Marguerite Brennan is Director of Customer Operations Support at the Irish telecoms giant eir. Over the past few years, Marguerite has spearheaded eir’s CX program and is part of the management team that is leading the company’s insourcing of customer service.

As part of our series on CX visionaries, Marguerite explains the role of CX in eir, the importance of insourcing, and how eir empowers its employees to better serve customers.

On what customer-centricity means at eir

Every single eir employee is responsible for delivering good CX

When I joined eir a few years ago, CX was a little-known discipline and the responsibility of just one small team. Today, it’s the responsibility of everyone across the organisation – and that’s how it has to be if an organisation wants to become a CX leader.

In practice, that means thinking about the customer at every stage of the customer journey, including:

  • What do our customers want?
  • How will a product be used by a customer?
  • What info do we need to share with the customer?
  • How will customers contact us if they need help?
  • What training and support do our teams need to serve our customers?

I remember a saying we had at another company I worked at: “Think of yourself as a customer”. That’s what I’ve brought to eir and what I encourage all of our people to remember.

On setting up a CX program from nothing

You need to focus on CX’s impact on revenue and loyalty – that’s how you win over decision-makers

You need to prove to your decision makers the value of CX and what it brings to the organisation. They may have the misconception that CX is fluffy, or the responsibility of one team.

You need to spend your time building the case for improved CX and embedding it across the organisation, showing its impact on revenue and savings. Showcase how your work makes customers more loyal and more likely to promote your brand to others.

On insourcing in contact centres

Companies that deliver good customer service don’t outsource it

If you want to build customer loyalty and good CX, you need to insource.

We all know the reasons why companies around the world outsource: cost, efficiency, reduced head counts. But giving up control over your contact centre can have a negative effect on CX.

To deliver great CX, you need engaged employees who are loyal to your brand. You need control over how they’re trained, the content they receive, and their career development opportunities. Without that, you run the risk of higher attrition and constant brain drain.

Insourcing is one of eir’s strategic objectives to deliver better customer service to our customer base, and we’re only at the start of this project. Insourcing our contact centers will result in a better experience for eir’s customers in the long term.

On empowering contact centre agents

It’s about having the right tools to fix the customers’ issues

One of the main benefits of insourcing is that we control how agents are onboarded, developed and incentivised to stay.

At eir, our agent induction starts with a deep dive into what eir stands for and its values. It’s all about building up our brand and getting across the importance of the customer within this company. We also give employees a full view of the organisation and how they fit in, as I think that’s crucial in making people feel more than just a cog in a machine, but an integral part of our CX mission.

We put our people through a tough 4-week training programme and monitor performance until we think the agent is ready to take calls on their own. Once they’re full trained, we continue to support our agents through coaching and ensuring they have the right tools to fix customers’ issues first time. This combination of training and ongoing support, mixed with empowering employees to take their own initiative, underpins our drive to continuously improve customer service.

On taking inspiration from other brands

Guinness are a great example of customer, product and brand experience working together

Within Ireland, I really loved the old supermarket brand Superquinn. Their employees were friendly, their stores were laid out brilliantly, and they had some lovely little touches. Like a penny jar at the tills that you could dip into if you were a cent or 2 short.

Outside of Ireland, I think Amex are great – they’re commitment to customers is just incredible.

Guinness is a great example of how brand and product form part of the overall customer experience. They’ve been so effective at creating a whole sense of value around the product and establishing a brand that feels more like a community.

On lessons learned from the USA

With MBNA, it was a given that the customer would stay with us – we didn’t even talk about ‘retention’

American companies win at customer service and were talking about CX long before us in Europe.

My first experience of CX was working with MBNA when they set up offices in Dublin. I loved working for them as their whole raison d’etre was to serve customers.

They had a simple offering: low-rate credit cards. But where they excelled was in the level of customer service. They just didn’t talk about “retention” – retention for them was about building a lasting relationship with the customer, from the time someone purchased the product to each interaction that followed.

My time at MBNA taught me how wrong people are if they think CX is fluffy and there’s no financial benefits. In reality, good CX is absolutely integral to customer loyalty, higher revenues and even staff retention.

On a lifetime of customer-centricity

It can be hard to accept customer feedback – but you need to do it

My parents owned a small shop, and I remember my dad’s commitment to making customers happy – even if it sometimes exasperated him. He’d come home and say that even though it wasn’t always easy to accept customer feedback, you need to take it onboard as it helps to improve your business and your service.

So I’ve been exposed to customer-centricity my whole life and my upbringing definitely informed my career choice.