Courage, curiosity and frictionless experiences

Lutfu Kitapci, Chief Customer Officer at Hyperoptic, on how the broadband disruptor is challenging the industry culture of poor customer service

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


While connectivity is increasingly a utility service for modern life, when it comes to broadband providers a culture of poor customer service dominates. While the increase in hybrid working means that connectivity is an increasingly important component of a successful career, many broadband providers have alienated their customers. In fact so deep-seated is this culture of poor customer service that according to research from Hyperoptic, almost a third (38.5%) of people believe that broadband providers offer the worst customer service of any industry in the UK.

Hyperoptic wants to challenge the industry culture of poor customer service - with a new campaign which runs across addressable TV, out of home and digital channels. The campaign, created by TBWA with PR support from The 10 Group, positions the brand as ‘hyper reliable and hyper serious about service’.

Ironically the now obligatory Zoom interview with Lutfu Kitapci, Chief Customer Officer at Hyperoptic was almost scuppered by an at-home broadband fiasco involving a 14-day wait and squirrels eating through the cable (not Hyperoptic I hasten to add). 

Driving the disruption agenda  

Kitapci joined Hyperoptic in January this year. He was previously Vodafone’s Global Managing Director for Smart Tech, bringing innovative customer products to market. He has held senior leadership roles responsible for driving commercial growth and transformation at Vodafone’s operating companies in the Czech Republic, Turkey, Germany and Ireland. As Consumer Business Unit Chief, Lutfu helped make Vodafone Ireland the fastest growing fixed broadband provider and the leader in Gigabit broadband. He is now focused on harassing the power of marketing to supercharge Hyperoptic’s next stage of growth.

In 2022 Hyperoptic passed 250,000 active customers and with more five-star Trust Pilot reviews than BT, Sky and Virgin Media combined the company’s customer service record is at the heart of his approach.

Kitapci explains that Hyperoptic started its journey as a disruptive brand by offering super-fast broadband speeds. He explains: “Since then the brand has grown on the fundamentals of fair value, reliable service and fast speeds.”

“The history of disruption is in the DNA of the brand which has a genuine challenger spirit so this was at the heart of our brand refresh. Disruption can be framed in a negative way, but for us, it is all about disrupting the market in a positive way for the customer,” he adds.

This isn’t just generic marketing-speak, Kitapci litters the conversation with proof points; from high NPS scores to high Trustpilot scores it becomes evident very quickly that Kitapci’s role of ‘Chief Customer Officer’ is one he takes incredibly seriously, with a laser-focus on customer experience. 

Marketing in the age of great expectations 

As well as being laser focused on the realities of customer experience Kitapci is equally eloquent on the importance of ensuring marketing is aligned with other business divisions. “Our leaders were such an important voice in understanding how we became bolder in both our visual identity and the brand platform. We set out with a vision to be the most loved and reliable brand.”

Describing the brand's character as that of a ‘rebel with a cause’ he notes that the brand never wanted to disrupt without pushing for genuine progress. “It was all about the promise of great service and keeping to that. The harder job is delivering against that every day.”

Keeping up with the pace of customer expectations would never be possible if Kitapci assessed the company’s performance in a vacuum. The message for progressive marketers is clear: if you only obsess about your direct competitors you miss the underlying shifts in consumer culture and expectations.

“The rise of AI means that technology is moving at a fast pace,” he explains, adding: “Consumer expectations used to always be focused on direct comparisons. But today comparing yourself with the competition is not the best lens to judge through.”

He continues: “Consumer comparison and expectation is against their best in class experience, not your direct competitors. It is a big pressure on brands when it comes to evolving and transforming.”

When customers call engineers out to visit, their benchmark is not the direct competition it's a Deliveroo driver, these are the frictionless experiences we need to live up to.

Lutfu Kitapci, Chief Customer Officer at Hyperoptic

Benchmarking beyond the direct competition 

Modern brand transformation is driven by this expansive approach. “Brands need to look more vertically,” explains Kitapci. He continues: “When customers call engineers out to visit their benchmark is not the direct competition it's a Deliveroo driver, these are the frictionless experiences we need to live up to.”

The importance of word of mouth in promoting such frictionless experiences is only growing. As Kitapci explains: “What consumers are doing is trusting people more. Whether it is a road WhatsApp group or a TrustPilot score when we go into tall buildings or badly connected streets and change that experience that drives word of mouth.”

“We live in an instant age,” he continues “So best practice must always be looking at experiences horizontally.” In practice, this means as the team runs through the vision for the brand’s customer onboarding process their benchmark is customer expectation as a whole, as opposed to the dominant culture of poor customer service amongst broadband providers.

In an era where consumers accepted an industry-wide culture of poor customer service? The question for Hyperoptic: do you intend to shift that culture?

“If you look at our vision statement it is not just about being the most loved, it is about setting that high standard,” explains Kitapci. To hold himself accountable to this goal the team spends a great deal of time going into consumer research and listening to customers. He continues: “Customers have put up with bad customer service. 60% of customers say that poor customer service will make them switch but only 25% go on to do it. They accept the mediocre service.” In the midst of this industry malaise, he believes great service is a brand differentiator.

But that great service doesn’t happen by accident. As he explains: “We have a daily sit down with the CEO, CCO and leadership team and we ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. We go through actual customer complaints and that approach runs through the whole business.”

He continues: “People rely on the service to study or work at home. We are not in the business of not getting customers to speak to us. Hyper service is about real customer service. So the focus for us is about automating simple tasks and driving a culture of eliminating unnecessary content so the focus is on the quality of customer service.”

You have to have the genuine curiosity to understand a problem before you jump into the future. That curiosity needs to be brought into everything.

Lutfu Kitapci, Chief Customer Officer at Hyperoptic

A relentless focus on the customer 

The brand has four company-wide KPIs and one of them is NPS. A commitment which underlines how the voice of the customer is so embedded in the business. But what are the challenges of brand building in the midst of a cost of living crisis?

Kitapci explains: “Any phone app or game is only as good as the quality of the internet service. Good quality Internet is an essential service. It’s the harsh reality that the foundation of a great digital life is a great digital service. Have you ever said you love your broadband provider - no. You only know a good thing when it is gone.”

The ethos at the heart of the ‘In your corner’ positioning is to move the relationship with the customer from a purely transactional one to a more emotional one. “Purchasing choices are becoming more and more emotional. Telcomms advertising in particular is proving that it is the emotional aspects of brand building that customers remember,” he explains.

It’s important that this deeper human insight and emotions are rooted in truth. As Kitapci explains: “Personally for me when we talk about marketing campaigns and brand building the conversation is always with the CMO. Yes the brand teams are vital, but it is also the people who enable the brand teams to boldly talk about the product; the engineers, the customer service teams. It’s really about understanding how those teams connect as it is the work of the engineers and the customer service team that allows me to drive the brand forward.”

He continues: “It’s about really ensuring we execute across the organisation and ensuring it is a company vision not just a brand vision. Otherwise, you are saying that marketing is just a bolt-on.” 

The courage to challenge the status quo 

When it comes to building a culture of curiosity and creativity in his teams it is clear that this is not an afterthought for Kitapci, instead, it is a constant work in progress. Notably, he shares little of the industry’s binary thinking about hybrid working. “For me, the ability to solve a problem is about being together. If you have a challenge around co-creation then get into a room together. When you know what you are doing then hybrid working is easier.”

He believes that there are five key focuses when it comes to building effective marketing teams. First comes customer obsession. Second comes the curiosity to solve real problems. As he explains: “You have to have the genuine curiosity to understand a problem before you jump into the future. That curiosity needs to be brought into everything.”

Third and fourth come courage and the ability to challenge the status quo. The fifth focus - creativity - underpins everything. Creativity is not siloed off into a single creative execution, it is a muscle used everyday to find new ways to solve customer problems. A muscle that Kitapci ensures is put to full use by challenging the culture of the industry at large to redefine the standard to which the brand is held.

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