Three Key Steps to Get Ahead of Customer Expectations

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Communication service providers (CSPs) have unique and immense challenges–meeting customer expectations and offering memorable and unique experiences. They have large, increasingly sophisticated, and demanding customer bases, and their complex catalog of products and services via disparate network technologies have evolved over decades, each of which has its own set of supporting processes and systems. Throw in a far-flung service partner ecosystem and it is little wonder that many customers feel their CSPs are missing the mark with customer service.
In fact, last year customer satisfaction in telecommunications and TV service fell in the first three months of the year versus a year earlier period, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index for the first quarter of 2012.

Wireless phone carriers scored 70 out of 100 in the ACSI during the first quarter. Scores for other telecom and media sectors – cell phones (74), paid TV service (66) and computer software (77) – were higher than phone companies, but their scores also registered dips ranging from 1.3 to 1.5 percent.

In order to improve the service level they deliver to their customers, CSPs need to take three key steps, all related to understanding the lifetime value of their customer segments and then aligning their service levels with that value.

In order to enhance customer experience, companies need to understand customer lifetime value and align it with service levels.
  1. Consolidate customer data across network and product lines—wire line, wireless, voice, data, TV, etc. Without understanding the total relationship they have with each customer, CSPs can’t personalize offers or reward customers in proportion to their worth. CIOs at these companies are justifiably intimidated by the prospect of consolidating multiple legacy system silos, and some are taking a more direct approach through the use of data warehousing.
  2. Align the customer view across various touch points—voice, IVR, retail, online self-service, chat, etc. Once CSPs have the customer data consolidated, the next step is to align the view. Customer expectations are high in this area, and they get frustrated when they type in their phone number or account number in response to an automated request and then the first question they get from the service representative is “What is your account number?” Today’s sophisticated customers expect to use self-service.  However, if they get stuck they also expect that whomever helps them has access to the data they have already provided, and can quickly identify and remedy the problem. The use of third-party retail partners complicates this issue as most dealers won’t have access to all of the customer data or other touch points. 
  3. Send proactive communications to customers. The next key area for improvement is truly unique to CSPs. Customers expect that since they are connected full-time to their provider via the CSP’s network, that notification of network outages, and other connectivity issues, will be communicated in real time via the channel of their preferred channels. This capability can deflect calls to the call center, saving CSPs money and improving customer experience—truly a win-win.

In summary, CSPs face many challenges in exceeding customer expectations with improved customer experiences. The increasing adoption of VoIP as part of integrated product bundles is helping, as it has allowed CSPs to move customers off legacy voice and DSL back-office platforms instead of having to integrate that data after the fact. That said, the three areas described above remain a source of competitive differentiation for those CSPs that can tackle them.