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CX Q&A with Brett Townsend

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Brett Townsend

Director of Consumer Insights
Electrolux

As one of the leading home appliance manufacturers, Electrolux takes a more classic approach to aftermarket services, with a strong emphasis on their in-house call center. The company meticulously measures and reviews the calls per unit sold that they receive on each product. Over the past year and a half, Electrolux has strategically focused on reducing that number. Brett Townsend, Director of Customer Insights, works with all customer insights related to innovation in order to create products that the customer truly appreciates. The call center provides an easily accessible way for Townsend to gather the data he needs to adjust their strategy and products accordingly.

Electrolux works hard to ensure their products are durable and long-lasting, but when there are any issues with them, the call center is a reliable way for customers to get the solutions they are looking for.

“Our home center fields the calls directly, and that's where we gain our hard metrics from,” he says. “If they are having a problem and the product is still under warranty, then they can directly call the call center. It is very well run, and the customer service representatives find experts to fix customers’ problems immediately. For the people that are out of warranty or did not purchase an extended service plan from us, we still field those calls and give advice because we want consumers to feel like we're involved with them, even after their warranty is over. We want them to see us as the solution providers when they are having any kind of problem.”

Townsend believes that service calls are one of the ways to tangibly measure customer satisfaction. However, customer satisfaction is a constantly moving target and is not predictive in nature, so he says it can be difficult to interpret what satisfaction really means.

“From an insights standpoint, we do not have ongoing customer satisfaction measurement because it the correlation is difficult and it’s not very actionable,” he states. “You can have a consumer who is thoroughly happy with our product, but when it comes time to replace it, they will buy something else due to many different factors at that point in time—not because they are unhappy with the last product.”

Not only is the call center efficient for solving problems, but customers feel the most alleviated when they can talk to a real person about the obstacles they are facing with their products.

“When you are frustrated, there is great value in talking to a person at the company,” Townsend says. “I know that is the main reason we have our own call center and why we will continue to have it. It would be difficult to create a digital platform because then you still have to schedule a repair time, and while you can say you're available, it doesn't necessarily mean that the service person is available at that time. Having a person on the phone to sort all of those details not only helps from an emotional standpoint for the consumer, but they are also able to manage the scheduling for the customer and maintenance workers.”

For the future, Townsend plans to reevaluate the questions that are asked when consumers call in for help. This will give Electrolux valuable information on how to properly update their products and services. Because the customer is already on the phone and willing to talk, it can be a good opportunity to ask them a few questions on customer experience. Once Electrolux can probe a bit deeper, the valuable data will be given to the marketing and digital teams to apply and advertise accordingly.

Rather than trying to measure customer satisfaction with hard metrics, Electrolux focuses more on trying to understand the drivers of demand, and the company builds its products to fit the needs of consumers. Townsend ensures that they listen to what customers are looking for in appliances and adjust their product development to best fit their needs. Because everything is done in house and in a closed loop—from the call center to the manufacturing unit— this not only efficiently improves the quality of their products, but also furthers their competitive differentiation. Instead of spending time and energy on aftermarket services, they want to meet the consumers’ needs so well that they avoid the need for phone calls in the first place.

“My team is primarily about building our fence on the cliff instead of having an ambulance in the valley,” he says. “By being in tune to the true consumer needs, we try to keep the problems from happening in the first place rather than having to deal with them later."