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Monday, August 26, 2013 - Dubai

How can customer experience make a difference?

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Mobile operators are streamlining their operations by outsourcing management of network functions to vendors, while striking partnerships in the content space with over the top (oTT) specialists. As a result, they are repositioning themselves primarily as service organisations, and by excelling in the management of customer relationships they can maintain relevance and leverage in the value chain. but if they are to be successful in this endeavour they will need to make customer service and customer satisfaction absolutely central to their operations in a way that, in many cases, will involve fundamental shifts in corporate mindset. one issue that many operators will need to address is the fact that the metrics traditionally used to measure success in customer satisfaction have been defined with the operator, rather than the customer, front of mind. Typically they have been defined by finance departments, tasked with driving efficiency and cost management, and inclined to measure customer care staff on volume and productivity. simply put, the customer service organisation has traditionally been viewed as a “cost centre”. Metrics such as first call resolution rates and call resolution time are designed to keep customer care departments lean. Although these metrics do have an impact on customer satisfaction—after all, customers can become frustrated if they have to spend a lot of time dealing with customer care agents—they do not enable the effective measurement of customer satisfaction or the customers’ perception of the operator.

Introduction Mobile operators are streamlining their operations by outsourcing management of network functions to vendors, while striking partnerships in the content space with over the top (oTT) specialists. As a result, they are repositioning themselves primarily as service organisations, and by excelling in the management of customer relationships they can maintain relevance and leverage in the value chain. but if they are to be successful in this endeavour they will need to make customer service and customer satisfaction absolutely central to their operations in a way that, in many cases, will involve fundamental shifts in corporate mindset. one issue that many operators will need to address is the fact that the metrics traditionally used to measure success in cus- tomer satisfaction have been defined with the operator, rather than the customer, front of mind. Typically they have been defined by finance departments, tasked with driving efficiency and cost management, and inclined to measure customer care staff on volume and productivity. simply put, the customer service organisation has traditionally been viewed as a “cost centre”. Metrics such as first call resolution rates and call resolution time are designed to keep customer care departments lean. Although these metrics do have an impact on customer satisfaction—after all, customers can become frustrated if they have to spend a lot of time dealing with customer care agents—they do not enable the effective measurement of customer satisfaction or the customers’ perception of the operator. This has led the most forward-thinking operators to look for new ways of gauging the customer experience and the level of customer satisfaction. one increasingly popular metric is the net promoter score (nps). The nps divides customers into three categories—promoters, passives and detractors—by posing one fundamental question: “on the basis of your most recent interaction, how likely are you to recommend this product or service to a friend or colleague?” In reality there is no single, magic metric that can provide operators with hard evidence of customer satisfaction levels but nps continues to be the favourite among thought leaders. remote access solutions provider LogMeIn, which has worked with a number of operators to help improve their customer service, advocates that operators use the score when implement- ing a three-step strategy to enable them to better tailor their business to customers’ needs. This involves: 1. Transforming the approach to customer satisfaction 2. collecting data that can be used as actionable information 3. Taking action based on that data. operators that successfully implement such a strategy will create a customer base that is not only more loyal, LogMeIn believes, but more willing to increase their spend on mobile services. Shifting the mindset To experience business benefits from improved customer service and satisfaction, organisations must shift from viewing the support and service part of the organisation as a cost centre and instead see it as value-added to the business. In order to do this, organisations must have effective leadership, a “champion” of the transition, and personnel that are enthusiastic about the shift. Whether an operator decides to install new leadership or not, it is crucial that the champion of this philosophical shift is able to win the hearts and minds of their staff. And to do that they need to be equipped with data that backs up the reasoning behind the strategy. Telecoms.com and LogMeIn conducted a global survey of over 100 operators, and their findings concurred that there is an identifiable tangible financial link between the experience of customers on the network and how well a business is doing at the top line. In response to the question: ‘do you believe that customers with a high level of satisfaction are likely to increase their spend?’ 39 per cent of respondents strongly agreed and a further 49 per cent agreed. The same is true of churn. over 55 per cent of respondents to the survey believed that satisfied customers are less likely to churn. but it’s got to be more. It must include engaging consumers in a meaningful way. After all, the KpIs are familiar enough. What’s your churn? Is that number going up or down? What’s the customer acquisition rate? Are your customers increasing their spend? Are they recommending your service to others? but for the answers to these questions to be positive, the operator must be engaging with its customer base in a more expansive manner. The frontline customer care staff must be motivated to take the necessary time to help the customers, rather than to deflect them in the name of efficiency. success in this regard can even create a positive outcome from a negative trigger. If a customer calls to complain and is happy with the way their complaint is handled, their satisfaction at the outcome is more likely to resonate than their dissatisfaction with the original problem. operators often split their customer support teams into “levels”. When a customer calls, the first person they speak to is positioned to act as an assessor, whose job it is to classify the customer’s issue, to decide whether it requires more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer, and to route customers to the appropriate second level agent. How can customer experience make a difference | 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree Strongly disagree Customers with a high level of satisfaction are likely to increase their spend Customers with a high level of satisfaction are less likely to churn Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Source: Telecoms.com survey in association with LogMeIn  How can customer experience make a difference? not only can this strategy be costly because it requires a greater number of staff, but it is also likely to result in a poor experience for the customer. They will probably have to wait to be connected to the relevant agent in another queue, before having to explain their situation all over again. A leading LogMeIn Telco customer is addressing this issue by implementing a refreshed customer care strategy that it intends to eventually roll out across its portfolio of companies. The telco has restructured its customer care function as it believes that it should solve more customer queries and address more problems at that first level of customer engagement. In order to do this, it has had to change the skill sets required for those level one customer operatives. The traditional approach allowed operators to hire people for this role whose strengths were not in their technical knowledge, but who were instead trained to react in a restricted way, based on short decision trees. of course an operator still needs to be able to escalate important issues as quickly as it can to staff with specialist knowledge but it wants to contain as much of the interaction at Level 1 as possible. It has looked to achieve this by providing technical training and education to Level 1 customer care agents. Turning data into information The next step an operator has to take is to define the metrics to measure customer satisfaction. With the net promoter score they simply issue a survey, asking their customers questions that determine, on a scale of 0-10, how likely they are, on the basis of their most recent customer experience, to recommend their service to someone else. LogMeIn’s experience is that the sweet spot for these customer surveys in terms of length is between three and five ques- tions. It is also important that the surveys take place soon enough after the customer’s interaction with the support team that it is fresh in their mind. However, the process must be managed carefully and surveys must be developed thoughtfully. After all, responses based on one metric might not give the broadest or most accurate depiction of customer satisfaction. survey questions must be carefully worded to ensure that they are not leading; and when a business asks customers for feedback with the service experience fresh in their mind, the accuracy of the data can be tempered by a customer’s tendency to overstate their feelings one way or the other. For these reasons, it is important to use a large sample size – and operators must think about the issue meticulously and methodically, taking time to identify any bias and ensure that any abnormal spikes are dealt with, but ultimately smoothed out on aggregate. The second key element in the gathering of accurate and reliable data is the customer relationship management (crM) system. Many businesses use crM as a repository for customer information: When a customer calls the support desk the agent can input their account number, find out their details and what tariff they are on, for example. However, LogMeIn believes that it is rare for operators to fully exploit the capabilities of the crM system in deriving useful data from customer engagement. operators should be collecting customer data as soon as an engagement begins. unstructured data from chat transcripts, tweets or emails can be made very effective if it is collected, stored and analysed in the right way.  How can customer experience make a difference LogMeIn collected data from online chat sessions conducted by the sales team of one us online retailer and found that 40 per cent of customers who began a web chat with that retailer’s online agents across a certain period were asking about a product that the company didn’t carry on its website. This business was missing the opportunity to exploit demand for the product by making it a more prominent feature on its sales portal, something it would not have discovered if the data from the customer interactions had not been gathered and analysed. reliable data is of paramount importance and, although operators are frequently capturing and generating vast quantities of valuable data, the value cannot be extracted if they do not structure it in such a way that it becomes intelligence that can be used by both the business as a whole and the individual customer service agent. It is also important that the information is made available to the customer base, either by the operator itself through organised forums, or by the wider online community. It is unsurprising that for most customers, Google is the main entry to the “knowledge base” that they use initially to find information to address any problem they might have. What should raise eyebrows, though, is that customer care agents are also worryingly reliant on web search when dealing with customers. LogMeIn’s research shows that 70 per cent of a customer care agent’s time is spent searching for information about a customer’s product or problem. If a customer has a question about a particular product, the care agents themselves are highly likely to begin their search with Google and get the same information as the customer. The goal for the operator should be to reduce that reliance on third party tools and make the process more efficient. “I don’t know many large businesses that have created knowledge bases well enough to empower their customers to help themselves in meaningful numbers. These businesses can’t continue to defer to Google, and there’s potentially an opportunity there for somebody to do it right,” says John purcell, director of customer care products, LogMeIn. of course, for an operator to successfully execute on a knowledge base, the search experience and the information available has got to be high quality. Traditionally, an operator knowledge base created for self-care purposes is likely to be a repository of articles written by staff, putting the onus on staff to periodically generate content and articles to contribute to that knowledge base. The real opportunity however, lies in updating the knowledge base in real time, as customer/agent interactions take place. If an operator has a crM platform that is facilitating hundreds of thousands of customer interactions per day, it will be generating a great deal of information that can be used to build a knowledge base that is regularly updated. some operators are already looking at implementing such a solution. Taking action once again, though, the key is in how that information is put to use. Historically, taking action to solve customers’ issues has followed a fairly basic pattern, usually based on a decision tree put in place to help guide the customer agent through a troubleshooting process. However, LogMeIn has built into its platform a function whereby proactive, predictive suggestions are automatically delivered to the agent, based on a series of triggers. The platform recognises key words and will map a range of routes that the agent can follow. rather than requiring the agent to trawl through the knowledge base and search for the relevant information, the system will pull out information that the business already has and enable the agent to direct the customer more efficiently and more successfully.  How can customer experience make a difference? An additional element that could be used to improve the effectiveness of agents’ responses to customers is gamification. The real time data that is being gathered on customer interactions—and in particular any follow up surveys that are carried out—can be used to motivate and measure the performance of customer care agents. operators can provide feedback to their agents when a customer rating has been issued on one of their sessions. The agent can then be effectively given their own net promoter score, and that score can be tracked over a given period. A gaming concept can be introduced whereby agents are competing with one another for the highest score, and the information can be delivered with sufficient frequency and timeliness to make that competition genuinely relevant. “I think gamification shows you can appeal to the competitive element of human nature. you can drive improvements that way and that’s something we’re exploring. I think there’s a real opportunity there, and we’re looking to lead the way,” says purcell.  CONCLUSION The benefits of adopting such an approach to customer experience management are very much tangible, as a global survey of 105 operator executives conducted by Telecoms.com in conjunction with LogMeIn illustrates. Almost 90 per cent of respondents either agree (48.6 per cent) or strongly agree (39 per cent) that customers with a high level of satisfaction are likely to increase their spend. operators also rate the impact that increased customer satisfaction has on repeat purchases as their most important consideration in shaping their approach to customer experience management. An increase in revenue via customer repeat purchases was ranked as “very important” by 52.4 per cent of respondents to the survey, with a further 37.1 per cent agree- ing that it is an “important” consideration. In fact, no participants stated that increased customer repeat purchases are “not important” or “irrelevant” considerations in their approach to customer experience management. operators must therefore ensure that their customer care function is structured in such a way to ensure that they are making the most of this potentially lucrative opportunity. The benefits do not stop there though; over 95 per cent of operator executives agree (40 per cent) or strongly agree (55.2 per cent) that customers with a high level of satisfaction are less likely to churn, and 96.2 per cent in total agreed or strongly agreed that these customers are also more likely to recommend their services to their peers. Increases in customer referrals were considered to be significant considerations for operators, with an equal number of respondents stating that this is either a “very important” or “important” (44.8 per cent each) way in which customer satisfaction drives their core business. Therefore, companies have an opportunity to gain real business benefits by changing their approach to customer support. An approach to customer support that is data driven and focused on empowering agents to provide best-in-class customer care is a strategic opportunity for many providers. In order to achieve this, data on customer interactions must be defined and collected in a uniform manner to ensure quality and reliability, and made available to the customer care agents tasked with ensuring that customers experience a high level of satisfaction. undoubtedly, operators already clearly understand that there is a strong link between customer satisfaction levels and the revenue their customer base generates. However, in order to maximise this opportunity, operators must tailor their business to put the customer front of mind.

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