Will the telecoms industry finally get customer service right in 2014?
The telecoms industry came under increasing scrutiny in 2013 for the way it handles customer complaints. The most recent figures from Ofcom revealed that during the third quarter of 2013 the total volume of telecoms and pay TV complaints (now closely intertwined) actually increased. These findings build on results released earlier this year by Ombudsman Services which showed that the organisation had received over 10,000 communications complaints in 2012/2013, compared to just over 500 complaints 10 years ago. When analysed, this figure reveals that the largest cause for complaint is quality of customer service (at 37%) with a further 21% raising complaints about billing. This is being driven by customer service advisors not having the tools to simply and easily see all the information they require and correctly action it. In addition, operators are now selling a more diverse range of services than ever before with home phone, broadband and mobile packages for the whole family now being offered. As a result it’s more important than ever that orders are processed correctly upfront.
Complaints affect every industry, but what is crucial is that they are dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. Complaints are the result of a customer request not being fulfilled, with inaction to that complaint resulting in an escalation to Ombudsman Services. The high number of complaints highlight that the telecoms industry has got it badly wrong with customers.
The need to respond appropriately to customer complaints has taken on even greater importance with the growth of social media, which allows customers to instantly provide feedback on their interactions long before they take the formal route to Ombudsman Services. This has the potential to tarnish reputations and put off existing, new, and potential customers. Ultimately in 2014 those telecoms providers that get customer service right and reduce the number of upfront errors will be able to grow, while those that choose to ignore it will lose customers.
Controlling the complexity
The increase in complaints made to Ombudsman Services about the communications industry is undoubtedly linked to the growth in complexity of services that they offer. Over the past 10-20 years complaints were almost exclusively made about landline and dial-up services that customers received. Now consumers and businesses are dependent on broadband, be it regular or fibre, and have fixed line as well as mobile considerations as well, often offered in bundles. In addition telecoms providers are now offering a range of services from Pay TV to digital offerings to the market as standard. With broadband now considered almost as important as water and electricity for a business, these bundled products have to have seamless customer experience and effective customer service to support it.
Moving the back office forward
The clearest solution to resolving complaints is to invest more time and effort into products, services and purchasing channels to immediately minimise potential complaints. Despite this approach, there is a need to ensure that the front office operations are optimised so customer complaints and queries can be effectively logged and managed to resolution. Businesses need to give the front office a simple set of tools that connects all back office services and gives a single view of the customer and a joined up experience. The value of such a modern, joined up customer service is steadily being recognised by telecom providers with investment being made to improve this aspect of their service. In 2014 this needs to be accelerated and focused upon cloud based solutions that can improve customer service by simplifying the method of on-boarding new products, an increasingly complex area.
Using integrated subscription-cloud software means that complex products can be easily bundled and brought to market quicker and more flexibly than before. Configurations including pricing, quoting and ordering can be unified and standardised throughout the business, improving order fulfilment and taking the complexity out of operational processes. These innovations will lead to an improved order process and a smoother customer experience. With 21% of all the complaints made to Ombudsman Services being about billing and disputed charges, implementing an effective cloud based system to manage this aspect of the business will pay dividends for providers of all sizes.
Next generation complaints
The telecoms industry has to act in 2014 to ensure that it has effective processes in place to manage the next generation of customer complaints. Consumers increasingly use Twitter and Facebook as their first port of call for failed interactions with their providers and the telecoms industry needs to ensure that these channels are fully integrated into their customer service solutions to resolve them before they become complaints. Consumers want to be able to interact using the channel of their choosing (Twitter for example) and pick-up the conversation through another channel (telephone) if they choose to. While this is meeting customer expectations, telecoms providers have to start beating them to deliver truly excellent service. Only with an effective cloud based solution in place will the telecom industry be able to make the step change required to remove the cause of customer complaints, beat expectations and have happier customers in 2014.
Josh Morse is marketing director at CloudSense, the leading cloud systems integrator and independent software vendor. Josh helps CloudSense to attract clients such as O2, Vodafone, News International, BT and Daily Mail & General Trust. Prior to joining CloudSense, Josh held a number of senior marketing and product roles across the telecoms...