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Singtel innovating to meet changing customer needs

"We recognised early that a growing number of customers prefer the convenience and immediacy of self-service and online channels, which is why we have deepened our digital engagement efforts via My Singtel app, live webchat and social media channels." - Candy Chua, Singtel's vice-president of consumer operations

AS Singapore's leading infocomm provider, Singtel is committed to continuous innovation and service improvements to meet the evolving needs of its customers in today's digital world. This is because the way consumers make their buying decisions and choose to engage with the telco has changed along with their communication and media consumption habits.

"We are reframing our business with data-centric plans and services and quality content that give our customers more choices, better value as well as affordability. Our customers are using more data and because it is meaningful, we give our post-paid customers an additional free one GB of data on their birthday month," says Candy Chua, Singtel's vice-president of consumer operations who participated in a panel discussion at the release of the CSISG's first-quarter scores.

Commenting on Singtel's scores, Ms Chua says: "Our philosophy has always been to put customers at the heart of everything we do. Customers expect good, knowledgeable service and it is our commitment to deliver on this. We are very pleased with our performance this quarter. It reflects the hard work we have put in to enhance our customer service, networks and products and services over last year. We will continue to focus on service training as well as product and service innovations to deliver great experiences for our customers."

Singtel continues to make investments in a future ready network to improve connectivity and coverage. It also invests in the latest technology to enhance the customer service it delivers through all its channels, from the retail shops to the digital platforms and self-help options.

The company has also adopted an omni-channel customer service approach. "We offer our customers many options to get in touch with us. We recognised early that a growing number of them prefer the convenience and immediacy of self-service and online channels, which is why we have deepened our digital engagement efforts via My Singtel app, live webchat and social media channels," says Ms Chua.

It has also introduced interactive digital elements and visual communication tools across the Singtel shops to engage customers. This concept has helped to enhance customer satisfaction and sales while reducing average handling and waiting time, resulting in a 7 per cent improvement in process as well as productivity.

"We have developed an effective omni-channel strategy by integrating technology into the customer experience journey and system design," says Ms Chua. "For example, our virtual agent 'Shirley' is designed to answer simple and commonly asked questions. When a customer asks more complex questions, the system can automatically channel the conversation to a live chat where a customer care officer is able to take over seamlessly to serve the customer better."

As for the hiring of staff and their training, Singtel has a robust talent management programme to attract and develop a strong talent pool for its ICT (information and communications technology), retail and contact centres.

It partners the polytechnics through its Engineering and Customer Experience Cadet Schemes which offer internship opportunities to students during their course, employment after graduation and continual tertiary education.

Says Ms Chua: "With digitisation and the transformation in the way customers interact with us, it is also important that we invest in cross-training programmes for our employees, in addition to customer service training. These cover areas from mobile enquiries to billing and general enquiries to technical helpdesk, with the purpose of raising the tech-savviness of our employees and developing them into subject matter experts so that we provide better service for customers."

At the same time attention is paid to staff retention. "We have a strong focus on training and development, employee engagement as well as rewards and recognition to retain employees. Close to 20 per cent of our consumer operations staff have been with us for more than 10 years," Ms Chua notes.

"We provide extensive training for service staff at all levels such as regular product, service and technology refreshers and various levels of soft skills training on customer service.

"Mobility within the organisation is also key to retention and talent development. For example, we encourage job rotations where employees in customer-fronting roles can move to other functions such as service quality assurance, learning and development, project management and data analytics," she adds.

Service is an integral part of Singtel's organisational culture. Every employee is a brand ambassador, whether they be in the front line or behind the scenes - they all work together to create positive experiences for customers every day.

Says Ms Chua: "We focus on training all employees to cultivate a strong service orientation so that this mindset permeates the entire organisation. That way, we can deliver a great customer experience at every point, from pre-purchase to post-sales whether over the counter, phone or social media. No matter how long a customer encounter lasts, we see each one as an opportunity to form a long-lasting relationship with a customer."

During the launch of the iPhone 6s last year, Singtel arranged screenings of family movies and popcorn and candy floss giveaways for customers so that they could have an enjoyable experience while waiting for their phones.

"To reinforce our service culture and promote service excellence among our employees, we have activities such as annual celebrations to recognise the contributions of our contact centre officers," Ms Chua adds.