We interviewed our client Mathias Aeschimann about the highlights and challenges in his role as Head of Swisscom's Development Strategy and Billing Team, their experience working with the Ergonomen, and especially his experience with Fresh, Swisscom's overhaul of their collections processes.
Mathias Aeschimann serves as head of Swisscom’s Development & Strategy Billing department. From 2017-2018 he was the program manager of "Fresh" project, in which the Ergonomen collaborated with Swisscom to overhaul Swisscom's collections (dunning) processes.
Thanks to “Fresh,” Swisscom reduced the number of collections-driven contract cancellations by 50% within two years. During the same period, customer satisfaction measured by NPS doubled and more than CHF 8 million in benefits were enjoyed.
In this interview, Mathias reports on the development in his team, challenges, learning and the cooperation with the Ergonomen in the context of Fresh.
Welcome, Mathias! Thank you very much for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Thank you for the invitation. I started my career in the IT industry and have been with Swisscom for 7 years in the billing and collection field. I have been leading a 12-person team since 2018. Our team has a strategic orientation. We are responsible for the development and implementation of solutions and for the operation of processes in the billing and collection area.
What fascinates you most about your work?
When we talk about invoices and collections, many people think that it is easy: The customer receives an invoice for payment, and if she does not pay on time, she gets a reminder and maybe a bill for a late fee. That was the way we used to think, but that is not the case today.
Customer experience is becoming increasingly important for Swisscom. This also applies to processes such as billing and collection.
"Customer experience is becoming increasingly important for Swisscom. This also applies to processes such as billing and collection ...
Ideally, customers would never have to deal with bills. If they do have to, they must be able to do so through their preferred channel. Today, we offer bills via many channels including our app, e-mail, letters, SMS and Swisscom stores. Customers expect an optimal experience in every channel.
In addition: today not only telecommunication charges are included in Swisscom bills, but rather more and more other products. This also means that we as a team are on the move in many areas. That makes the work varied and interesting, fascinating.
Why did you invest in engaging the Ergonomen? You were already very successful before.
That's true. Before 2017 we had constantly invested in more effective processes - with success. Then we noticed that better customer experiences could create stronger customer loyalty, especially in dunning processes. We know the social trends, also in Switzerland: debt, the tendency to live on credit, worsening payment habits. We were at a point where our small improvements only carried marginal effects. We had to fundamentally reconsider and transform the processes. We felt that we needed a new perspective and inspiration for this.
What did you want to achieve?
For the client, our goal was to offer optimal solutions and the best support in a difficult situation. For hotline agents, our goal was to provide simpler and better solutions from their computer system so that they could focus more on conversations. For Swisscom we wanted to secure future revenues and prevent bad debts by reducing the number of lost customers due to insolvency. Our initiative was focused on redesigning the dunning processes, making proactive offers to customers with payment difficulties, creating simpler, clearer tools for the agents.
We wanted to become the service leader in collection in the market again. I am very happy that we were able to achieve these goals.
What highlights did you experience in the project?
For me, the overall highlight was the cooperation with the Ergonomen and other stakeholders, and the potential we were able to tap into together.
Together we worked in an agile environment to develop a new process. Then, together with customers, agents and employees from different Swisscom departments, we developed creative and user-centered solutions to finalize the details of the touchpoints.
Ultimately, we doubled customer satisfaction (NPS) and achieved significantly better payment behavior. It was an absolute highlight that our work was so well received by customers. To be honest, I was also a little surprised that we were able to achieve so much with customer-centric, behavioral approaches. I didn't think this was possible at the beginning.
What challenges did you have and how did you deal with them?
Of course, we know about the ever-present challenge of limited resources. We always evaluated the potential impact of a particular initiative and prioritized accordingly.
Another challenge were certain skills that we lacked in the team. This is another reason why we approached you Ergonomen: Your expertise in usability and behavioral economics was completely new to us, and we received a lot of useful input and inspiration. The people in the team had the opportunity for personal development. The challenge was to develop the people according to their level of development.
If you think back to the start of the project and could change something, what would you do differently?
At the start we brought our team together in a workshop and collected ideas over 2 days. We ended up with more than 100 Post-Its on the wall. While this long list of ideas contributed to the impact we had, we started quite broadly, too broadly. The program organization was overwhelmed by this breadth at the start of the project. If we had narrowed our focus in the beginning, we would have been able to have impact faster.
We also learned a tremendous amount during the project: we went through an agile transformation and developed our team. If I could do it all again, I would not change anything else.
What is it like to work with the Ergonomen?
It is a very uncomplicated collaboration. On the one hand, my team and I were able to contribute ideas, goals and visions.
On the other hand, we could always count on you bringing your expertise where it was important. Together, we enjoyed synergies and were able to develop very good concepts. We always sharpened these concepts through testing. Especially the testing of our ideas with prototypes at customers/agents was very instructive. In the past, we had only done this very selectively.
One can expect a very pleasant cooperation from the Ergonomen. And really a collaboration - developing, challenging, testing and implementing concepts and solutions together. Of course, some of these were completely new working methods for us.
For example, OKRs. You introduced us to the concept, and we used the methodology in a joint project. With OKRs we can operate a suitable target management with the necessary flexibility in an agile environment. We can pass on our experience within Swisscom.
Another new method is the whole topic of customer behavior. In the past we worked much more with assumptions and personal experiences, or with ideas of "what I would do in that situation". We often assumed that customers proceed very rationally. But in our collaboration, it has become clear that this is not the case. All these insights give us a new perspective on how to develop behavioral solutions.
Do you have any advice for others who are in a similar situation to yours in 2017? You were at the very beginning of your journey.
When I think back to 2017, we asked ourselves the question "how do we tackle this challenge?” It was certainly very important to be open for new ideas and to have the courage to try new things. And when it comes to tackling a multi-year initiative involving many people, it is very important to have a very clear common goal that we can all commit to.
Is there anything else you want to say, address a topic we didn't come to?
Just one thing. Very important in this challenging work was certainly the fun factor. The fun with you, with all the people involved at Swisscom, was a very important factor behind the success we achieved. I can only thank you very much for the cooperation with you and for the fact that we were able to achieve such a nice result.
Thank you, right back at you!