In view of the numerous reports of annoyed users of the customer service department of telecommunications service providers, one could assume that the telecommunications industry did not understand the meaning of the words ”service” or ”customer service”. Only that much is to be expected: This impression is only partly true! The large telecommunications providers in particular are prisoners of their own company size, their own processes and of course the market.
Data traffic will grow exponentially
From the customer’s point of view, it is impossible to imagine everyday business life without telecommunications, which is often vital to survival. And customer service is an important part of it. At the same time, telecommunications services are becoming increasingly cheaper:
The spread of the mobile internet ** ** and the transformation from classic telephony to ”All-IP” lead to a constantly growing data traffic.
According to experts, the data volume will increase tenfold from today’s 4.4 trillion gigabyte to 44 trillion gigabyte by 2020. Since 2010, the volume of data has almost tripled. It has doubled since 2012. What does this mean for network operators? At ever shorter intervals, network infrastructures must be upgraded and expanded in order to provide users with a constant quality of service. At the same time, customers’ demands on bandwidth are also increasing.
Rising supply at the same cost
With falling prices and increasing demands, this means ultimately ”cost optimization” in order to keep large companies economically viable. Not least for this reason, the number of employees of a telecommunications giant in Germany was almost halved between 2008 and 2014. Of course not without consequences, especially for the quality of customer service.
Customer support is outsourced
The magic word here is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), which means that processes are outsourced and bought externally at favorable prices. The flip side: The employees of the customer service department of the assigned call centers are usually poorly paid, the teams are subject to high staff turnover and there is a lack of basic knowledge and identification with the client and their product. In addition, strict time limits may also be set for the handling of incidents, which are also called customer support requests. There is no problem as long as the requests are represented by a process and their solutions can be found in a manual at best.
Please no individual problems
In this environment, service quality has even been improved in recent years through better process mapping and online offerings. Cases that fall through this grid will fall by the wayside. Why? Because the call center employees are controlled by targets in such a way that hardly anyone is able to deal with the customer’s ”problem” in a personal and interdisciplinary manner. This is aggravated by the fact that the call center agents usually do not work for the network operator at all and therefore have neither knowledge of the processes nor the network operator’s contact persons. You could say that: The predetermined breaking point is already installed.
The fact that it is possible to do better is shown by the service centers offered by all major network operators for particularly important customers, which are equipped with all the necessary skills and contacts to answer their inquiries quickly and competently and to solve problems.
Smaller providers are often closer to the customer
This situation offers especially smaller telecommunications providers great scope for differentiation. One criteria here is also service in the event of troubleshooting, in particular by dealing with the customer’s ”problem”. Small network operators usually employ their own personnel for customer service on both a technical and commercial level. Thus, at least the identification with the telecommunications provider is given here: ”I can rely on them.”
In customer service, it’s not what you say, but how you say it
Almost everyone understands that with increasingly complex technical processes, interferences can occur. Complaints are usually made when there is a need to tend to the matter more than once and there is obviously a lack of competence and identification with the customer. Especially the latter often leads to ”annoyance” at the customer. Something that should not be forgotten in any case: ”It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. Anyone who has ever been in direct contact with customers knows what I am talking about. Both sides must be aware that none of the counterparties are the cause of the other’s problem.
Keep calm and ask your local shop
The bottom line is to remain calm and if nothing helps at all: To visit a retail shop and get help there. As a rule, call center agents also have lists of ”real” retail shops that have access to the network operator’s systems. And thus have the critical insight and action opportunities that call centers and sales partners often lack.
So what is the conclusion?
Sad, but true: In large telecommunications companies, cost pressure means that the importance of the individual customer becomes decreases. One might exaggerate and say that shareholder value is basically more important than customer satisfaction when there is a problem. If a customer leaves, a new one will surely come soon. In small telecommunications companies, each customer is ultimately important, but the effort that has to be made for each customer – no matter how big the turnover of the respective customer is – is the same. The goal is therefore to keep customers by taking care of them. Customer service is a top priority here! With limited resources, however, this also means limiting growth.
The situation of interconnections between network operators as competitors and suppliers often leads to delays in the event of inter-operator disruptions.
How can they learn from each other? In large companies, processes are generally well defined and automated. Often, however, cases that move outside the process can no longer be solved properly. In small companies, ”craftsmanship” still predominates: Individual problems and discrepancies are already noticeable in handling and can thus be intercepted at an early stage and quickly solved.
How could customer service ideally work?
In an ideal world, telecommunications providers would have well-thought-out, standardized processes for their customer service on the one hand to serve customers quickly and efficiently, e. g. via a web portal. On the other hand, tracking mechanisms would be established that would allow individual problems not covered by standardized processes to be immediately passed on to a Customer Service Clearing team for processing, which is equipped with the necessary accesses and powers of attorney. Similar to the VIP support described above. The only difference is that the customer who has an ”non-standard” requirement becomes a VIP with a personal contact person. Process standards can also be improved in the mid-term through continuous feedback from the clearing team to the process teams. This way, the costs would be further optimized without having to pay for customer service.
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