Consumers now live in perpetual flux. With technology's rapid evolution at the center of their strategy, telecom companies and their subscribers must continuously adapt to the current standard, developing the sort of flexibility needed to grow together, not apart. Though frequently a nuisance, this constant change also opens companies up to countless opportunities to uncover innovative ways to "wow" their customers.
According to a recent survey of 200 mobile phone users conducted by Peppers & Rogers Group, price is still a leading factor when deciding whether to stay with an operator, but its dominance is waning. While 46 percent of respondents say price differentiates their mobile provider from the competition, 41 percent believe customer service is a differentiator, and 27 percent believe technology and innovation to be a differentiator.
What's more, nearly 50 percent of respondents cited a particular "wow" experience from their operator that resonated with them. Of those who received a "wow" experience, 84 percent said it influenced their decision to remain a customer, and 82 percent said they have referred their provider to others based on the experience.
So how do those in the telecom industry and beyond ensure they offer experiences that cultivate loyalty and encourage brand advocacy? We talked to senior leaders at companies known for their customer experience excellence to find out what "wows" their customers and how that impacts their overall business.
Customer Strategist: What is the most likely reason for your customers to cite a "WOW" experience?
Tom Pica, Verizon Wireless: The most commonly remarked highlight of the Verizon Wireless customer experience involves the coverage and quality of our Verizon Wireless service. Customers also love our Wireless Workshop program. Wireless Workshops help our customers learn how to get the most from the many features of their smartphones, tablets, and wireless services. In addition to practical knowledge, customers develop a deeper bond with Verizon Wireless. In fact, customers who attend our Wireless Workshops make fewer calls to customer service with questions and are less likely to return their devices. They also are more likely to recommend Verizon Wireless.
Kevin Cantwell, Big River Telephone: Clearly it is the service. In the competitive nature of telecommunications, a call is a call in the customers' mind. But the service, reliability, and follow-up are the keys to success. For example, Big River does the little things that make our customer experience exceptional. Big River hand delivers the first bill with a Customer Acceptance Document for our commercial customers to sign that states we delivered everything we said we would. Every person who deals with a customer is required to give the customer their mobile and home phone number. Our customers realize that we support them 24 hours day, seven days a week. This simple gesture lets the customer know we support them. They use their communication services 24 hours a day and we need to support them 24 hours per day.
Justin Thompson, JetBlue: Customers will cite a "wow" experience simply for how helpful our crew members are within the customer's experience. Whether it is a welcoming voice when they contact Customer Support, or a smiling crew member helping them through the airport or on the aircraft, the positive and helpful crew member interface holds more weight in "wow-ing" our customers than any other interaction. That said, we're always going above and beyond to deliver not just satisfaction, but excellence in product and customer service, as well. Technology will only go so far. It will continue to make life easier, but does not respond to emotion or recognize an opportunity to help to the same degree our crew members will. An essential component to bringing humanity back to air travel is just that—keeping the human involved.
CS: What are some real-world examples of "wow" experiences your customers have had with your company at each stage of the customer lifecycle?
JT: We recently had some unaccompanied minors traveling with us and their flight was diverted from their destination in Dallas to Austin due to weather, where the flight was eventually cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. We stayed in close contact with the parents of each child, and our in-flight crew happily chaperoned the minors by bus to Dallas. The kids had a great time, and the parents were comforted in what would normally be a very stressful situation.
KC: While we try to "wow" every customer, the biggest "wows" come from customers who have issues with us. As the president of Big River, I give every customer my home phone number. In 11 years, I have received three calls on that number and each customer I personally went to see the very next day. They were "wowed" that I answered the phone, actually cared that I came to see them, and personally worked to resolve the issue. None of those customers left us and now they are our biggest champions.
TP: Our new evolution store design offers customers an open and inviting layout that makes it easy for them to try out our devices, accessories, and services. Sales representatives walk customers through hands-on product demonstrations and device setup instructions. If they prefer to order online, customers get questions answered by chatting with an online sales representative and view helpful videos, online demos, and device simulators. As one customer tweeted, "For the second straight year, Verizon has the best pre-order website." According to J.D. Power, customers who spoke with a customer service representative gave our representatives top marks for timeliness, courtesy, knowledge, and concern for their needs.
CS: What insight do you use to develop WOW features/services/treatments?
TP: We've made numerous improvements over the years using feedback from customer surveys, and we engage customers actively when they do provide feedback. We also actively gather intelligence from customer-facing employees. Respect for employees is another part of our culture, so we really do use the best ideas from our entire employee base. We also use speech analytics to get an accurate read on why our customers call us and it provides enormous insight. Also, our social media team is like the canary in the coal mine—they're often the first to hear what's on our customers' minds.
JT: We built an award-winning VoC program to gain insights and drive changes that continue to keep us ahead of our competitors. Our post-experience survey helps us determine the key drivers of the customer experience, from start to finish. This survey, collected and aggregated along with our customer emails submitted via Speak Up, our social media interactions, support center feedback, and website feedback, create a holistic view of the customer experience, giving the customer a seat at the table within every conversation.
KC: Big River surveys customers constantly. The Customer Acceptance Document is a great tool for us to analyze on delivering what we said, when we said, and meeting the customers' expectations. We empower employees to make decisions on behalf of the customer. Each month we do a company-wide meeting where each department presents their projects, and each department knows how it might affect other departments. Internal communication is very important.
Jeffrey Puritt, TELUS: [As a B2B company,] we first examine the end-customer from our clients' perspectives using their voice of the customer data and customer journey analysis. From there, we look to support, enhance, improve, and expand. We rely a lot on associate focus groups with senior executives to hear firsthand how things are going. To develop these "wow" moments, we also tap into our thousands of Generation Y assoicates. For example, we've created an internal social network called T-Life, which enables and empowers our associates to provide feedback, crowdsource ideas, like and comment on the ideas of their peers, and interact with management in new and open ways.
CS: How do "wow" experiences tie back to the overall strength of your company?
JP: It's hard to stay in business if you don't delight your customers. But first, it's about keeping it simple and getting it right when it comes to customer service. That means delivering on your brand promise and just doing what you said you'd do, when you said you'd do it, for the price you said you'd do it. This alone can move companies into the realm of being known for excellent customer service. But from there, it's the "wow" experiences that get the coveted word of mouth and viral sharing that builds your brand, builds your client base, and builds your profits.
KC: Every employee at Big River knows that the customer is why we are in business. We have a company meeting the first Monday of each month. We live what we say from the CEO to the front-desk personnel.
TP: We have built our competitive advantage on the strength of our network and our award-winning customer service, making ours the best customer experience in wireless. We always look for ways to make it even better.
JT: Fundamentally, our "wow" experiences are what will continue to differentiate us and grow our customer promoters and loyalty, which ties directly to our success. Our products lead, and will continue to lead, the industry in delivery and innovation, and the one thing our competitors will never be able to duplicate is our crew member interactions. Our crew members are what set us far apart from our competitors, and help us fulfill our mission to bring humanity back to air travel.