we would make sure to have a user journey on the website because the website is obviously essential for us, but we will make sure that the experience on the website is in a way, in the best way possible, replicated in the voice channel we have such as our call center.

We make sure that the experience you have when you are calling and you’re a prospect and you’re inquiring about a cell, that experience is actually as good as when you are a customer, you are actually calling to get info. And so that’s really the idea that all the elements of the overall relationship between the customer and the services provider has to be integrated and has to be positive.

Kelly: Great. And that’s where my next question was going, which is to have you break down the cross channel customer experience strategy at Vonage. How important is it to the company and how are you approaching the idea? And what resources have you allocated toward it or are you still getting those processes under way?

Vincent: I’ll talk about Vonage – about Vonage UK and all the work we do in the United Kingdom. Number one, we don’t have some kind of Chief Customer advocate. It’s something which we have thought about having but we feel because of the size of Vonage here in the UK, where it’s not a huge company, it’s a midsize Telco in the UK, and we consider that everyone, every single person in this organisation here in London should be a customer advocate and should think with a customer in mind. So rather than trying to balance each other’s perspective and angle and way of looking at things with a customer advocate – we have as many employees as we do have customer advocates.

In addition, one of my tasks in my personal self-written definition of managing director, is being the chief customer advocate, call it the CCA if you want. And I have to relook at the experience all the time. Whether we run advertising, whether we are looking and evaluating our call centers, whether I’m using the product for myself, whether I’m testing new products. I try to spend time each day listening to customer calls, looking at customer feedback on the web, reusing the journey always, always and never, never forget what a customer might feel when he’s exposed to Vonage.

Kelly: How can a company like yours then get its CRM and analytics to work cross channel and do what you’re talking about but in a more analytical sense, giving digestible info to your employees to work with, and hence implement new strategies from there?

Vincent: Wow, that’s a very good question but not one which is very easy to answer. I can’t go into the detail of all the analytics tools we have and we’ve got quite a few here. But let’s say that we really look at spreadsheets every morning. So that’s one of the things we start with. We look on a daily basis, at ourselves, at the number of customers who have complained, the number of customers who have left the company, the daily churn rate. We look obviously at the new customers. And we also look at all of the key analytics for each of the channels, mainly the online channel and the sales channel. And it is sufficiently well integrated within the UK company – as because we all come from the world of telecoms – so we can benchmark it towards our goals and towards what we think is standard numbers within the telecoms industry.

So it’s not that complicated once the systems are in place really. Then the key is to use the systems, and to have the discipline to look at it, know your numbers and confirm with data and with analytics all the intuitions you have and which have been derived from your constant exposure to the different communication channels, and the different channels of the company. So basically you get your intuitions from thinking like, and behaving like the customer, you confirm those intuitions and you get a more macro view through the different analytics tools which are all integrated around a few bases.

Stay tuned for Part II next week!