The Customer Experience Podcast | ‘Customer Experience is not a waste’ with Kate Birtles from Biffa

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Hello and welcome to the Customer Experience Podcast with host Emma Dark.

In the final episode of the Customer Experience podcast, Emma chats with Kate Birtles from Biffa.

Whilst almost everyone won’t deem waste management as something all that ‘CX:ie’, the way we think about it has never been more important when you think about its environmental impact and how it affects the customer.

Kate outlines how her new customer team ensures they are always walking in their customer’s shoes, getting out on the frontline and getting to know them, whilst cascading the customer’s voice right across the business.

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Lots to take in here so with no further ado, here’s Emma and Kate.



– Meeting Kate Birtles Customer Service Director at Biffa

– Introducing the topic on driving customer experience in waste management 

How is Kate driving the customer experience strategy? 1:40 

– Where ever you have a customer interaction, it is important to have a customer strategy to ensure the best CX

–  improving the customer experience team within Biffa during the restrictions of the past couple of years

What does Biffa do to perfect the customer experience? 3:40

Covering the basics, Biffa being an invisible service to customers, picking up waste at the right time, efficiently, sustainability, improving the environmental impact of waste management.

How does being sustainable and looking after the planet benefit the customer? 5:55

– Our purpose is to change the way people think about waste

– what can we do to prevent waste from being waste, looking into recyclables and recovering energy from waste, minimising landfill, encouraging education, keeping things as simple as possible.

How do you approach the complexities of waste management within the organisation and externally to the customer? 8:20

Understanding who the customer is. 

– Having a sensible conversation and understanding what their need is and then finding solutions first before imposing needs.

– Managing local council needs and customer needs.

How does digitalisation come into play within waste management? 9:55

– We are still learning but eager to further develop with customer portals to offer feedback.

– Making sure the customer experience is as flawless as possible.

– Making sure the service is customisable so customers can choose what they do and don’t want.

What does the new CX team do at Biffa?

–  Management spending time with the front line going out to understand customers and the company voice face to face.

– Understanding the customer journey from start to finish. 

– Understanding if there is a process problem looking in from a customer perspective.

How do you manage your customer maps? 14:45

– Initiatives and methodologies on how to prioritise tasks.

– Needing to start from the beginning with a blank piece of paper and mapping out what the ideal customer experience should be and spring boarding from there.

– Understanding what the customer pain is and offering solutions as soon as possible and implementing them as trials. 

How to cascade the customer voice across the organisation? 16:20

– It is a challenge as always especially due to the recent challenges; people are change fatigued.

– Increasing the positivity and transparency about the customer journey and experience. 

How do you approach customer centricity? 18:30

– It helps that everyone is customer centric. It is a challenge that everyone’s idea of what the customer needs are slightly different. 

– It’s good to celebrate the wins with customers but equally it is important to recognise the problems customers can face as well.

– Focus groups from various areas of the organisations, bringing ideas to them and discussing the pros and cons.

– Making sure everyone is apart of the change.

How involved is the customer in those changes? 20:40

– Getting customers to come in, starting discussions on the portal, getting feedback with customer panels.

– Although we have so much information available, we are still not always able to transfer that into palpable changes, it can be trial and error.

What have you noticed with regards to poor service as a customer yourself? 24:10

– A lot of organisations are still using the pandemic as an excuse for poor customer service.

– Not using the amazing technological advances to optimise customer experiences, chatbots, FAQ’s on-demand. 

– Walking in the shoes of the customer is still a basic but vital option to improve customer experience. 

How to make the customer experience the beating heart of the organisation? 28:40

Making sure we don’t drive anti-customer behaviour that generates money but pushes customers away.

– Making sure you’re measuring things that customers actually care about. 

– Working out the balance between customer-centricity and employee satisfaction.

Does Biffa have enough customer metrics so that you can see the impact to the customer?

– Yes, although we can still do better.

– It is one thing to say we are customer centric but its more important to act it.

What are some brands you think are doing well? 33:00

 – The obvious ones are Zappos because of how they managed the digital transformation, personalise the customer experience, freedom of people on the ground to use the brains to come up with great CX improvements.

– John Lewis, great no nonsense to customer issues – they sort it out 

– At Biffa we are not trying to be Disney, we are offering a service that fixes problems really quickly and with as little pain as possible 

What are some of the key pain points of the strategy to improve customer centricity? 36:30

– The changes we want to make are not always in alignment with the business agenda as a whole.

– Some things require time and the right type of communication to make the changes tangible.

– Using data to prove the changes are vital. 

What are positive examples of the impacts of the pandemic? 39:50

– Customer call centres working from home quickly and seamlessly. 

– Amazing covid safety measures quickly to help with a speedy hybrid working culture. 

– Proactively working out how to communicate to customers using different channels. 

– Thinking and acting quicker. 

What are some key predictions in the world of CX? 42:55

– Making sure the proposition is for the customer and employees.

– Investing in your employees.

– Are we being responsible with data.

– Are we looking at the environment appropriately.

What is your advice for others involved in CX? 45:30

 – You need to get top your customers in any way that suits your organisation: get out there and be a customer, go through their journey and understand the positive and negatives of their journey.

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