Challenging the status quo

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Digital transformation forces all companies to move with the times. The penalty for failing to keep pace is harsh – slow movers become easy prey for more agile competitors, become irrelevant, or worse – extinct. Colt is no different to its peers in the challenges it faces and while we have been able to meet the demands of technological evolution head on, this isn’t a differentiator. What makes Colt different – makes us unique – is our culture. We have a different mindset than our rivals and that sets us apart from the crowd.

When Colt was founded 25 years ago, we were the challenger. We did things differently, we confronted the large, bulky incumbents with a thoroughbred, fast-moving, customer-first approach. In the 16 months I’ve been at Colt we have begun rediscovering that thinking, we’ve gone back to our roots as a service provider. We provide a service and in doing so we know that improving that service for our customers is not someone else’s job, it’s my job. We, collectively, are accountable for making that happen, but we must also be empowered – decisions must be made as close to the customer as possible as quickly as possible by the people who know best how to exceed customer expectations. Our people must know our mission and be able to act independently to drive us toward this.

I’ve talked many times before about strategy, but strategies are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution of a strategy that makes a good business, not the strategy itself. Recently, my leadership team pitched our strategy to the analyst community and received favourable assessments. If you look at our main competitors in the Gartner Critical Capabilities leaderboard, they’re mainly Tier 1 carriers of considerable size and we all operate within a few points of each other.  However, one thing the report doesn’t measure as a capability is culture. Our culture is built on challenging the status quo and delivering an experience unheard of in this market.

Our industry has repeatedly let customers down. A poor experience has become the norm and businesses have just learned to live with long lead times and significant investments on their part in terms of time and resource to get even simple network connectivity changes made. Customers of all sizes really matter to us – a point often lost on bigger players – because everybody who works at Colt expects everybody else to go the extra mile. It’s an attitude that’s infectious, attracting many experienced executives keen to get away from old world thinking.

But Championing a Challenger Culture isn’t just saying “the customer is important,” it’s establishing a contract between every employee from the top down. Leaders must be role models because changing ingrained thinking and behaviour starts with the CEO. We’re changing the company DNA because one thing I learned when I studied biology long ago is that evolution starts at the cellular level.

We can identify with our customers because we’ve been there. We are living the very digital transformation that we enable. No one builds a ‘digital transformation department’ in a business and expects it to succeed in changing the whole business. It’s about delivering agility and flexibility, embracing innovation, reacting to changing market dynamics and connecting more openly with customers and suppliers, which all means a fundamental shift in the way the whole organisation does business.

To support this, every individual in Colt, including me, has an NPS (Net Promoter Score) objective – so everyone has a part of their incentive package directly related to customer service. The aim is to get from 35 at the end of 2016 – which already blows our competition out of the water – to 60 by 2020. It’s a challenge, but we will do it.

We’re not just competing with other telcos now, but with transformed customer experiences in a host of other markets – it’s just not right that you get a better, richer, quicker and easier service from your bank when you invest millions in your network services. Telcos must learn innovation from other industries, and that doesn’t just mean big, engineered programmes but incremental improvement in the small things, day by day, week by week. Our people are empowered and accountable, encouraged to try new things, fail fast and move on to try something else.

Here at Colt we do one thing, and we do it well. As a strategy that sounds simple, but the truth is far from it. Our differentiator is keeping customers at the heart of our business because this is something has been sorely lacking in the market. We’re putting customers in control and encouraging them to be more demanding of us, our peers and the industry in general because we’re confident we can deliver.


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