Connecting telecoms providers with improved customer service
Be it broadband internet services, pay TV, landline or mobile, the telecoms market is incredibly competitive. The pace of technological change means that new services are constantly being launched while there is ongoing pressure on prices, with consumers demanding more for less at every contract renewal.
All of these factors make customer service a key battleground for telecoms providers and an area that the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, consistently monitors and reports on. Its latest report, Comparing Service Quality, looks at customer satisfaction, complaints and other service metrics with the UK’s largest landline, broadband and mobile providers in 2016. While 92% of mobile and 89% of landline customers were happy with the service they received, the report points to a lack of consistency between providers and long wait times for many consumers when trying to speak to customer service.
This mirrors research carried out by Eptica in 2016, which found that the performance of telecoms operators was patchy, with many companies not providing answers on channels such as email and chat. Just 61% of questions were answered online, for example, and response times on Twitter ranged from 21 minutes to nearly 24 hours.
On the back of the report, Ofcom chief executive Sharon White challenged the industry to “up its game on customer service”, demanding that “consistency and excellence becomes the norm, and customers always come first.” As part of this Ofcom has launched an interactive service comparison tool that lets consumers review the different levels of service provided by operators.
Customer service is, therefore, a priority for telecoms companies – so how can they ensure that they are providing a consistent, multichannel experience that meets consumer needs? There are four areas to focus on, particularly when it comes to bringing down waiting times and the length of calls for consumers:
1. Invest in Self-Service
The Ofcom report highlights long hold and wait times when customers call many providers, leading some consumers to hang up before speaking to an agent. To help reduce call volumes telecoms companies need to ensure that they are providing the maximum amount of information and answers online to their customers. This not only improves the experience for consumers but also frees up agent time to focus on more complex calls, thus further reducing waiting times.
2. Augment the agents
Like any new technology, telecoms can be complex, meaning there are a huge number of potential issues that can arise. No customer service agent can be expected to know everything that might go wrong for an individual consumer, so operators should use artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to help them. By analyzing incoming emails, tweets and Facebook messages and understanding their meaning, AI-powered customer experience software can automatically suggest relevant information and answers. This makes it easier for agents to respond faster to queries, allowing them to focus on delivering a better experience.
3. Use chat
Customers like the immediacy and speed of chat, while companies benefit from efficiency gains as agents can handle multiple chat sessions without impacting quality. Essentially it can provide an equivalent personal experience to the phone channel, but without long hold times. Telecoms companies should, therefore, invest in chat, training agents and ensuring they are available when customers want to talk. Eptica’s research found that while 80% of telecoms providers claimed to have chat, just half of them had it working when tested – pointing to a lack of dedicated resources on the channel.
4. Centralize knowledge
Many telecoms providers have grown by acquisition, meaning that the information that agents need to access when responding to customer queries can be spread across multiple systems. This increases call and response times and can lead to inconsistency as there is no single version of the truth. To combat this, operators should centralize information in a single knowledge base, and make it available to agents across every channel. It should be easy to use and simple to update by agents, helping to lower response times, wait and hold time as well as ensuring consistency.
As Ofcom’s report shows, the focus on customer service in the telecoms market is only going to increase. In a highly competitive sector, operators, therefore, need to focus on delivering a consistent, quality service whatever the channel if they want to win and retain customers.