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TELCO's customer service
an open book

Joseph Michelli was so impressed with Macquarie Tech's journey, he wrote about it. Story by Helen Trinca

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TELCO's customer service an open book -  The Weekend Australian

When best-selling American author Joseph Michelli took a call “from some guy named David” in Australia more than a decade ago, he figured it was a prank call.

 

It didn’t take long for the customer experience consultant to realise that David Tudehope, the co-founder of Macquarie Technology Group, was deadly serious about getting advice on improving the culture and service of the operation.

 

“He claimed to be on a 20-year journey of customer focused telecoms and said he’d read my book on Ritz-Carlton (The New Gold Standard: 5 leadership principles for creating a legendary customer experience courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company) and said they were interested in coming down and discussing how I could push them even a little farther in their journey,” says Michelli during a trip to Australia.

 

Now that journey, which began when David and brother Aidan first launched as Macquarie Telecom in 1992, is the subject of Michelli’s latest book, Customer Magic – The Macquarie Way: How to reimagine customer experience to transform your business.

Michelli has made a career from advising and writing about some of the world’s top brands – from Ritz-Carlton and Mercedes-Benz to Starbucks – but the Tudehopes have proven they are up there: this week they were awarded the Australian ICT industry Pearcey Medal and inducted into the Pearcey Foundation’s Hall of Fame. It is recognition of Macquarie’s evolution as a digital infrastructure business and its success in disrupting the telco sector.

 

And while it might seem counterintuitive to hold up a tech company as an example of great customer service. Michelli says the brothers have long understood that it’s all about having the right sort of humans standing alongside all that tech. They have also understood the need to recruit the right sort of workers and then build a culture that reinforces the need for everyone to work on customer service.

 

Michelli says many companies don’t understand the need to identify the right talent early: “If you have to tell people to smile, they’re probably not the right people in a customer retail setting. You’ve got to hire people who are naturally smiley and then you’ve got to give them the tools they need to engage customers and deal with difficult situations. You’ve got the tech side, so you need to have people who are naturally inquisitive, who are looking to solve human problems, who can imagine the impact of the technology problem in the life of a customer … But you can’t put in what God left out; selection is pretty important.”

After that it’s about the customer service stories that can be relayed within the organisation so that values can be cascaded down from the leaders.

 

The Tudehopes have four key values, he says – make a difference; collaboration; personal accountable service; and results.

 

Michelli loves the bit about results: “A lot of times customer service sounds … fluffy and soft but you have to deliver results for your clients.

 

“They don’t call you up and say, hey, everything’s working great. Just be nice to me, right? They’re looking for you to fix a problem.”

 

He’s impressed at how the co-founders have managed to continue to grow the business over three decades: “If you look at Harvard Business Review research, normally founders don’t create value much past the initial public offering.

 

“These guys figured out how to keep doing that. So I think there are some lessons in there about how to continue to adapt, to play a different role as a business builder, as opposed to an entrepreneur.”

 

Michelli also suggests that the innovative culture at Macquarie Tech is also due in part to being the right size.

 

“If you’re at IBM (a new) idea would languish around for a long time; if you’re a small start-up, you may not have the capital to actually (implement) your idea,” he says. “(The Tudehopes) spend a lot of time doing innovation tours around the world.

 

“They’ll have an idea about something they think is right for the market and they will go study it in various locations, maybe the US, maybe the UK. (They) go to many, many people who are deploying it in other parts of the world, look at how it’s working, and then they come back and they say, but will it work for Australians?”

 

Michelli himself has had experience of something that did not initially work so well for Australians. Consulting for Starbucks, he was part of a decision to ­expand the coffee outlets here, which in retrospect, was too rapid, he suggests.“At some point, scale was so fast, we couldn’t source it with talent,” he says. “We were out running … into markets that had established greatness: Australia’s coffee culture is remarkable, right? I think oftentimes you run that risk of getting too big for your ability to execute an intimate customer experience.”

 

Michelli says that for tech companies, the focus has to be on how they can differentiate themselves from others because “it’s a crazy tech race” in which your competitor can often up the stakes.

 

“Normally all (tech) does is keep you in parity in your market,” he says. “It’s the people who step into the abyss in a crisis that’s the differentiator. The difference is how you’ve empowered to take responsibility.”

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TELCO's customer service an open book -  The Weekend Australian

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