Beyond the call of duty

21st Mar 2016

According to Tom Scott, the military world and the world of customer service are not light-years apart. 

In an illuminating interview with Customer Focus magazine, the Sky UK customer service director has revealed how remarkably similar his current role is to his previous job as a lieutenant colonel.  

Today, Scott is in charge of 7,500-strong team of ‘customer-obsessed’ staff at Sky, but for 18 years he served in the Royal Engineers. “You’d be surprised how similar corporate life is to life in the military as an army officer,” he says “It’s people, it’s politics, it’s trying to hit targets. You’ve got to pitch for your budget and you’ve got to deliver whatever the required outcome is as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

“The army is the ultimate in leadership organisations that rely entirely on their front-line staff. I run a large operation now and it is exactly the same thing: you are nothing without the quality of your people. As a leader and manager you only exist to try to make their lives easier, make their job as easy as possible. It’s remarkably similar.” 

Scott completed operational tours in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Iraq. The British Army’s slogan was ‘be the best’ and it’s a mantra that certainly seems to continue to drive Scott in his corporate life. 

“We want to offer the best service in the country – irrespective of sector – and we won’t rest until we do that,” he says. Fundamentally, I want people to ask, who provides great customer service? And immediately think of Sky – irrespective of them being a Sky customer or not.” 

Scott’s ambition already seems to be bearing fruit. Sky’s Net Promoter Scores have risen 40 points in the last two years. 

However, far from using the discipline-heavy military approach to staff management that is more stick than carrot, Scott admits he has little time for conventional cost-related call centre measures, saying that ‘obsessing’ about how long someone is on the phone is the wrong method. 

Instead, he prefers to ensure that his staff are well-trained, happy and knowledgeable, believing that statistics don’t drive customer satisfaction scores. “It’s not about that,” he says. “It’s all about the people.” 

Click here to read the full interview. 

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