In today’s digital world, consumers’ dependency on telecom services like mobile, streaming and the almighty internet will continue to increase. And while this ever increasing demand means higher revenues for telecom, it hasn’t translated into good news for customers. While seeing some improvement in recent years, the telecom industry still hovers at or near the bottom of every major customer experience index.
The Downside of Being Essential
4With many lines of service – especially internet access – perceived by consumers as a necessity akin to oxygen, unsatisfactory experiences are magnified. When they’re working fine, however, no one is celebrating the service. And even when customers report feeling satisfied, they are incredibly stingy with the next level of relationship: loyalty.
According the our recent research, the downward spiral starts early. InMoment’s report, Customer Experience in the Telecom Industry, found that satisfaction plummets at the one-year mark – across all lines of service (TV, internet, mobile, etc.). During the initial honeymoon phase, the technology is still shiny and new, and introductory customer deals are still in place. But as service failures happen and introductory pricing is replaced by sometimes shockingly higher bills, deep frustration sets in. And while satisfaction does bounce back, it never fully recovers.
This dissatisfaction causes customers to look to greener pastures. Telecoms spend an inordinate number of resources luring new customers away from competitors. And while strong acquisition rates are highly prized by shareholders, the result is often a matter of “be careful what you wish for...” The same study found that most of the time, these hard-won new customers are much less satisfied with their new provider than the one they abandoned. It may be a matter of inflated expectations, lofty promises, or a combination of both. Either way, these new, unhappy customers can be more tenuous and more expensive to maintain.
While telecoms face significant challenges, the research also reveals some steps they can take to make real improvements in customer relationships, and their business.
Regularly engaging customers and consistently asking for feedback will help telecoms avoid unpleasant surprises and find new ways to enrich the relationships. A significant increase in a subscription fee or changes to an offering should never be a surprise. Concerted efforts to communicate changes and ensure customers fully understand and are enjoying the full value of their service can ease the transition.
Another major challenge for telecoms is service interruptions, some of which are within their control, and some of which are not. Either way, transparent and honest communication is the best policy. The Metropolitan Transport Authority in New York recently started being transparent with customers about train delays, and customers were reported to act less hostile, especially when they understood delays were not the train’s fault. Another key to successful regular and proactive communication is offering multiple, connected contact channels to alleviate customer frustration of having to restart the resolution process or have to re-enter information like their name and account number. A diverse group of channels ensures consumers can contact their telecom in the way that's most natural and convenient for them, and have a seamless experience when they choose to switch.
Prioritize human interaction.
Although AI and automated chatbot usage have increased and can add efficiency to the brand-customer equation, deploying these technologies at the wrong times increase frustration. Easy access to human representatives -- especially for complex issues -- is one of the best things companies can do to effectively solve problems.
The study found that customers across nearly every service line who had a personal interaction with a brand representative reported higher satisfaction levels than those who had not. Another report found that 67 percent of customers have hung up the phone if they weren’t able to talk to a real person, and another revealed that a bad phone experience would send three quarters of consumers to a competitor. That’s why it’s vital to both provide live human channels, and conduct comprehensive training for those in client-facing roles to ensure they’re well-prepared to thoroughly address each customer issue.
Technology investments should augment human efforts, providing agents with the information and context to handle more service requests faster, and more effectively. However, this cannot happen if customer queries and user information are not seamlessly exchanged between intelligent systems and their human counterparts.
Offer a range of engagement options
Because customers’ needs are varying, they should have access to varying channels for customer support as well. After all, different situations call for different paths to customer service.
For example. landline phone issues aren’t conveniently solved at a physical location—the device can’t even be brought into the store, so perhaps an online chat portal is a better fit. But when it it comes to issues surrounding mobile connectivity, in-store could be the perfect opportunity to bring in the actual device and dialogue face-to-face with a representative for a troubleshooting session.
The challenge to this upgrade in contact channel options means more experiences for telecoms to manage, though no matter where the telecom and customer interact, the experience should remain consistent. As telecom technology moves forward and a fast, quality internet connection becomes all-the-more a necessity, the investment will prove itself more than worth it in due time.
The most important piece of counsel any brand can receive is to invest generous resources in really listening to customers. Listening is more that doling out surveys, providing comment forms on your website, and even offering a real human to hear a complaint. With today’s technologies, customer listening can be always-on, multifaceted, and feel a lot more like a reciprocal conversation than an interrogation. Listening also consists of letting the customer know you’ve heard them, and taking their advice. Just like any human relationship, it’s not nice to ask if you have no intention of responding with integrity. The logistics in doing this may be infinitely complex, but the rules of good human relationships remain pretty simple.
If telecoms will let them, customers can serve as valued consultants in helping these organizations focus resources in the right places to have an impact that matters to both customers and the bottom line.
Andrew Park is Senior Director, Customer Experience Strategy at InMoment
Image Credit: Shutter_M / Shutterstock