At the beginning of 2015, magazine giant Aller media replaced their old subscription system with a new one.
The change created a huge amount of work for the company’s customer service department.
“Overnight, the number of customer service cases increased by 500 per cent. In February 2015, we received almost 150,000 customer cases in just over 20 working days. We didn’t have the capacity to answer all the calls,” said Fredrik Löfgren, who works as Head of Customer Service at Aller media.
The new system had erroneously created incorrect mailings of magazines and incorrect billing of customers, which resulted in a significant increase in customer service cases received by the company.
Fredrik, who has extensive experience in customer service, was given free rein to design a plan for how they should develop a new customer service process. Together with the company’s Commercial Director, a new goal was set: to be the best in Sweden.
“The Commercial Director wanted to have a clear goal for the journey we were about to undertake, and we decided on the ambitious goal of being the best in Sweden. At the time, we were probably the worst in Sweden!
“I liked the challenge of going from where we were at that moment to being the best in the industry,” he said.
Becoming ‘the best’
Aller media is the market leader in consumer magazines in Sweden, with a market share of 51 per cent based on sales volume. They have 24 different brands in total, including Elle, Femina, Allas and Svensk Damtidning.
The group has an annual turnover of around SEK 1.6 billion (£135.3 million) with 2.3 million magazine readers each month, 1.8 million visitors per week, and 14 million page views per week.
To become the best in customer service, major changes were implemented over a three-year period. All of the company’s processes were reviewed to minimise unnecessary problems that resulted in customer service cases. The company transitioned to a flexible staffing model, which meant that they could scale from 25 workers up to a total of 84 if needed. And they invested in modern technology.
“We simply couldn’t continue with the old telephony system we had. We needed a flexible, cloud-based solution that I could further develop based on our own and our customers’ needs. Quite quickly, we established a good collaboration with Puzzel, as they understood what I was looking for,” Fredrik said.
For five years, Aller media and Puzzel have worked together as partners, with Puzzel delivering all technology to the company’s customer service department. Fredrik maintains that a successful collaboration is based on working closely with one’s supplier and viewing them as a partner, rather than the traditional customer-supplier relationship.
“They need to get to know me, the company and the department. And they need to be aware of our goals and work together with me, almost as if they were actually employees of the company,” he said.
“It is an approach that changes the entire playing field. Suddenly you have a team that not only consists of your own staff but also includes knowledgeable partners and skilled specialists in different areas, who can help you drive developments towards the goals you have set.”
Acheiving the goal
The work they did, and the changes they made, certainly paid off. Almost three years to the day the process began, Aller media won the prize for Sweden’s best customer service in the GuldKontakt 2018 competition, and two years later the company received the Best Contact Centre Award.
“Naturally we are very pleased and proud of this achievement. Especially when you consider the story behind our journey. This has been our goal from day one – to be Sweden’s best customer service company,” Fredrik said.
But the awards have not meant that the team at Aller media now rest on their laurels. They continue to strive to achieve further development and continual improvement.
“At present, we are working on the next level and a new strategy. Where do we want to get to after this? We are trying hard to adopt a proactive approach. Where is the industry headed and where is the company headed? If we create a new type of product or service, what type of customer service will it require? We want to work proactively and always be well-prepared and able to make relevant changes and adjustments in a short space of time,” Fredrik said.
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