We get a large number of complaints about TalkTalk’s customer services and tech support. Are there any plans to improve the service, or bring it back to the UK?
Since November 2008 we have run a major ‘Customer Experience’ programme. As part of it we went back to basics, with the TalkTalk execs taking a leading role: we each had three ‘buddies’ (customers) assigned to us – so if they had any problems they would call me and my peers in the management team. This forced the whole organisation to go back to basics and understand what really happens in day-to-day customer life. We had two-tiered broadband support. Not only was it not good for customers, but also we had to take two calls and the handover was not always smooth because they were not always in the same location. We have now redefined, by location, the scope of the support – it now flows much better, following an easier connection path depending on the severity of the issue: you can go fairly quickly down the path.
So there is no chance of moving your call centres back to the UK?
There is clearly a cost benefit for us as a company not to, but there is more to it than that. We have changed our thinking since we started this programme. However, if this doesn’t work, I don’t think we will have a problem moving it back to the UK. We also have some broadband support in the UK, as well as advanced tech support.
We are still seeing some complaints from customers being oversold TalkTalk products, such as confusion over broadband line speeds.
Yes, we have seen some of this, but generally we are very good. We are now in the good books with Ofcom in terms of compliance with its principles. Previously we had experienced some misselling issues, partly with our field agents who go to door to door, but this is now very much under control.
We have also had some complaints regarding supply issues of new broadband and telephone lines.
We have had some hardware supply issues recently, but they are just the consequence of a bigger issue that we are dealing with.
We are implementing a solution that will arrive shortly after Christmas, which will do the normal broadband provision in a week.
Do you have any positive news for your new Tiscali customers?
We have started to talk to our Tiscali customers, welcoming them to the TalkTalk Group. We have started to tell them they will become TalkTalk customers in the near future: we only wanted to do this when we had some good news for them. We didn’t just want to repaint the brand, but show them some benefit of becoming a TalkTalk customer.
When we re-brand we will ensure that all TalkTalk customers – regardless of which brand they originally came from – have transparent pricing. This will happen in Q1 2010.
How has your new service, TalkTalk Pro, gone so far?
It is going very well. In the first few weeks were ahead of our expectations. It is helping to create a halo effect around the brand, offering a quality all-inclusive product and moving us further from simply being a budget brand to being a ‘quality and value’ brand.
Is there anything else new in the pipeline?
Next, we want to do more clever things with our next generation network – all the things BT claimed it wanted to do with 20Mb, but the 20Mb roll-out has been delayed. We have invested a lot of money in this: we now have three million customers on our unbundled network and want to give more convenience to them.
We will continue to improve our credentials around broadband performance and quality, as well as making improvements in voice convenience and value. We believe we can help our customers have a more secure broadband experience, so we are developing in this space
Any comment on Tesco re-entering the fixed-line broadband market?
Tesco is very interesting. We generally welcome competition, as we are a pretty aggressive company and we are confident about the quality and value of our products. We also think we are in a good position because we have the largest unbundled network: we have a good position, we’re not scared, but it’s fair to say we’ll be watching closely and will be careful, as Tesco plays very much in the same area, of value.
This is an abridged version of the interview with Sylvain Thevenot, senior director of products and strategy, TalkTalk. The full interview can be found at http://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/articles/interview-with-sylvain-thevenot-talktalk.