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In search of a better customer service solution

Like most telecommunication companies, Virgin has not been exempt from the struggle to monetize the increasing demand for data communication, while seeing a simultaneous decrease in demand for voice communication – a traditional source of their revenue. As part of their marketing and customer service, social media has played a crucial role at Virgin Mobile. However, their various use of social media channels was resulting in an influx of posts, comments, and questions that were overcapacity for their limited staff. This prompted the brand to explore alternative ways to address this issue in order to provide better customer service and increase customer satisfaction. Rather than hire more call center associates, they choose to develop a social customer community and today, have a thriving, vibrant community that has decreased call center costs, improved customer service, and continues to herald Virgin as an innovative brand. In this interview, Virgin Mobile Australia CEO, David Scribner discusses how a Lithium community is making a difference at Virgin.

“Virgin Mobile is amongst the top four mobile providers in Australia and we're proud to have a positive NPS score”

David Scribner
CEO

What was the driving force to start a community?

To reduce call center overload and make sure our customers were satisfied and happy. We knew we weren't able to handle the capacity of social media interactions we currently had on Facebook and Twitter and the requests for customer service in our current channels, so we started looking at economies of scale and how we could best achieve an innovative solution.

Why did you choose Lithium?

We engaged with Lithium in 2012, while we were still looking at other solutions. We quickly found that Lithium's one platform was highly appealing because of the scalability for growth and their global operations provided a good benchmark for our business case. Their platform provides a great foundation for support-based ROI. We have a growing number of one million+ broadband subscribers in a country of 22+ million people; hence the cost factor is very important to us. We also knew that Lithium would be a great partner for the long-term because Virgin Media UK has very successfully worked with Lithium since 2010.

What were your specific goals for the community?

Providing world-class customer support is the key driver of our community. The main goals have been to provide a platform that is service-oriented, allows people to ask questions online, find solutions to their questions, in fact, very detailed solutions, rather than ring up our call center. In only one year we have been able to achieve 435 accepted solutions through peer-to-peer customer support. Community-based problem-solving fits our brand well and it helps us to save a significant amount of support costs. Our next aim is to also focus on the brand advocacy aspects of a community. We look forward to leveraging that as well.

How are you using the community today?

Currently, we have more than 300,000+ page views per month, a very solid base for customer experience, with mobile access of 35% of the community, which is growing continuously. We're currently using the “Forum” for discussions, generating peer-to-peer content, using the “Knowledge Base” to generate articles that are reused by the community, and employ the “Ideas exchange” feature of the Lithium community along with the mobile solution solely for support purposes.

What has it been like to implement a community?

Initially, it took a lot of interaction with our staff, but then it was taken over by the community, which provides a richer experience to members. We made a slow, but thoughtful beginning and did the necessary initial work before starting the community. The concept has been embedded into our processes. The vision here at Virgin is extensive and I have advised the staff to make the community part of our overall strategy. One thing that has been crucial is making sure senior management is involved. Executive sponsorship for running a customer community is a must have.

What is Virgin's vision in regards to the community member's experience?

We want them to have a working mobile phone, to have limited interaction with Virgin staff—we try to only interact when the customer wants us to do so. Every interaction we do have should make the relationship stronger.

What has been the response from customers?

Incredible. After an interaction in the community, they like us more! We run satisfaction surveys with a representative sample across the customer base, and we're proud to state that our NPS (Net Promoter Score, a ratio that shows how customers are recommending the products and services of a brand to each other) is significantly higher. In fact, Virgin Mobile is amongst the top four mobile providers in Australia and we are proud to have a positive NPS score.

Do you foresee expanding the customer community experience?

Virgin, as a brand, has initiatives to leverage the knowledge gained with Virgin Mobile over to other local brands like Virgin Australia (airline) and Virgin Money. Currently, Lithium hosts communities for Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile France, and Virgin Media UK apart from our Australian Mobile operations. All of these communities are very successful due to their vibrancy and management's dedication. So, we foresee continuing to make community an integral part of the Virgin customer experience.

Visit the Virgin Mobile community:

community.virginmobile.com.au