“We knew they would be ideal bed fellows for us as they were willing, dynamic and hungry for success, both for themselves and our product.”
Adele Shaw, head of member services, giffgaff Ltd.
Definition: Both parties worked together to create and/or improve business processes that helped the buyer develop market-changing products, outpace the competition and meet higher customer service levels, all while producing financial results that positively affected the bottom line.
Giffgaff is a pay-as-you-go mobile telecommunications provider based in the UK. Giffgaff, which runs on the Telefonica 02 network, is unique in that it lets its customers determine new products and offer support through an online forum using a crowdsourcing model. Its motto: “The mobile network run by you.” There is even a giffgaff manifesto.
But there were some functions giffgaff’s members just couldn’t complete. Giffgaff outsourced the high level customer service segment, like payment issues, mobile number transfers and highly complex technical questions.
Giffgaff, which means “mutual giving” in Scottish, chose to outsource because it was a start-up that had ambitions to grow rapidly; it didn’t have time to develop a customer service function from scratch. Giffgaff also needed a partner experienced with delivering customer service via digital platforms like web chat and social media. And it needed a provider with domain experience in the mobile sector.
“As a start-up, giffgaff needed to carve out market share quickly and to distinguish its offering from other service providers,” says Adele Shaw, head of member services. “As we had ambitions to grow fast, we needed an outsource partner that was flexible, proven at service delivery and could add value by using their experience of the telecom sector to help us to understand the customer journey.”
This is nothing new in the start-up world. What is unusual is giffgaff outsourced to Firstsource Solutions in its earliest days. “We decided to engage Firstsource pre-live as we saw the potential in their experience with customer service,” says Shaw. Giffgaff felt comfortable doing this because its executives “were particularly impressed with Firstsource’s work as an outsourcer for our sister company, Telefonica 02;” the giffgaff executive adds. Firstsource handles Telefonica’s contract mobile phone and broadband services.
Together the two partners hammered out the details of creating a new mobile phone provider using an untestedparadigm. They went live in November 2009.
Making the new paradigm work
Today, the two outsourcing partners still work closely together; Shaw has a desk at Firstsource’s center in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. And she’s there a lot!
Thanks to Firstsource, giffgaff provides an innovative customer service model that has resonated in the UK market. Today referrals generate over 20 percent of giffgaff’s new members, creating an enviable 10 percent month-on-month growth rate. (That’s 500 percent growth last year alone.)
Here’s another measure of success: giffgaff has received Net Promoter scores of 67.4 percent. The UK industry average is eight percent. Shaw says its customer satisfaction scores average 76 percent for agent assistance.
Giffgaff executives say the relationship has helped the provider grow both its revenue and customer volume targets ahead of its original forecast.
Why this relationship works
“They have been a huge part of our success,” says Shaw. “They have adapted and grown in line with an ever-evolving product and a unique business model.” She feels their futures “are very much aligned.”
She is impressed with Firstsources’s “sheer force of will.” Even better, “we genuinely like each other.”
“Firstsource executives use their experience as an outsourcer to guide and implement process improvement,” she adds. Examples include analyzing giffgaff’s Web site usage and improving its online FAQ library.
Over the last three years, Shaw says the partners have jointly evolved their corporate culture and developed strong shared values.
Shaw adds Firstsource always goes the extra mile for her. She appreciates “the significant resources” the service provider has allotted to the giffgaff account. For example, Firstsource:
- Conducts weekly training sessions in giffgaff updates. Firstsource’s trainer compiles coaching notes and sends them to giffaff to approve before training commences.
- Creates daily, message-focused “agent buzz sessions.”
- Holds regular mini-conferences with giffgaff stakeholders. One recent example saw giffgaff’s branding team talking Firstsource frontline staff through existing brand positioning and future strategy.
- Hosts quality calibration sessions. Shaw participates to verify Firstsource’s findings mirror giffgaff’s own.
This is how to ring up success.
How could your company use crowdsourcing for its customer service function? When do you think you is the optimal time to employ outsourcing services in the life cycle of a company?