Telecoms services are among the most used services in our lives today and a recent report from comScore on the US market shows the average adult spends almost 3h on their smartphone every day. What’s more interesting with the report though is that back in 2015 the figure was only slightly lower, meaning almost 3h of usage also then. Another metric shows the US smartphone penetration of the total mobile phone market. This used to grow 5-10% annually, but is now starting to flatten out a bit above 80% (saying 4 out of 5 people now have smartphones). Lots of things will still continue to change in the coming years with technological advances and changes in what services we use. (our consumption of digital media on smartphones has for example doubled since 2013). Yet, seeing smartphone users and daily usage starting to stagnate shows the mobile market is becoming saturated. This means fierce competition for existing customers among CSP:s, where everyone needs to differentiate themselves somehow.
How to differentiate as a CSP?
So telecom is one of the most used services, but it is also one of the most disliked. Looking at the NPS score across different industries (how likely you are to recommend this company), it is not banking, insurance or automotive, but telecommunications that has by far the lowest score. The global average is +27%, though it is not uncommon for CSP:s to have a negative NPS score, meaning the majority of customers would not recommend, but rather bad-mouth their carrier.
Why is this? It of course depends a lot on what CSP it is, what customers are there and what the market looks like. But to generalize a bit, Amdocs estimates below break-down of what is affecting NPS.
Below is a quick glance at the parts concerning “Technical issues” and “Customer Service across channels” making up a bit more than half of the NPS impact.
Managing Technical issues and customer service
That “managing technical issues” and being able to “serve customers across different channels” are important factors have been evident in many cases. One example is Vodafone UK’s recent quality issues. Speed-, coverage- and customer support issues led to massive customer backlash in 2016 and a 4.6M pound fine for its treatment of customers when hit by a computer glitch (in 2016, Vodafone was the most complained about network in the UK with an NPS of -2). This year, Vodafone has started to add 2100 additional customer staff around UK and are investing 4 Billion pounds in network and improved customer service.
When looking at service across channels, there is a lot of discussion today around the digital transformation happening. A Cap Gemini report lifts how digital customer care leads to higher NPS while saving millions of dollars in a more efficient support. These digital channels can include chats, web pages and forums instead of traditional channels such as physical store visits or call centers. One example is the now common ability to buy all products online rather than calling or visiting a store, a process that can be completely automated. Another example is Telia Estonia, where they allow customers to check their technical performance and statistics online to see how their service is behaving.
The good news for CSP:s in general is, telecoms is the industry that ranks the highest in digital customer care according to a PwC report. The report also lifts however that good digital support is not enough since 73% of customers use support across many channels (as highlighted also above by Amdocs). In fact, the preferred customer service channel is still phone call with a live agent, which is still preferred by 84% of customers. In contrast, a cross-industry UK report by Callcenter Helper shows only 3% of customer support is managed over social media. Important to remember thus, much focus still needs to be on traditional call support. These figures also vary depending on what query a customer have, where a customer may be more positive to activating a new offer online while a tricky technical issue is preferably handled by a live phone call.
Looking then at what is important to a customer when interacting with a CSP, the second most important factor for a phone call is being met with a good attitude. For a digital channel, second most important thing for a customer is convenience of using the channel. Attitude is also important here, though rather than not experiencing a rude interaction, customers are most concerned about being ignored. For both channels though, the single most important thing for customers is by far that their issues can be resolved quickly. Being nice and having a convenient interface is hence no doubt important, but doesn’t matter that much if support can’t quickly analyze the issue and come up with a solution. This was also highlighted as a major issue during the Vodafone turmoil, where Vodafone UK Chief Executive points out “Call-centre staff felt handicapped by their computer screens, which did not give them clear advice on how to help customers.” When talking to Telenor Customer Service in Sweden, they also highlight resolutions in as short time as possible as priority. Many times they can have first line support talking to second line support while the customer is still on hold.
So for customer service to work well, the number one priority should be being able to resolve customer issues as quickly as possible, regardless of channel. This is done by having properly trained staff, but also by giving them the right tools to work with. If done right, customers will stay more satisfied which will have a positive impact on NPS. If not done well however, the magnitude of the negative impact will likely be far greater on the NPS since unsatisfied customers are more likely to raise their opinion than happy ones. This may seem a bit unfair, but in fact a customer with a bad experience will in average take 2.2 actions compared to 1,7 for a customer with a good experience. Or as the saying goes: “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”.