I spoke with Gaurav Gupta, Senior Media Manager, Omnichannel, Circles.Life during the recent Adobe Symposium in Singapore.
Adobe clearly anchored the event on Customer Experience, its importance and the value for the contemporary business that could be had from focusing in the CX area. I was keen to understand how Circles.Life are addressing this as Singapore’s newest and first purely online Telco.
Circles.Life is a digital telecommunications operator, launched in Singapore in May 2016. Circles.Life offers post-paid mobile services to customers. Circles.Life is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that purchases bandwidth from M1.
Online versus the traditional retail model
Gaurav was asked how he and his colleagues manage and operate a business in addition to connecting and engaging with the customer when the business is essentially all online and they’re missing the retail presences associated with their competitors.
He acknowledged that it could be challenging particularly given the tradition and legacy of the customer-facing side of telcos that have been exclusively founded on bricks and mortar propositions. Gaurav started by reminding us of a basic premise; that people are generally most comfortable when in their own homes; and they have no qualms engaging with the whole brand journey on their phones or laptops. “Our business,” he said, “is in tune with that – it’s in tandem with our customers. With this premise, the argument for no retail presence becomes irrelevant – we need to be where our customers are – where they are most comfortable.”
He went on however, to acknowledge that Circles.Life do organise on-ground roadshows and other events. “This is to give people a sense of tangibility – a face – to assure them there is someone there to take feedback and listen to them. We don’t see this as a challenge. It’s more of a challenge for the traditional retail businesses and their burning a hole in their pocket keeping the retail stores alive. I can’t foretell the future, he said – we will never have stores? I can’t say that. What we have now is what we find works well for our users.”
The role of offline
We wanted to get deeper into this point and further understand the online/offline mix given that it’s clearly not a case of one size fits all and there appear to be important plays for offline despite some popular tech-culture saying otherwise. There were two good reasons for asking this. The first is that the Circles.Life brand’s first big awareness push came with a huge adverting presence on buses. The second one is your correspondent’s own personal Circles.Life brand experience, which pretty much on-time, with very prompt physical delivery of a replacement SIM card when it was really needed.
Gaurav’s answer sounded both pragmatic and honest. He acknowledged that right from the beginning they understood that pure-play online was not enough to build the business and deliver the vision of a customer experience that they wanted. And, perhaps ironically, it is technology that helps them understand the importance of offline initiatives and helps them to come out of the comfort zone of the pure online arena and extend their efforts to offline channels. He cited new DSP technology as an example that helps them buy offline media and understand its effectiveness. In the first few months, he said, they realised that whilst they were an online business they could not be limited to digital channels. With the amplification we wanted we needed the support of other channels. We started with what we wanted to achieve – we had a plan and continued to measure against this. This, he said, keeps us agonistic and unbiased.
Digitally transforming the telco sector
We suggested to Gaurav, that whilst not necessarily being a business that has Digitally Transformed, they actually have transformed an industry. We then wanted to know what kind of people were needed and what kind of culture needed to be in place, to ensure Circles.Life embarked on that journey.
One of the pillars, he said, was to create the best place to work. Not the best pantry, or the best chairs or laptops but a place where the employees care for each other. To facilitate this, he said, we have a multi layered feedback system. We have one KPI established which is to get 100% feedback on the pulse check – the fundamental question for each and every employee being; are you happy? This is further complimented by a formal mentorship programme and weekly town halls where a frank exchange of feelings are welcomed.
Additionally, added Gaurav, our zeal and urge to give back to the customer is very important – we all think ‘customer first’ every time.
Customer first. And employees too
It’s clear speaking with Gaurav that Customer Experience, customer-centricity and all related terms and expressions run at the heart of the Circles.Life business and don’t simply exist as a vague notion in one part of the organisation or on a website as part of a mission statement. With Circles.Life it is a mindset first and foremost that subsequently is enabled by, and optimised with technology. It’s not something that comes in the box together with the tech stuff.
Coupled with the customer experience driven mindset, it’s no surprise to hear that employee happiness is also key to the business. The needs of customers evolve and change – indeed Gaurav talked of anticipating them before their customers even know they have them – and this necessitates an agile organisation. In this kind of thinking agility would rely on a culture where the happiness of employees is a core indicator of the health of that culture.
Whilst most business leaders are on board with the opportunity technology offers, it remains perhaps less well understood and accepted that the technology needs informing and directing by a deep understanding of customers. And that’s best done by employees who are happy.
And it’s interesting to learn that the customer-centric approach gives Cirles.Life and other similar businesses an advantage that’s perhaps a little hard to see at first. It gives the customer the final say, the veto if you like, and in some very simple and elegant way, takes decision making and direction setting away from internal processes and meetings.
I am your customer – is what you’re thinking of doing right for me?
Editor: Carl Griffith