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Comms firms let down by customer service

26th Nov 2009
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Communication companies are spending millions to attract new customers - but are doing a woeful job of keeping them, according to a new study.

Communications companies are doing a woefully poor job of handling and keeping their customers, a shortcoming that means that European communications services providers (CSPs) potentially throw away $46 billion a year.

According to a new study by Oracle, two-thirds of respondents said that they couldn’t resolve problems with just one call. Retaining existing customers is the key priority for CSPs, but the survey reveals that the systems in place at the vast majority of CSPs leave them unable to meet this objective. Some 80% had no mechanism for retaining customers when their contracts were up for renewal. Even firms which were able to recognise which contracts were coming to an end, didn’t have the processes in place to try and retain them.

"CSPs spend millions on marketing in a bid to attract new customers, but this does not matter if their existing ones continue to leave," said Tim Vaughan, business development lead for self-service applications, Oracle EMEA. "There are various options available to help CSPs reduce customer churn. One is the ability to empower customers through social CRM tools; another is through technology that flags customers reaching the end of their contracts. These options give CSPs the opportunity to contact customers with new offers."

More than 80% of customers put the web as their top or second preference for contacting the firms, yet only 13% of CSPs provided the ability for online chat with agents. This in turn means that too much time is spent dealing with billing requests over the phone Only a third of firms were able to personalise their service and make recommendations to customers during a phone call or online query.

"With technology and communications at the heart of their businesses, communications service providers want to be adept at capitalising on new modes of delivering personalised service,” said Bhaskar Gorti, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Communications. “What the research shows, however, is that the industry faces a number of challenges in delivering a seamless and consistent experience across its customer service channels."

Personalisation and interaction

Lack of integration between systems is a major barrier to good customer service. Only one in six respondents stated that all teams work from the same system and are directed to follow the same strategies for customer service, retention and recruitment across all channels. Just a quarter (26%) were in the process of developing systems and processes to fulfll this goal while he remaining half (56%) said there was some or little integration between customer-facing teams.

"With this lack of coordination between departments, providing a consistent brand and customer experience across retail, online and call centre channels is extremely difficult," said Gorti. "Today's consumers expect a seamless brand and customer experience irrespective of the channel serving them - whether they browse online before going into a shop or investigate in-store before ordering through a call centre, they expect to be able to pick up where they left off."

Online, customers want their internet experience to be personalised and interactive. Features identified as an inventive to go online included the ability to view account trends and ways of saving money (47%), a personalised online service with tailored offers (45%) and the ability to access support services (44%). But these features are not being offered to customers. Just under half of CSPs (46%) offer the ability to view account trends and ways of saving money online, while a mere 13% provide online support agents with instant messaging facilities.

"There is certainly an appetite among the public to deal with these queries online and the advantages delivered to businesses that provide such services are huge,” said Gorti. “Operators across Europe and the Middle East need to find better ways to draw customers into the web experience, but this is only possible if customers feel confident that the self-service tools online are able to address and solve their queries appropriately."

Personalisation of offers is equally elusive with only two-thirds of CSPs surveyed unable to make recommendations to customers based on the context of each interaction both online and in call centres. Some 38% can only offer this in call centres, 11% only on the web, while 18% were unable to provide this through either channel.

"Whether we're talking iPhone applications, Facebook or Twitter, the technologies customers use in their personal lives have changed their expectations about how they want to engage with businesses,” noted Gordon Rawling, senior marketing director, EMEA, Oracle. “They want a service that's tailored to their lives, preferences and habits. The vital first step in being able to deliver this level of personalised service is to connect the systems and processes across all the channels."

The study, entitled 'Fostering Customer Intimacy for Communications Service Providers in Europe and the Middle East' and conducted by research house Vanson Bourne, involved a survey of 46 senior customer management executives for various communications service providers (CSPs) and 3,750 consumers across Western and Eastern Europe and the Middle East (EMEA).

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By brynstandrin
30th Nov 2009 12:40

It may be worrying, yet not surprising, that two out of three communications service providers are having to make two or more attempts at resolving customer calls.  And that an even greater number fail to provide customers with a consistent brand experience across different delivery channels.

 Many businesses recognise that the solution lies somewhere around the area of effective multi-channel customer management and an ability to act on their key customer data.  So, for example, they know that customers will be coming up for renewal but are simply unable to access and act on that information.  So, how to tackle this?  Much of the problem results from inflexible siloed back office functions that cannot talk to each other.  By contrast, in driving the entire process from the front office and using automation to remove these silos, a common, unified response will both improve first call resolution – so improving the customer experience - and deliver wider economies of scale.  And by using agile business process management software they can respond rapidly to change, so making the most of new opportunities presented by fast-evolving customer and market requirements.   Businesses often suffer the frustration of knowing what the problem is as they continue to lose out to more agile competitors.  By looking less at data and more at process, businesses can empower their agents by putting the right information – and only the right information – at their fingertips at the point of customer contact.  The outcome is better first time resolution, resulting in happier customers – and more motivated staff.  A rare example of true win/win.

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