Alaska Communications recently sold off its wireless business allowing them to sharpen its focus on broadband and IT. The company’s focus on IT solutions, data networking, Internet connectivity, and voice communications for Alaska businesses and consumers means that it now exists in a market with few players.
In such a tête-à-tête marketplace, customer experience is an essential part of how Alaska Communications wins and keeps customers. Recently, we sat down with their NPS® program manager, Nicholas Wagner, to learn more about how Alaska Communications turns theory into practice.
Can you explain why you started with NPS?
We interact with customers every day, but couldn’t measure how effective our conversations were.
For a number of years, we had been doing NPS on a smaller scale. We were conducting relational surveys and transactional surveys in our wireless space. However, we came to realize we weren’t getting the whole picture. We interact with customers every day, but couldn’t measure how effective our conversations were.
When I started in 2014, my mission was to expand our transactional NPS program. We chose CustomerGauge because it would be easy for our customers to use, and easy for us to receive and use their data. Our consumer and business customers can take an online survey that we set up through a web-facing portal. And later, we can also access the data in Salesforce.
My goal was and still is, to survey 100% of transactions. This will give Alaska Communications insight into the entire purchasing lifecycle of our customers.
What has been the impact of rolling out company-wide transactional surveys?
It has sparked change throughout the company, and that really shifted when we put the responsibility of feedback on individual leaders. I manage this program by acting as a liaison between leaders and the data they need. I can point to our data and show them which strategies and practices they use that are positively or negatively impacting our customers’ experience.
Changes like this, driven by CustomerGauge data, have yielded a 30 point increase in the Contact Center’s Net Promoter Score.
One great success story comes from our Contact Center, where the data showed that our customers didn’t know if we resolved the problems they called in with. Armed with this knowledge, the Contact Center began following up with each customer who submitted a trouble ticket. Doing this allowed them to close the loop and get more feedback from the customer. Changes like this, driven by CustomerGauge data, have yielded a 30-point increase in the Contact Center’s Net Promoter Score.
So, do you have a Net Promoter Score for each department?
Correct. We measure the customer experience for our Contact Center, field operations, service delivery, business sales team, and more. While we do track an overall company NPS, we created separate department scores because they reflect different customer experiences. The Contact Center experience can be less personable than a B2B relationship, so the scores are different between segments.
Is that why you do both relational and transactional?
Yes, in our industry we need both, as we see different types of customer feedback from our relational to transactional surveys.
Transactional feedback is typically about the installation going well or the technician being knowledgeable. While relational surveys help us understand more about market perceptions and how our customers perceive Alaska Communications as a brand. It’s important to evaluate both transactional and relational surveys to understand the entire picture of our customer’s experience.
How do you respond to feedback?
For transactional NPS, each department follows up with its detractors and customers who request a follow-up. We use this localized approach because Alaska is a small market, and at Alaska Communications we don’t just excel at customer service, but local customer service. It’s important to us that customers who are detractors or request follow-up speak to their local technician or supervisor quickly after completing their survey. It shows our customers we listen to their comments and incorporate their feedback.
How do you ensure a consistent experience across departments?
One way we are enhancing cooperation between departments is implementing a weekly get together of department leaders. This allows us to look at our total customer experience picture and facilitate discussions of how we can work together. We focus on doing what is right for the customer first, and what will drive the NPS score second.
How have employees reacted to NPS?
The great thing about NPS and the CustomerGauge tool is that it simply and quickly tells us where we need improvement and what we’re doing really well. Being able to convey both is important for our people.
We created our own digital signage using data from CustomerGauge on our intranet homepage and on screens throughout our Anchorage headquarters. The idea is that everyone in the company ultimately impacts the customer experience, frontline-facing or not, and should have access to customer comments. At first, some employees didn’t want to see the detractor comments. Now, many employees see the benefits of NPS and ask me how they can reach out to detractors and improve their experience with our company.
So where do you stand today?
We receive 400 to 500 transactional NPS responses per month or roughly 15 responses per day. Employees across our company, from the frontline to senior management, are now focused on NPS and Customer Experience.
Based on this experience, I encourage other businesses to measure their customer’s experience. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to measure the unknown, for this is where the biggest opportunities to improve can be found.
Nick Wagner has been focusing on the Net Promoter Score with Alaska Communications since February of 2014 and has been focusing on customer experience research since 2012. He currently holds an MBA from Niagara University and a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio Wesleyan University.
Watch our short video series below to learn more about how NPS has helped companies create a better customer experience that keeps customers longer.