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SNCF Connect “elected customer service of the year”. Best joke of the year?

Publié le 22 novembre 2023 à 14:07 par Magazine En-Contact
SNCF Connect “elected customer service of the year”. Best joke of the year?

The 17th edition of ESCDA, Elu Service Client de l'Année, drew smiles and laughter from Internet users and real customers, users of the SNCF and SNCF Connect, who reacted on social networks after SNCF Connect won the award in its category. "The best joke of the year (...) the joke of the day" were the headlines.

Many customers, who received an email from the SNCF subsidiary congratulating them on the award, couldn't resist reacting with ironic posts. How can an application and booking site that has experienced so many malfunctions and breakdowns this year, and whose user experience has had to be redesigned so often, be awarded a prize? The slowness in getting refunds, the breakdown in service when winter tickets went on sale - could all this be the mark of a customer-focused company and platform?

Can you buy this type of prize? Yes, say Internet users. It would cost around 30K. Ludovic Nodier, founder of Viséo Customer Insights, has not officially reacted.

Le Parisien and Le Figaro in particular have reported the mockery. Le Parisien at least testifies to the independence of its editorial staff. The same newspaper relayed the criticisms of Internet users and published a supplement with the event organiser.

SNCF Connect is not yet the world champion in customer service and user experience.

The SNCF and its reservation service in particular are not without their faults, and there are some bizarre situations: a buggy application, a completely automated customer service that struggles to deal with complex requests, delays in refunds, the inability to manage Ouigo tickets, etc. The list of dysfunctions and areas for improvement is long, and raises three questions:

How is this distinction awarded, would it be enough to pay to get it and what is good customer service?

"Objectively speaking, when everything is managed by bots, when it's impossible to get support in a branch if you have a problem, and when you can only get a response via a paying hotline with a confidential number, you just can't talk about customer service," says a reader of the Figaro article in a comment.

"To complete the article, participation in this award is not free: 20,000 euros + fees of the same order of magnitude depending on the use of the Customer Service of the Year brand in advertising, radio, etc. There are so many categories that it is not unusual for there to be only one candidate company per category. It is therefore reasonable to think that this is an award that can be bought", writes a second reader.

ESCDA 2011 atmosphere with Ludovic Nodier on the left

For the past seventeen years, Viséo Customer Insights, the company founded by Ludovic Nodier, has been applying a methodology inspired by Elu Produit de l'année, created by a relative of Ludovic Nodier, to the world of customer service.

. Each year, brands register to compete in a given category and are evaluated over an eight-week period by a third party* (a subsidiary of BVA), who calls on them and tests their customer service remotely. In each category, the company with the highest score receives the Customer Service of the Year award. In some cases, there may be no winners in a category if no participant has obtained a score higher than 12/20.

. This methodology, and the fact that you can win an award when the company with the largest number of customers in the world is not competing, has led to lawsuits in the past, particularly in the competitive telecoms sector. We reported on this here. Free and SFR clashed over the issue and took ESCDA to court at the time. At the time, the judges ruled that this was an 'advertising operation' and that referring to the term 'election' could amount to a 'misleading commercial practice'. Since then, this judgement has prompted ESCDA to change its election practices.

. In addition to the registration fee, winners pay sums approaching 20 KE per year for the right to display the award and logo.

The annual awards evening, attended by over 800 people, has established itself as a popular event, with brands taking the opportunity to invite their teams of telephone advisers and customer service agents. Since the BPO service providers who work with the award-winning brands are now trying and succeeding to make it known that they are behind the recognised service, that they are contributing to it: Comearth, Konecta, Webhelp, Ocean Call, Teleperformance and so on. There is rigorous competition in this industry. Publicising the fact that you have helped your customer to the top of the podium could make other brands want to work with you. Comearth, for example, an SME founded by Jean Reignier, is one of the historic partners of Veepee, which was the most multi-awarded company at ESCDA, and Edenred, which won an award this year (see the photo on the front page, on Comearth's premises in Orsay).

Viséo Customer Insights has come up with a pretty nice cash machine. Independent?

In addition, ESCDA now charges for the videos that are played and broadcast during the evening. ESCDA has become a very profitable business, thanks to its economic model and the industrialisation of the sale of all the services mentioned above: to take part, you have to pay. To let people know you've won, you have to pay. If you want your brand to appear in a video during the evening, you have to pay. To attend the evening, you need to be invited and accepted on the list (the organisers ensure that no dissonant speeches disrupt the ceremonial).

The recently opened Sephora shop on the Champs Elysées. In-store customer service and experience is not rated by ESCDA. Only remote service is evaluated, and for 8 weeks.

En-Contact magazine was a media partner of the evening for the first few years, more than ten years, says its editor-in-chief, Manuel Jacquinet. "Then I saw the company: becoming this cash machine, an evolution that didn't seem compatible with the expected independence and not evolving, in my opinion. For example, warning the companies being tested and evaluated of the period during which they will be tested is astonishing. I then suggested to Ludovic Nodier for a long time that the customer experience and customer service in shops, in physical locations, should be part of the tests and the methodology: 80% of the world's commerce is still conducted in physical locations!

Secondly, it's hard to reconcile awarding prizes to companies, selling software used to evaluate them (Hubicus), creating new categories every year, and never questioning the attitude of many large companies and brands that are looking to save money on customer service, automate it to the max, and then buy themselves a kind of smokescreen with a label.

Imagine if, in the same year that the book Les Fossoyeurs was published, Orpea won the prize for the best resident experience in a retirement home. This is essentially the reservation expressed by SNCF Connect customers this year. That's why we parted ways and why I stopped attending the awards evening a long time ago".

There has been no official response from SNCF Connect or Ludovic Nodier to the Internet users' questioning of the SNCF Connect prize.

Ludovic Nodier is also a partner in Hubicus, a company that publishes and sells Quality Monitoring software.

According to some sources, Hubicus (which was bought by BVA in 2016) is on the market for sale.

The article in Le Parisien was followed by a number of other press articles, including one in Le Figaro.

The rise to the top this year of the SNCF Connect platform, which is nevertheless investing in customer experience and service, as we reported here, is perhaps an alarm bell to be sounded.

The editors of En-Contact.

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