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Stop Saying Sorry: How Telecoms Can Transform Customer Support

Updated: Jul 1

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In our fast-paced, always-connected world, there is no time for apologies, especially in customer service. Modern consumers demand action, not empathy. Recent insights reaffirm that customers prefer solutions over apologies, and this has profound implications for telecom operators aiming to elevate their customer support.


Two different studies underscore this shift in customer expectations. Jagdip Singh, a professor of marketing at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, conducted an extensive study revealing that constant apologizing by customer service representatives can lead to negative perceptions. Instead, customers value effective problem-solving and guidance. Singh’s research involved analyzing 111 videos at airport customer service desks and a subsequent lab experiment, both of which concluded that initial apologies are acceptable, but beyond the first few seconds, they diminish customer satisfaction.


Similarly, a Harvard Business Review study found that customers prefer “The Controller” personality type over “The Empathizer” among frontline support staff. While empathizers listen sympathetically and enjoy solving problems, controllers take charge of the conversation, directing customers towards solutions, which results in higher customer satisfaction.


Key takeaways for telecoms Customer Support

1. Empower agents with effectiveness

Customer service agents need more than just the right personality traits; they require comprehensive training, a supportive culture, and autonomy. Effective solutions stem from agents who are empowered to listen and respond appropriately, rather than following a script. Telecom operators must invest in continuous training and create an environment where agents feel capable of making decisions.


2. Provide adequate resources and data

To solve problems efficiently, agents need access to relevant data and resources. Telecoms must ensure that critical information flows seamlessly to the frontline. This includes real-time data on network performance, customer device details, and recent service updates. With this information, agents can address issues swiftly and accurately.


3. Utilize big data effectively

Big data should be leveraged to enhance frontline support, not just for broad pattern analysis. Telecoms need to find ways to make data actionable for agents dealing with specific, contextual problems. By learning from frontline interactions, telecoms can refine their data strategies to better support customer service operations.


Implementing a solution-oriented approach

As network complexities increase, so do customer issues. Today’s customers expect competent and informed agents who can dive straight into problem-solving without unnecessary small talk. For instance, if a customer calls about issues making international calls, the agent should already have access to data about the customer's smartphone, recent OS updates, and any widespread problems related to those updates. This proactive approach allows agents to provide immediate solutions without the need for repetitive apologies.


Benefits of a solution-focused strategy

Arming customer service agents with the right information and tools can significantly reduce call times, improve customer satisfaction, and lower operational costs. When agents are prepared and empowered, they can handle issues more efficiently, leading to a win-win situation for both customers and telecom operators.


Conclusion

In today’s high-demand environment, telecom operators must shift from a culture of apologies to one of action. By empowering agents, providing essential resources, and leveraging big data effectively, telecoms can transform their customer support experience. Customers will no longer need apologies when they receive prompt, effective solutions.


For telecom operators ready to embrace this change, the path to superior customer support is clear: empower your agents, optimize your resources, and let data drive your decision-making.

Together, we can create a future where customer magic is the standard.


(For further insights, listen to Jagdip Singh’s discussion on the Harvard Business Review podcast, Ideacast: For Better Customer Service, Offer Options, Not Apologies.)

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