October sees National Customer Service Week in the UK. It’s an initiative aimed at raising awareness of customer service and the vital role it plays in successful business practice and the growth of the UK economy. There is a lot of information on the website, including a breakdown of complaints by sector. Guess which sector wins the dubious prize of generating the most complaints? Yes, it’s telecommunications and media.
This brings us to the story of our friend, who called the other day to recount what he termed ‘a heart-warming story.’ The irony was not immediately obvious. Attempting to upgrade his services with his telecoms supplier, who we will kindly not name, he first tried to log into his account. With no idea of his password, or even recollection of ever having had one, he selected the ‘forgotten password’ option. A day later, no response. He emailed Customer Services. A week later, no response. The ‘online chat help’ was always unavailable.
Not living near to one of Unidentified Supplier’s retail outlets, he resorted to the Call Centre. He tried many combinations of the available options, and even managed to be polite to the voice recognition system, but each time his call dropped into a black hole. Eleven times he tried, 11 times he was cut off. He’s an honest chap and we have no reason to doubt his story. Finally, he settled down with a coffee and an iced bun, called the Call Centre one more time, and gently pressed ‘0’ on his phone when the automated voice offered up the choices. Again, and again, and again, he pressed zero, until, eventually, oh happy day, he beat The System and was connected to a real, live, human being.
His issue was sorted in seconds, his services upgraded, job done. Is he happy? No, he’s furious at the time wasting, the inefficiency, the total lack of interest by Unidentified Supplier in providing a smooth customer experience. He’s a customer lost, and will never have a good word to say about this company again.
There is such rich potential for improvement in customer service, or customer relationship management (CRM). Entire events are dedicated to the topic – our own Dr Andy Tiller is speaking at the Customer Experience Management in Telecoms European Summit this month, and is also focusing on CRM at the Next Generation Pricing and OSS/BSS conference in October.
But how does all this awareness-raising and talk help our friend? Well, it highlights the opportunities that are now available to enable service providers to up their game when it comes to customer service. We’ve long been advocates of the ‘omni-channel’ approach, where the customer can interact with the service provider via any channel. Independent research shows that Western European mobile network operators could save up to $4.6 billion through the adoption of an omni-channel approach.
Had Unidentified Supplier implemented omni-channel capability, our friend’s frustration could have been avoided. With omni-channel, agents across all channels – online, in store – and the end-customer, have the same 360 degree view of that customer’s personal data and interaction history. Social apps become full channels, so Facebook can become the log in – no lost password issues. Support channels are fully integrated, so agents can see what the customer sees in self-service channels, and act on the customer’s behalf. All agent screens are available on any device, including in-store tablets. No more emails disappearing into the ether. No more ‘We’re really busy at the moment, but your call is important to us so please continue to hold … indefinitely …’.
Omni-channel puts the power in the hands of the customer. Simple, familiar touchscreen processes would have enabled our friend to log in via Facebook, choose the service upgrade he wanted, and confirm the change to his price plan. Job done. Customer retained. Brand undamaged. It really is time for service providers to put the customer in control.