Head of customer experience, Virgin Media, UK: “Big data can help better explore vast opportunities the digital world creates”

Paul Elworthy, head of customer experience for Virgin Media, UK is speaking at the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Ahead of the show we speak to him about how Virgin Media is looking to enhance the customer experience of its Broadband customers.

What impact is new technology having on how you interact with your customers?

There are two main areas that technology is really influencing how we interact with customers. Firstly the growth of online communication channels – in particular social media – is having a transformative effect. Social channels provide amazing opportunities to not just serve customers via their channel of choice but also to amplify the brand across large customer segments. Clearly with this opportunity come risks – any mistake can rapidly gain an audience. But for those organisations that have customer experience at the heart of what they do, like Virgin Media, making your brand and attitude more visible is a massive opportunity.

Secondly we have a huge amount of data about the products we provide and customer feedback. Over the last few years we’ve been working hard to ensure that data works harder for us across the business – improving the performance of our products, targeting resource, increasing efficiencies across our marketing, sales and retention channels and improving the support experience.

How do you look to differentiate your customer experience from that of your main rivals?

Virgin Media’s customer experience is rooted in our three strategic assets – our people, our brand and our network. The Virgin brand has always had the customer at its heart, and delivering the great customer experiences that we’ve all come to expect from Virgin brands relies on having a really engaged bunch of people working together for customers and shareholders. We’re proud to have some of the highest people engagement scores in the industry. This really matters. When you combine these elements with our powerful fibre optic network, we’re in a unique position to deliver the products and services that make a real difference to people’s lives. So, in that respect, differentiated customer experience is at the heart of our proposition. The job of our product, service and customer experience teams is ‘simply’ to optimise those assets to deliver great customer experiences consistently, day in, day out.


The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Where has the industry as a whole gone wrong with regards to the customer experience in the past and how can it look to improve?

Failure to deliver great customer experience comes from a number of areas; failure to listen properly to what customers are saying; failure to effectively analyse that insight for meaningful outputs; failure to apply that insight systematically and consistently through all product and service development; and finally, failure to give the customer a seat on the Board i.e. by not including customer measures, like Net Promoter Score (NPS), in core business performance metrics and reward structures. Sounds simple – but as we all know it isn’t!

“Dial 1 for this, Dial 2 for that”. Do you see a future where you’ll ever be able to move away from this sort of phone system?

Yes. We have already deployed intelligence into our IVR systems to identify why a customer may be calling and therefore route them intelligently. Is there opportunity to do more? – of course. We’re already exploring new call routing and auto-diagnostic technologies which will over time reduce the overhead on customers to manually route via IVR. It takes time – but it will happen.

How do you manage customer expectations when their broadband speeds don’t match what they were expecting?

Our fibre optic network means we deliver against our advertised headline speeds. In fact, independent testing by Ofcom shows we often deliver speeds faster than advertised and our customers typically receive 90 per cent of the advertised ‘up to’ broadband speeds, far out-performing our competition. We’ve also invested significantly in developing our in-home wireless capabilities. Our new Super Hub 2 has gone through independent testing with Bristol University who found it out-performed all our other competitors’ kit.

We also have extensive online assets, including videos and articles, helping our customers get the most out of their broadband. This is a really key point – the vast majority of issues affecting speed for customers are actually down to factors within the home such as the wireless signal being interfered with, so we have invested heavily in customer education material like this to help them get the most out of an increasingly complex digital world.

Free tech support is on-tap including free engineer call out if it’s a network issue. And if we find that the customer has problems rooted in their device we have tech support teams that can go in and fix problems for them remotely.

How is the use of “big data” enhancing what you can learn about your customers?

We obviously have a huge amount of customer feedback and product performance data, so our focus has been on how we bring that data together and leverage it to improve the product and service experience. Also, we’re increasing our capability to combine operational and product data points with customer NPS and Voice of our Customer data. Having this 360 degree view across cause and effect helps us focus on what matters most. We are also starting to explore how big data can help our customers better explore the vast opportunities the digital world creates in the same way Virgin Media TiVo helps our customers explore the vast choices they now have in the world of digital entertainment.

What is going to be the biggest change for customer experience in the next five years?

For organisations where customer experience is well established we’re likely to see a move beyond delivering the basics brilliantly to how customer experience can be used to further differentiate and switch on promoters and advocates. Creating stand-out experiences that customers want to talk about.

What are you most looking forward to about attending the Broadband World Forum?

Meeting up with colleagues old and new around the industry, to share stories, experiences – and hopefully a beer or two!

And finally – Have you ever actually read Virgin Media’s, or indeed anyone’s entire ‘Terms and Conditions’?

Yes I have. And just in case our legal team are reading this – it’s a beautiful piece of work!


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