Reaching for better customer service

Openreach has longstanding membership of the Institute through BT Group. Having entered – and won – an award in the National Customer Service Awards for ‘best application of technology’ earlier in 2015, the company had begun to get more involved with Institute activities. And National Customer Service Week (NCSW) seemed like another great initiative to get behind.

Looking after the fibre, copper wires and cables that keep the country connected, Openreach is the guardian of a critical national asset. These days, no one can operate without broadband connectivity and the telecom infrastructure across which digital services run.

Openreach maintains the local access network that covers 30 million customers in the UK.  
Over 500 communications providers rely on the Openreach network to deliver telephone, internet, data and TV services to their customers at home and work.  Openreach engineers make a staggering 185,000 customer visits every week on behalf of communications providers.

As Imran Patel, Director of National Operations and TV at Openreach, explains, providing excellent customer service is central to their mission: “One of the cornerstones of our strategy of Building Britain’s Connected Future is being trusted to deliver and we’re very conscious that we’re delivering a service that people absolutely rely on.  So the service that we offer has to be right every time.”

NCSW – a perfect opportunity

Openreach has long-standing membership of the Institute through BT Group.  Having entered – and won – an award in the National Customer Service Awards for ‘best application of technology’ earlier in 2015, the company had begun to get more involved with Institute activities.  And National Customer Service Week (NCSW) seemed like another great initiative to get behind.

“When we heard about NCSW, it felt like a perfect opportunity to galvanise our staff around our customer service mission,” Imran said.  “We saw it as a way of really getting momentum going, to engage the organisation and create a link for people to understand where we are aiming to get to for our customers.”

Openreach’s 26,000+ engineers are certainly key to its interactions with customers – but it’s not only about engineers.  The company also has around 4,000 staff that provide desk-based customer support in its service centres.

“It would have been easy to focus everything on our engineers, but we wanted to include everyone because the whole team has a huge part to play,” Imran observed.  “Our service centres have significant amounts of contact via phone and email with communications providers, so we wanted to take a really all-encompassing approach.”

Social media at the heart

They decided to make it a truly interactive week, to engage and involve as many people as possible – and put their internal social media channel at the heart of activity, as well as promoting it on their internal radio service, Reach 365.  The company developed a comprehensive plan of activities for the week, building on the templates and suggestions that the Institute provided.

“There was a very helpful newsletter from the Institute both in the run-up to the week and during it,” Imran said.  “They provided access to case studies of what other organisations had done previously.  We spoke to our relationship manager to get feedback and help shape our approach.”

The result was a very busy week with a different focus each day, all promoted via social media and other channels:


Monday – a launchpad for the week, highlighting some of the key themes ahead and including a Know Your Customer focus – asking employees to share examples of how they had prepared for customer visits

Tuesday – with a theme of Dealing with Complaints, the focus was a positive one on what staff had learned, seeking examples of how they had turned complaints around and sharing these via their social media platform

Wednesday – centered on Return on Investment, the emphasis being on new technology Openreach had invested in such as “View my Engineer” which delivers text notifications to customers to let them know when the engineer will visit, asking for ways in which it had improved customer service – as well as being an opportunity to promote the ‘Your Voice’ campaign in which engineers could suggest how technology could be developed in terms of new apps and functionality

Thursday – focused on Teamwork, building employee engagement by asking people to recognise their colleagues around projects and also undertake ‘job swaps’ to understand what their colleagues do

Friday – recognition day, in which a series of spot prizes were announced by senior management in a kind of ‘drum beat’ throughout the day for those who had gone ‘above and beyond’ service.

An uplift in satisfaction

Gratifyingly, there was an increase in engineer satisfaction results by 1.1% once the week was finished.  This small percentage increase in fact translates to significant numbers of people when you consider Openreach’s 185,000 customer site visits a week.  “There’s no doubt that NCSW created a real headwind around customer service and has genuinely boosted employee engagement.”

“It’s definitely helped us to win hearts and minds and strengthen a customer-first ethos where people go the extra mile for the customer.  

Looking to the future

Such was the success of NCSW, Imran is in no doubt about next year.  “We’ll definitely take part again in 2016,” he said.  “Indeed, we are planning to speak to our communications provider customers about it with a view to maybe getting them involved.  It’s had great results for us this year, so we want to take it even further next time!”