The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey makes for grim reading for cable and internet providers, garnering the lowest service scores of any industry. But it has been particularly painful for Comcast, with the cable company reaching a new record low by scoring only 54 out of 100 in customer satisfaction.
It’s the latest blow for a company that hasn’t covered itself in glory in recent years, following an inquisition into its call centre practices, being voted the most frustrating website in the US by a report, and then suffering the reputational damage of a public customer service saga last summer.
To its credit, it has acknowledged the service challenges that it is facing, and as well as recently announcing that it was bolstering its social customer service team on Twitter and Facebook, it has also announced that it is appointing 5,500 new customer service representatives and opening three new contact centres. This, it says, is in an effort to “reimagine [its] whole experience through a customer lens”.
Clearly Comcast knows that improving customer service is strategic for its future. But how can it turn its satisfaction ratings around?
Help customers to help themselves
Comcast customers that would like to change their service have to speak with a customer service agent. And even though the cable provider has launched an app that enables subscribers to schedule a time for an agent to call them so that they can avoid queueing, this is not enough. In 2015, customers want to be able to help themselves, so why won’t Comcast allow its subscribers to change their service online, without the use of agents?
A recent consumer survey of 100 people conducted by Aspect Software on customer self-service revealed just how much people’s preferences have changed when it comes to how they find solutions to their enquiries. A third of the sample (33%) said that they would go online to find answers if they had a query about a product or service they had already paid for, while 22% said they would go on the company’s website.
This demonstrates how customer’s expectations have changed; no longer do people want to wait on the phone with providers to find out what is wrong with a product or if they have any questions –something only 11% of those Aspect surveyed said they still do today – people who have purchased a product want answers as soon as possible, and naturally we turn immediately to online.
Connect customer journeys
Contact centres are experiencing spikes in inbound communications across multiple channels, yet few are able to tie customer journeys across the varying channels together. According to the EvaluAgent report ‘Are your customers lost in the multichannel maze?’, 90% of contact centres offer at least four different channels for customer communications, with 42% offering seven or more. However, 90% also state they do not have a clear way of connecting journeys across them all, which could be affecting customer satisfaction levels. Indeed, while the majority (60%) have a clear multichannel strategy in place, only 10% have successfully implemented the systems and processes to deliver on it.
“Today’s contact centres are dealing with an explosion of new channels that are supposed to reduce operational cost and improve the customer experience,” said Jaime Scott, managing director of EvaluAgent.
“However, our report shows many are paying lip service to the idea of multichannel and failing to create a seamless and joined up experience that will drive customer satisfaction. Ultimately, this failure will lead to higher contact volumes from even more frustrated customers.
“It doesn't have to be this way. The contact centre industry has a huge but possibly short-lived window of opportunity to demonstrate its expertise in this area. The majority of companies say that customer insight has a high impact on their business-change programme so why isn’t the industry doing more to capture it?”
Make better use of customer data
There may not be a more powerful tool to reducing calls to your contact centre than customer data, says Kathy Juve, CMO at 7.
“Data obviously is one of the buzz words du jour, and companies are bringing in more of it than ever. To really capitalise on and improve their customer engagement, companies need to learn lessons from this data or risk inviting the need for more calls to be made,” she explains. “By the time consumers hit a second channel, it likely means they’ve already hit a roadblock somewhere in the process. Fortunately, every time a customer interacts with a company on any channel, they leave behind critical information about where and why their journey was broken.
“By examining these incomplete journeys, companies have the chance to connect the dots to provide a more seamless customer experience the next time a similar issue comes up. It could be as simple as updating an answer on their website, creating a new category of agent questions based on a consumer survey, or something more involved such as updating the knowledge base to the virtual agent to better anticipate a customer’s needs based on a pattern of prior questions.”
Make billing more transparent and consistent
In most industries, call centres predominantly deal with customer queries and resolve product issues. However, in the world of cable providers, most calls relate to billing.
As Brad Tuttle of Money.com notes: “The pay TV business model is one in which new customers are frequently drawn in with low new-subscriber rates, which often turn into exploding bills once the introductory rate expires. The result is that the best, most loyal, and uncomplaining customers face higher and higher bills, while those who dial up, complain regularly, and periodically threaten to cancel are rewarded with rollercoaster pricing that soars and dips. Another result of this billing structure is that customers getting the same exact service may unfairly and seemingly haphazardly be paying very different monthly bills.”
With Comcast recently announcing that one of its key aims is to keep bills simple and transparent, it will need to acknowledge that in actual fact bills are neither simple nor transparent at present, when neighbours can have dramatically different bills for the same service. If Comcast wants to improve satisfaction and reduce calls to its contact centres, it needs to be consistent and transparent with its pricing.
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.