Ashley Schofield discusses self-serve, delivering on brand promises and how AI can help shape the future giffgaff was the only telecoms provider to make it into the top 10 of the Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), released in January. What is giffgaff’s success down to?

Ashley Schofield: Collaboration. Our success is based on working with our members (we never call them customers) to make our mobile service better.

They play a key role in providing service to other members through our community forums.  

They also help shape the strategy of the business with their ideas and feedback.  

For example, through giffgaff labs - our online forum where members suggest ways to improve the experience, we’ve implemented over 600 member ideas to date.

And through their more general feedback it’s clear how much they value freedom and flexibility, so we never tie them down.  

We sell all our phones unlocked and members are free to cancel their goodybags (our name for tariffs) at any time, basically they are free to leave but we hope they’ll find enough reasons to stay. 


The next highest rated telco on the index, Tesco Mobile, is another MVNO. Why do MVNOs have an advantage when it comes to customer service?

giffgaff was founded on the principle of mutuality which has helped us to develop clear insights into what our audience wants.  

Our members value the ability to self-serve and the immediacy and personal touch of our community forums.  

In the early days, we looked very different but now more and more people are switching on to our way of doing things.

No one wakes up in the morning looking for reasons to call a call centre and why would they?

Our member forums will come back with a helpful response in an average response time of 90 seconds versus the national average of 15 minutes spent on the phone to a call centre. 


The evidence from the same report suggests that the telecoms industry is the most poorly performing sector in the UK – what is the industry as a whole getting wrong?

Every company is different but the evidence does point to some of our competitors struggling to meet expectations and if customers make the wrong choice of provider and find themselves locked into a two-year contract, it’s never going to be a great driver of brand advocacy.  

At giffgaff we know how critical it is to deliver on our brand promise.  

Because we never keep our members captive we challenge ourselves to go that extra mile to surpass expectations.   


giffgaff mainly targets the likes of millennials – how would you define the customer service needs of this generation currently?

Our evidence suggests giffgaff is a great choice for people of all ages but it is a mindset thing.  

If you need help and your first instinct is to call a call centre or seek out help in a retail store then we might not be the right brand for you.  

In contrast if instinctively you jump online to find answers immediately then giffgaff may well be a better choice.  

It’s true 18-25 year olds are more likely to reach out online, in a digital world they expect brands to be accessible when and wherever they want them to be.


What is the biggest challenge you face in continuing to serve the needs of your customers?

We are constantly making improvements to the way we deliver service, many of which are inspired by our members’ ideas and will continue to do so.

At the same time, we are obsessive about why members need help so we can remove those pain points.

We understand our members lead busy lives so the more we can make the giffgaff experience effortless the happier our members become.


If you had to choose a key learning/takeaway from giffgaff’s experience that other telcos could learn from what would it be?

giffgaff was born because we were curious enough to ask the question: “what if things were different?”

Curiosity and a desire to challenge the status quo are inherent in giffgaff’s success, as is recognising and developing the contribution of our biggest stakeholders – our members.


giffgaff is now eight years old. What areas are you focusing on to further improve your customer service going forward?

It’s an exciting time for online service.  

The rapid improvements in AI technologies present great opportunities to deliver more intelligent, personalised and intuitive experiences.

Through the strength of our relationship with our members we have become recognised leaders for satisfaction but as a business we get most excited about how we can improve things in the future.

To that end we’ll be working closely with our members to continue to develop a uniquely rewarding giffgaff experience.

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