Vodafone NZ makes a $10m investment in the X Squad, a new team of New Zealand-based experts that will set a new benchmark for excellence

10 September 2019

Vodafone New Zealand is today announcing the creation of a new team of New Zealand based customer service experts, called the X Squad.

In a world rapidly filling with awesome new customer service choices like AI assistants, apps, IVR’s, chat-bots and digital-only services, sometimes you still want to speak to a real person who understands your complex problem, who takes care of it for you, and who lets you know when it’s been fixed. We will be investing an initial $10 million in setting up the X Squad.

Jason Paris, CEO of Vodafone NZ, explains why we’re making this investment:

What is the X Squad?

“The X Squad is a re-invention of the modern customer service model – and will significantly add to our existing frontline call-centre and in-store teams. From October, customers with complex enquiries will be escalated to a dedicated team of multi-skilled experts empowered to deliver next-level care for the trickiest of problems. With X Squad, you get dedicated case management, all the way through to a fix.

“The X Squad will complement our current customer services, including existing call centres, Vodafone Ninjas, live-chat, social support and app self-services, by adding an extra ‘layer’ of customer support with a different skill-set to traditional call centre roles.

“As well as looking after the trickiest problems, they will actively monitor for issues and proactively contact customers if needed. They will search for any patterns that might be a systemic problem, and feed insights into other teams responsible for root cause fixes.  It’s a new way of working for us and one we believe will become a benchmark for service excellence.

“We will kick this off in October, and we will continue to scale up the X Squad over the remainder of this calendar year. To get the new team established as quickly as possible, it will comprise selected and skilled New Zealand agents from Vodafone and our partners Tech Mahindra and Probe, based in Auckland or Christchurch.”

How will it work?

“The X Squad will not use common call centre metrics such as average handling time to measure success; it is all about teamwork, customer experience and a one-stop fix.  The measure of success is that you will only need to call us once and we will own your issue to outcome, keeping you informed all the way.

“The X Squad will look after all the necessary things in the background on your behalf so you can spend more of your valuable time on things that matter to you. The X Squad will also lighten the load on existing call-centre teams across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and offshore, freeing them up to improve our responsiveness to less complex customer enquiries.”

Why is Vodafone creating the X Squad?

“We’ve been making a lot of big moves since our recent ownership change, including the announcement of New Zealand’s 5G network to go live in December this year. However, we also know network leadership counts for little if the customer service experience is poor. Customers are (rightly) increasingly demanding better service, whenever and wherever you want it, and we have to deliver.

“So we have been rethinking our entire approach to customer service. While our awesome front-line teams are working incredibly hard and the vast majority of our customer enquiries are resolved first time, the complexity of our underlying systems, built up over many years, means too many of our customers have had to contact us multiple times, and when that happens, chat-bots and IVRs won’t cut it. We need more service experts on hand, when you need them most.

“The creation of the X Squad follows a recent trial of the concept in Christchurch, where a handpicked team of expert New Zealanders have been providing dedicated case management to resolve complex problems. The trial has worked so well we now want to scale it up over the remainder of this calendar year. 

“We also see this as a way to help address the future of work. We know that in a more automated future, human judgement will become ever more valuable for dealing with complex scenarios. By adding a new expert case-management role to complement existing and traditional customer service roles, we are providing an exciting career development pathway for our customer service people with x-factor.

“We’re excited by the long-term potential of the X Squad. While poor service and complex systems are not unique to Vodafone or the telco industry, we know we are not where our customers want us to be in terms of consistently good service quality, especially for difficult enquiries.”

What else is Vodafone doing to improve customer service?

“This is not our only investment in customer service improvements. We made many big changes to our customer service approach earlier this year; including consolidating our offshore call-centre partners and working with global partner Tech Mahindra to set up a new service centre of excellence in Christchurch, alongside Vodafone service teams in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. While it has taken time, the new teams are now getting up to speed.

“We’ve also investing in the retail experience, with four new flagship retail stores coming, a trial of in-store customer service staff in three stores, and a joint venture with Digital Mobile to deliver outstanding in-store and digital retail experience and innovations across the entire Vodafone retail store network.

“Ultimately, the best possible service is products and services that are radically simple and work all the time, meaning no need to contact us. So we will also continue to invest in simplifying, digitising and automating customer journeys to help reduce the need to call us in the first place and give customers more self-service options. And we are continuing our long-term programme of migrating customers off older legacy IT systems onto a single back-office IT ‘stack’ to reduce our system complexity and make it easier to understand and serve customers.

“We want to be leaders in customer service as well as in network. We’re not there yet by a long way, but we think today’s announcement of the X Squad is a big step in the right direction.”

Jason Paris, CEO in Vodafone NZ's Auckland office