Answering very broad question: "New VP Customer Service - what would you talk to him about?"

Partner Interview Qualitative question
Recent activity on Nov 26, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 25, 2018


what would be your best practice answer to the following question:

"A large electricity provider just appointed a new VP of customer service. You have a meeting with him in two weeks. He probably wants to increase customer service and reduce costs. What would be the things that you prepare and pitch to him at the meeting?"

I just had this question in a last round partner interview for a consultancy with a technology focus and feel like I completely failed it. The partner encouraged me to solve it on a whiteboard and I drew out a matrix of customer service and cost as well as several of the major technologies I suspected to have an effect on this in the electricity industry (IoT, Chatbots, Process automation, service load forecasting using AI). Then went on to explain the matrix intersections and how the I thought the technologies could be used to improve customer satisfaction and cost. The reaction of the partner however was really "indifferent". She just looked at me when I was finished talking without indicating whether the answer was good or bad. After a while she asked some questions like "What are the VPs goals" and "What about the customer perspective", in response to which I could not really contribute any additional meaninful information. After that she said we will go to another case and estimate the number of service reps of this company. The "indifference" continued from then on in the rest of the interview.

I am quite rattled and unsure whether this cost me my interview and if my answer caused the partner to mentally reject me and therefore turn off for the rest of the interview.

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this.

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replied on Nov 26, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

CS VPs care about multiple things: why do customers feel the need to contact us, and how do we reduce that need? are they satisfied with the wait time? are they satisfied with the service? how many times do they have to call to get resolution? Are we meeting them when / where they are (i.e., email, call, text, chat)? Are we doing all this at an appropriate cost? Do we need to outsource to an offshore team (e.g., India) or near shore (e.g., Guatemala if based in the US), or on shore (better accent)? each will have a different mix of customer service quality (including accent), direct cost and agent retention.

Depending on which retailer they work in, they may also need to be plugged into the acquisition / retention efforts, as well as cross selling for example. Another big one would be minimizing the formal complaints to the CEO (VP's boss' boss probably), board, politicians, media...

As you can see, this goes well beyond technology and many of the objectives / concerns conflict with each other. At the beginning of the case, you would have needed to take a minute to think and come up with a framework. Here are a couple, off the top of my mind:

- (1) Customer Satisfaction + quality of service, including issue de-escalation; (2) Staffing decisions / technology & cost impacts; (3) other ways to add value to the company

- Another framework could be along the various stakeholders: (a) keep customer happy; (b) keep staff & contractors happy; (c) keep hierarchy happy

Hope this helps?

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Anonymous B replied on Nov 26, 2018

When I hear "customer service", I'd think of customer intimacy being one of the three 'market-leading' attributes, as per the book, Discipline of Market Leaders. There was another book during that period. The Innovator's Dilemma. And there you go! Digression city! I'd have wasted a few minutes and my case interview would be over - lol.

Anyhoo... getting back on track... Guennael is spot on. His approach might be something for you to consider.

I'd first want to know the VP's goals. Maybe the VP's boss wants certain things done? Maybe the company wants to promote themselves being 'green'? Like Ecotricity?

Electricity suppliers work with tight margins. 5%? 4%? Cost might be a goal. Reducing churn reduces costs. Acquisition costs are higher than retention. You can reduce churn with better CS.

Maybe need to improve client profile? Or up sales? I dunno... like talking about smart meter when CS rep is solving customer issue? Or trying to get customer to go dual fuel?

Anyhoo.. that's how I would have done it. I'd have asked what the VP wanted to achieve. His or her goals. Might even have had the goals as 'branches'. Then, since it's a tech-focussed firm as you say, show how relevant technology (e.g. M2M, as the OP noted) can be used to help VP achieve goals.

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Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews
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