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For the first time, in the eyes of potential customers, Simpel.nl is the best option, according to the April 2018 WUA study on online orientation of SIM-only contracts. In this interview, we speak with Youri Treur, director of E-Commerce & Customer Service at Simpel.nl. About chatbots, marketing automation 2.0, time to market, AI and the human factor, aiming for NPS, and working in an interdisciplinary team.

Youri Treur, congratulations on your win in this WUA study. It’s the first time you’re ahead of the competition, which I’d think makes the victory the sweetest. How important is it to you to be the best in the digital arena? What role does having a winning mentality play in this?

“This past year, we’ve grown a lot, and we’re showing up in multiple rankings and lists. The basis of your study, findability, has been our focus this past year. The current no. 1 position in this study, to us, confirms we’re going in the right direction. We want to be present in the right places when the customer starts to orientate himself. So yes, we’re proud of this achievement. The entire team has worked very hard on this!”

What is your approach? What’s going so well? What can other digital supervisors learn from your approach?

“In terms of campaigns, Simpel has always been strong. We’ve grown a lot in terms of numbers of customers and market share, but our budgets for campaigns have also grown. We’re here with about 25 to 30 people. This is a small group compared to our competitors, who often work with more than 100 people. We’re very much aware of what the customer wants, what moves them, and so we have a clear image of who our target group is. We’re good at making the right connection. Aside from that, we’ve been around a little longer now, so consumers are gaining a little more confidence in us. That confidence and the brand awareness are now paying off in a growing customer base and in digital success.”

How do you think you distinguish yourself from, for instance, Simyo, Youfone and Ben?

“First of all: we bought Simpel back from T-Mobile, and by doing so, we were able to re-establish our entire ‘system’. In the past two years, we benefited a lot from state-of-the-art IT infrastructure. We built that structure from the ground up. It makes it easy for us to be flexible, and it ensures we can switch fast. Time to market is our key to success!”

“A second thing that sets us apart is that we’re very focused. Anything that’s secondary or not directly beneficial, we skip. We’re purely looking at our funnels, and ensure all communication around them are perfected. We’re not working on things that ‘might be of added value’ and aren’t directly relevant to our business and for our customers. So we’re successful because we’re a direct seller, and we’re focusing entirely on that. Well-developed digital channels ensure we can be cheap, and we offer our customers the perfect tools to do a lot by themselves.”

From a consumer or customer perspective, there shouldn’t be a difference between service and sales. Are you able to offer a seamless experience between these two disciplines at Simpel?

“In 2016, I became responsible for the service organization of Simpel. I had a lot of sales and online experience, and on a personal level, I’m really a ‘tech man’. At that time, we were still in development, we’d just gotten through the take-over, and were rebuilding. Then I was given the customer service and I thought: ‘wow, we could do this so differently.’”

What role do customer research and being customer-centric play in your daily work, and in the teams that you’re responsible for?

“Each quarter, we do tracking research on our brand, and every day, we study customer journeys. On every page of our website, you can give us feedback, which is very important to us. There’s a clear structure in our team in terms of monitoring. We have a ‘special care’ team, for example, who look at our feedback every day, and make sure it’s being processed.
We also conduct research based on our own analytics, of course. The entire team listens in on the contact center every week. This isn’t planned, we use random conversations. We discuss them, and look at what we can learn from them. I have to say: this is the only way to really find out what customers are thinking. In times of panic or fire, we’re all answering calls. Customer service is in our people’s hearts.”

What KPIs do you use in the digital area, what buttons do you adjust in order to excel in digital?

“When we’re talking about KPIs – and I’ll leave out our business KPIs – it’s subscription and acquisition costs. We’re playing around with pricing a lot, and investing in this a lot. Acquisition costs are strongly correlated to the price with us – as they are in the entire sector. Easy for us is that we’re only selling 1 product: a SIM-only subscription. In origin, we’re a true sales & marketing company, it’s imbibed in our DNA. The first thing we do every morning is evaluating yesterday. Everyone at the company knows where we’re at.

“The NPS is incredibly important to us. If that score is high, our ‘media IV’ can be untied. Then you’re no longer dependent on campaigning and low prices, but you just have an amazing offer that people talk to each other about. That’s the ideal!”

What are your digital challenges for 2018?

“My first challenge is: Marketing Automation 2.0. That’s about things like the retention process, that you know exactly when each customer is ready to renew their subscription. Presenting the right offer to the right customer at the right moment: that way, you offer urgency. Then, it’s about choosing the right media and eventually assist the customer in the best possible way. We’re already doing this, of course, but we’re working towards a 360 degrees customer image. We want to be able to help our customers based on a lot more triggers than the ones we’re using now.

“A challenge directly linked to this is about offering service proactively and being able to respond to service questions through AI tools. The next step, then, is offering context, and making predictions based on behavior. Making that prediction actionable: that’s the big step to take, the barrier to cross.

“Being more proactive in communication, acting on predictions, and executing them automatized: at Simpel, we’re going to figure out what does and doesn’t work for our customers. Naturally, we have a list of hundreds of things we’d like to test and execute. Google Duplex is a nice example, and if we wanted to use it, we’d be able to do so immediately. But we’re not quite as far as being able to have a ‘free’, open conversation with a chatbot. It’ll happen soon, I think.”

What digital innovations are you working on now, and what developments are on the road map?

“What I feel is really cool: we’ve got a chatbot at Simpel that also works internally. So our employees use it, too. Makes sense, it seems, but it’s actually innovative in our sector. Most contact centers work with elaborate wikis. There aren’t that many people here, but if something happens, we need to be able to activate a lot of people very quickly. With a chatbot that works well, you can train people really quickly, and get them involved in the company completely. In terms of innovation, this is a great step. If something works well for the customer, it’ll work well for our employees too ;)”

What is your ultimate goal and dream to accomplish in business?

“Making the amazing journey I’ve made with Simpel one more time. Why is it so much fun here, why are we successful? It’s because of the team. I breathe technology, and want to try everything. I hope I’ll be able to do this until I’m old. A strong business focus, and being open to change, and working with an amazing team.”