“The nirvana of customer service is proactive customer service, where you’re designing solutions to identify and resolve problems before they impact the customer,” says Datacom’s James Johnstone.

“In customer service, if you are reactively trying to solve an issue that a customer is facing, you are starting from a negative position and, even when it goes seamlessly, it is likely you are just going to move the customer’s experience from negative to neutral.”

James is Head of Commercial Strategy for Datacom Connect — a vital part of the business that employs over 2000 people and delivers customer experience services at scale to support more than ten million customer conversations each year for government departments and organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

While his remit is helping to make smart decisions that enhance business performance, James is highly motivated to find new ways of using technology to deliver better CX.

“If you can focus on proactive, responsive customer service, that anticipates their needs, that’s when you can really achieve moments of delight for the customer.”

A 360° view of the customer

One of the ways to achieve a meaningful shift in CX is to build a connected tech ecosystem that provides a 360° view of the customer and all their interactions with a company.

“For a lot of companies there is a real emphasis on delivering omnichannel experiences, but to achieve really great CX you need all of those experiences to be linked up,” says James.

“If the customer has already used web chat or the virtual assistant and then they call and talk to a customer service representative (CSR), you want those conversations to be linked up so you have a full understanding of their engagement with the company.”

“If the CSR can offer advice or a service that anticipates a customer’s needs or interests, based on information from an earlier interaction with the company, then that is going to be a moment of delight.”

Aside from delivering much better CX, James says this proactive approach is also much better for the bottom line.

“Having to spend time reactively resolving customer issues costs companies more money, and it’s an extra demand on time and resources that is not adding real value.”

In customer service, James says, the key is to always be asking: “how might we add value?” and “how can we make things better for the customer?”

Datacom's James Johnstone

Meaningful work

The other part of James’ role is figuring out how to make things better for the business and, in turn, for the communities that Datacom operates in.

James says he uses data-driven insights to understand the business’ performance and to anticipate what is coming next and where the opportunities exist.

“Delving into the data gives us a good understanding of where we are and where we might be heading, and it allows us to make much more informed decisions.”

James has also drawn on some valuable insights from his MBA studies, which he completed this year, including best-practice approaches to managing change, business consulting and his MBA project: “Securing relevance through service automation: An analysis of market position compared to the contact centre industry.”

Over the past 18 months, James says helping support Australians and the government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen his team at their best.

“We have solved problems at a rapid rate; developing new solutions and onboarding thousands of people, assisting people seeking employment, accessing grants, and even contacting Australians who have been stuck overseas. For our solutions and services to be able to help people, at such a critical time, makes what we do so meaningful.”

James — who has been with Datacom for over five years and also worked in the business for three years earlier in his career — says he has had the opportunity to “choose his own adventure” with the company.

“I’ve shown curiosity about different parts of the business, such as property and the financial aspects of the business, and I’ve been given the freedom to explore those interests and, ultimately, to show leadership in those areas.”

With Datacom’s support, James says he’s been empowered to create shared value for the business and the community.

James is particularly proud of his role in authoring the business cases and strategy that enabled three waves of expansion for Datacom Connect in Adelaide, leading to more than 1000 jobs and contributing more than $1.5 billion in Gross State Product for South Australia.

“It has materially helped curb the unemployment rate in the regions that we are operating in. The ability for our work to make a real social impact is the most rewarding factor for me.”

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Customer experience Contact centres