Posted: 31st January 2022
It’s that time of year again where broadband, TV and landline consumers could see their bills rise in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI).
This way of measuring inflation generally results in rises of anywhere between 2% and 4%, depending on the economic climate. For a typical £30 per month phone-and-SIM contract, a 2% rise would work out at about 60p per month, and at the upper end of the scale, a 4% increase would see the same monthly bill rise by £1.20 per month.
Price rises tend to be announced in February before taking effect in March and April, so the announcement will likely come at a time when consumers are experiencing a convergence of potential issues; from energy prices rocketing (notwithstanding additional Winter energy usage) to food costs increasing to their highest in a decade.
Many customers have taken to social media to show their frustration with the latest price rises, with some threatening to leave, as customers looking to avoid these extra charges can leave their service without paying an exit fee. Whilst difficult to define, annual churn rates for most telecoms companies are thought to be anywhere between 10% to 67%, making the industry one of the biggest sufferers of customer loss.
With our inherent need to connect with others and desire to consume content, telecoms firms will always be well positioned for business success. Obtaining consumers’ outright trust and admiration, however, is a whole different matter. Have firms thought about how to achieve this deeper connection with their customers, and how it can be leveraged as a huge commercial advantage? I think this remains an area of untapped potential.
It’s certainly a tricky prospect, but by focusing on measures to enhance the customer experience, this allows telecoms firms to start positioning themselves as so much more than just a service – instead becoming trusted confidants that customers want to build long-term relationships with. So, what should telecommunication providers be thinking about when it comes to achieving higher 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. The failure of firms to provide a smooth experience can lead to customers cancelling contracts. Customers feel that calls to customer servicing departments take up too much of their time (37% waited too long to have their issue resolved) and leave them having to unnecessarily repeat information (51% had to call more than once).
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, more cohesive customer journey, and helps to increase operational efficiency by minimising pressure points and bottlenecks.
HOW TO 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. Communication around RPI is the perfect example of this.
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 rise 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.
TRAINING, SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE
When customers leave a telecoms firm, poor customer service and a lack of well-trained staff are often cited. Further to this, telecoms firms are often found languishing in customer satisfaction surveys. A recent study indicated that, of the customers that churned due to poor service, 36% thought the representatives weren’t “knowledgeable enough” and 37% thought they were “rude or had a negative approach”.
We can all think of a time when we’ve had a frustrating customer service call that leaves an unshakable negative feeling towards a brand. Yet, if a Customer Service Agent hasn’t received the right training, or is equipped with a poor script, they can’t be expected to be successful.
Through our work across regulated industries, we see many scenarios where the huge benefits (and relatively low initial cost) of rationalising policy and process, providing more comprehensive suites of guidance or delivering more tailored training are not realised. There is a real opportunity here for telecoms firms to excel in comparison to their peers, improving both customer and employee satisfaction.
That’s without even mentioning the additional support which can be provided by technology; from automated call outs and prompts which can be added into the customer journey to support Agents to guide their customers to good outcomes, to automation which alleviates the monotony of repetitive processes (for example, many call wrap tasks) and allows Agents to pour their energy and passion into customer interactions.
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 earning a new customer relationship, which can be offset by preventing multi-product customers leaving because of poor customer service.
For firms to stand out in a price-driven market, brands differentiating themselves with high quality customer service can significantly improve customer experience. Ultimately, this approach carries both bottom line and customer satisfaction benefits when executed correctly, and a business case can be made to pursue it.
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.