I follow customer feedback practically in realtime

Text: Aline Yazgi | Photos: Markus Bertschi | Magazine: Customer focus – January 2019

Françoise Clemes explains how Sunrise has significantly improved customer satisfaction. The Chief Customer Services Officer of Switzerland’s second-largest telecommunications provider promulgates a proactive, customer-focused approach.

Françoise Clemes is passionate about customer relations. Sunrise’s Chief Customer Services Officer (CSO) isn’t satisfied with quality alone – she strives for excellence. Just like Roger Federer, who has been Sunrise’s brand ambassador since 2014.

“Before you speak, ask yourself whether what you want to say is more beautiful than silence.”

When asked about the fact that this private telecommunications provider won the Swiss Digital Transformation Award 2017, Françoise Clemes puts it into perspective: “This award was naturally a tremendous honour for us, but it doesn’t mean the culmination of our efforts, rather just the beginning. We were trailblazers in this area, a transition that’s of great importance to our customers. Since then, though, Sunrise has achieved much more. Our digital approach has become highly refined.”

In other words, the Sunrise teams are now increasingly focused on the mishaps, which they analyse and correct to ensure that they don’t recur.

Speed and pragmatism

Specifically, the CSO advocates a transversal, interdisciplinary approach. “It’s not the digital team that takes the lead; rather, the entire company is devoted to solving customer issues. This allows us to make changes practically in real time. We can act quickly and pragmatically, because we experience the customer’s problem first-hand.”

The speed of response is enormously important because customers want immediate answers to their questions. “Electronic devices are now a central part of people’s everyday life. If you’re offline for more than two hours, you start to panic,” she says 
with a laugh, admitting that for her it doesn’t even take two hours.

The lesson from all this: as products become more complex, service needs to become ever faster yet. The know-how of the teams therefore had to be significantly improved, something which is now happening through practically constant supplementary training. “Although our profession has become very technical, customer service may never be technocratic,” the CSO is convinced.

The voice of our customers

From an organisational point of view, this approach has led to a certain coalescence of the executive suite and the front. Every two weeks, a discussion forum is held where the customer advisors can state their opinion on what works well and what has caused problems. “And each week, we on the Management Board review these points. Our consultants are the voice 
of our customers. They’re the ones who draw up the roadmap.”

Outside of these meetings, all eyes and ears are focused on the frontlines also in everyday business. “I follow customer feedback practically in real time. We’re firmly anchored in reality, and that’s what steers our strategy.”

The company’s employees today have greater competencies and more freedom to act. Sunrise wants to ensure that each advisor can handle 99 per cent of the cases in order to avoid escalation, i.e. “customers being forwarded to several other contact persons before they get an answer to what they’re actually calling about”. To that end, “our people receive regular training and have constant access to updates, all of which greatly increases their motivation”.

Competence, commitment and quality: these are the keywords of customer service à la Françoise Clemes. On top of that is passion. “The advisors have to be passionate about their work because this energy is perceived by the customer, and it’s contagious.” Whatever the case, Françoise Clemes’ passion is definitely there!

For Françoise Clemes, telecommunications is certainly no book with seven seals. The trained psychologist (Master in Experimental Psychology and Human Engineering from the University of Paris Descartes) has been involved in the telecom industry since 1992. Before taking over as Head of Customer Services at Sunrise in June 2016, she worked in London for mobile operator EE (a BT subsidiary) as Chief Customer Services Officer and in Paris for Orange France Telecom Group, where she was Vice President HR Europe. A French citizen, she is the mother of two daughters.

You worked abroad for a long time. To what extent do your Swiss customers differ from those in other countries?

Swiss customers have significantly higher quality expectations. But by the way, in Switzerland there’s a unique commonality, something that people here are not always aware of. Contrary to what might be occasionally whispered about the staid Swiss, the market is very open to innovation, and consumers like to try something new.

How is Sunrise adapting to Customer(s) 4.0?

Every week, we look at the feedback and carefully check everything that’s not positive. We’ve implemented new digital processes that are very successful. And this only because we really and truly have listened to our customers.

“The Swiss customer loves innovations.”

In today’s digital world, the customer experience is of paramount importance. What are the most important issues for you as a customer service manager?

When our customer service department receives a call or a message, it means there’s a problem. So my dream is that there would be no more calls and we’d only be there for consultations. That’s why we want to be very proactive in this regard. My Management Board colleagues and I give constant thought as to how we can avoid problems before they even become issues for the customer. By anticipating problems and addressing them proactively, we ensure that there’s no need for our subscribers to contact us. This is the best service we can offer the customer!

Can you give us an example of this proactive approach?

For instance, we’ve created a Welcome team for fibre-optic activation. Changing pro- viders is complicated and stressful for the customer. So we decided to change our organisation and form a team with all the necessary know-how for such activation. The customer is then proactively accompanied by a personal contact person from the beginning to the end of the process. This fundamentally changes the relationship: the Sunrise agent is no longer Mr or Ms Unknown, but a dedicated contact person with a first and last name. And it’s also highly motivating for our teams, who as a result are much more committed to the concerns of our customers. It’s no longer an anonymous, nebulous process, but instead a genuine partnership. I’d now like to integrate this service into other areas of our business.

Sunrise is the second-largest telecommunications provider in Switzerland. However, with around 3.4 million customers, Sunrise is the country’s largest non-government-controlled telecom enterprise and thus the “leading challenger”. Together with partner companies, more than 1,000 agents work in direct contact with customers. Sunrise offers three brands: Sunrise, yallo and Lebara. The company employs a total of 1,700 people at its headquarters in Zurich, at its business locations in Prilly, Geneva, Bern, Basel and Lugano, and at 85 sales outlets in all language regions of Switzerland.


Customers appear to be rather flighty these days, especially in your industry. How can you improve customer loyalty?

In Switzerland, people rarely change their provider out of cost considerations. We need to work on their satisfaction, because the correlation is clear: the more satisfied the customers are, the more loyal they are. Ensuring customer satisfaction is there- fore the best way to prevent a switch to the competition.

And how do you measure customer satisfaction?

We use the NPS (Net Promoter Score) method, in which customers express their satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10, whereby negative comments are accorded a particularly strong weight. In other words, a customer who gives a score between 0 and 6 is classified as a detractor, whilst only those who respond with a 9 or 10 are considered promoters. We then determine the differ- ence between detractors and promoters, examine the comments and monitor the net results minute by minute. And I can tell you that all these efforts have certainly been worth it: the number of our detractors has decreased dramatically.

Like many other companies, you’ve chosen an omnichannel strategy where the bricks-and-mortar locations and digital services complement and mutually reinforce each other. What are the key points to consider in order to best meet customer needs?

It’s important to understand that these are not mutually exclusive channels: customers don’t use just one channel. The channels therefore need to communicate with each other. As a rule, the customer first obtains information online and then visits the shop. But it’s never a static customer route, and the fluidity between the channels is very important. So the key point here is: it takes homogeneity between the channels, otherwise conflicts arise.

Françoise Clemes, the person

What from the past do you still appreciate today?
The candle. Even the light from the highest of hightech lamps can’t come close to the glow of a candle. Although I love technology, there are simply things that shouldn’t be snuffed out.

If you had a magic wand, which product or service would you conjure up?
A product that’s automatically connected anywhere without your first having to set the bloody thing up before it can be activated.

How do you achieve your work-life balance?
I’ve never asked myself that question. If you love what you do, you don’t sense work as being a burden. The two spheres are closely intertwined – the clue is in being enthused about whatever you’re into at the moment.

Your most valuable tip for professional life?
KISS: keep it simple, stupid – that’s the key to success!