Posted: 26th November 2021

When it comes to choosing a phone, broadband or television provider, many consumers choose to take advantage of discounts offered via bundle deals. Providers offer a broad and diverse range of packages to suit consumers’ lifestyles, even partnering with other brands to provide additional rewards and, ultimately, better value for money.

Most providers compete primarily on a price basis, but are brands overlooking other factors which can add value for customers?

Ensuring a market-leading approach to customer service is where telecoms brands can really excel. When the service supplied doesn’t meet their standards, there is very little to persuade consumers not to shop around for their next deal.

Ofcom reports that the number of fixed broadband and landline complaints reached a three-year high in Q1 2021, and over 96,051 customer complaints were received in 2020 / 21. One of the UK’s leading suppliers has listed their key complaint drivers as poor complaints handling (39%); fault, service, and provisioning issues (33%); and billing, pricing, and charging issues (13%).

If a customer feels dissatisfied with the way they’ve been treated or with the outcome received from their complaint, whether that’s for their home phone, mobile, TV or broadband, there is a real risk that they could switch the entire bundle. What was an issue with their mobile network, for example, could result in four separate income streams being lost to a competitor. There is much at stake here for brands.

So what should telecommunication providers be thinking about when it comes to achieving high quality customer service?

Improve first point of contact (FPOC) resolution and retention rates

Call Handlers are usually the first touch point when a customer is unhappy with their service. With the right training and development support, or guidance around decision-making (including being able to identify and react to a complaint at the first point of contact), brands can significantly lessen the number of complaints being escalated to specialist teams.

Additionally, Call Handlers who are sufficiently trained and empowered to make decisions for the benefit of their customers generally derive greater job satisfaction, which can be no bad thing for staff retention.

Customers don’t often differentiate between different departments of a service provider. If the right internal processes are in place, customer service and complaints can work together to deliver a seamless service, whereby customer issues are acknowledged and resolved promptly at the front line, and only those customers genuinely needing further support require escalation to the complaints department. This leads to a smoother customer complaints journey that is cohesive and joined up.

How communication can avoid complaints

The complaints process can be expensive, especially if an issue gets escalated to the Ombudsman, but complaints can often be avoided by clearer customer communication. An example of this is the annual increase in bill cost due to the Retail Price Index (RPI). If this is communicated to a customer as simply an extra cost to their bill, they are likely to be dissatisfied, potentially to the point of terminating their contract. If an explanation of the economics behind the inflation is provided, stating that all providers have been impacted, customers will have a better understanding of why the change has occurred and are more likely to remain as a customer.

Treating vulnerable customers fairly

Unlike other utility suppliers, when a customer is in debt with their telecoms provider, they are still able to switch to a new provider and begin a new line of credit. Prepaid cards loaded with a cash incentive to switch have been seen as a potentially harmful way of providing a ‘quick win’ for the customer, but for vulnerable customers this can often increase their long-term debt with multiple service providers. This debt can be very difficult to recover.

A better scenario for both customer and provider is for trained collections specialists to engage directly with vulnerable customers to assess their needs and determine more about their current situation and lifestyle, what their telecoms needs are and to arrange a suitable long-term payment plan solution.

How can Huntswood help?

At Huntswood, we know that the first point of contact can make a difference to the complaints journey and, at times, prevent complaints from crystalising. We also understand the cost of setting up a new connection - which can be offset by preventing multi-product customers leaving because of poor customer service.

In order for firms to stand out in a price-driven market, brands differentiating themselves with high quality customer service can help reduce the number of complaints that are escalated. Huntswood delivers customer service experts to its clients, providing the right levels of support and creating better outcomes by managing customer complaints with greater satisfaction in a quicker timescale.

Are you working in telecoms and searching for candidates who have excellent experience in call and complaints handling? Talk to Lisa Sweeney, Utilities Account Director, on LinkedIn or call 07778 487 539.

Huntswood h yellow

Lisa Sweeney

Account Director