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May 20, 1992updated 05 Sep 2016 2:38pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Displaying an unsuspected sense of humour, British Telecommunications Plc has encapsulated the art of corporate customer relations management in new book, Putting Customers on the Agenda. It is a guide to managing and developing consumer liaison panels as well as being a study of London EC-based BT’s experience in this field. The liaison panels form a network of 11 groups. Their aim is to generate dialogue between BT and its customers so that insight can be gained into telecommunications issues from the consumer angle. Panel members consist of two or three BT managers, representatives of residential and business customers, members of special interest groups and community organisations. Recruited by independant consultants, volunteers generally serve for two years; this is felt to strike the right balance between experience, new blood and new ideas. Meeting every two months on average, panels discuss not only issues raised by BT, but also those pooled on an open agenda basis. The company stresses, however, that they are not complaints panels and are not simply involved in providing feedback. Although seen as a supplement to standard market research and external consumer bodies, their main role is to offer solutions to particular problems, to take part in the decision-making process and to contribute to the implementation of ideas. Nevertheless, the most difficult task, according to one panel member, was getting BT to look at a problem from any perspective other than its own. At a cost of UKP250,000 a year, the programme has been running for eight years and BT now feels that the time is right to share its expertise with the world. It has already helped Putney, London-based ICL Plc and Boots Plc adopt similar initiatives and the book is said to be a response to interest shown by other firms. Co-written by Jan Walsh, BT’s corporate customer relations manager, and Stephanie Drakes, a consultant on the liaison panel project, the book is aimed at board directors, marketing and communications managers, consumer affairs specialists, business academics and students. It traces the history of the panels and describes how members are recruited, how meetings are managed and the administrative work involved in running the programme. In addition, the philosophy behind the project and the feedback process between panels and Telecom senior management is explored. The introductory price is UKP10.

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