Customer Care – Self Care

For the majority of, if not all, telcos / CSPs, the function of Customer Care is a cost centre where management are in continual turmoil balancing operations cost against customer service. The CFO has incredible influence on Customer Care outcomes. The Customer Care director does the best within the budget and usually employs the begging bowl after Q1.

There are many KPIs that govern the day to day, month to month operation of customer care across the organization but, without any denial, the number 1 KPI is cost – cost per agent, cost per call, cost per transaction. Somewhere in the top 10 KPIs is a customer satisfaction index.

The emerging buzz terms for the customer care organizations are “net promoter score” and “self care” (sometimes referred to as “call avoidance” depending where you sit within the corporations balance sheet).

Net Promoter Score has been developed to be a company wide philosophy that rates interactions and processes against a scale (1-10) which links all those processes to customer awareness, feedback etc.

Self Care or Call Avoidance is about 2 things only – reduce cost at the call centre coal-face (end game = no calls hence no need for call centre agents) and empowering customers to resolve their issues on-line or on-device and submit “trouble-tickets” on-line. This initiative has truly significant impacts on the bottom line but, with that, comes the risk of mishandling and confusing the customer – with predictable negative outcomes!

Engaging on a self-care initiative is not a quick fix approach. It needs to be part of a closed-loop initiative, company wide, and part of a NPS initiative if there is one.

However, even if the organizations within the CSP are all aligned behind the strategy, how can it be realized at a reasonable cost that a CFO will sign-off on?

Most CSPs are now putting activation and billing processes on-line and on-device for iOS and Android. Some CSPs are engaging social media (Gen Y world) to alert on issues and respond to problems where, then, the twitterverse will start to produce proxy Q&A’s across all CSPs and telcos. Gen X’ers may even dabble in a bit of on-line troubleshooting but will expect a voice at the other end when the on-line experience is not what they expect (or can not navigate).

On-device self-help is an obvious approach to support the overall strategy of Self Care and Call avoidance.

Most “problem” issues for mobile broadband users (of dongles) are :

  • Can not connect (usually an installation or APN problem)
  • Poor performance (usually coverage)
  • Incompatibility (drivers and platforms)
  • Bill shock

with other issues well down in the small percentages. 

Most “problem” issues for mobile PDA users are :

  • coverage
  • poor performance (mostly latency)
  • bill shock 

On-device tools are the cheapest and most effective way to provide immediate triage of the 80% of problems.

For 3G/4G dongles, a smart App that oversees the installation process, reports on the configuration of the system, provides feedback on performance of the service AT THE CUSTOMER END – the last metre –  is a first step towards empowering the customer AND at the same time, informing the CSP of the “satisfaction” level of a customer.

PDA users are passionate about how they use it, the “cool” things it does for them and it’s role in supporting their business or social lives. When it doesn’t work to expectation, it’s a personal affront and an issue that has to be resolved immediately. Waiting in a call centre queue, being asked your name and identifying yourself, maybe 3 or more times in the one call, does not qualify as “immediate” and is mostly a negative issue.

A smart App that takes on the work of the customer contact centre AND records that for the CSP satisfies 2 key processes ..

  1. The customer takes an immediate action and should get a result some actionable/useful feedback.
  2. The CSP is aware of that action been taken and has the record of that on which is can take a decision to act – to close the loop. 

Network tools and network and operations engineers are not geared to understand customers issues and to provide immediate feedback and actions to resolve customer issues. However, in many cases, the CSP /telco management expect them to be the fountain of knowledge, the source of truth. 

A sensible combination of the myriad of systems and data that supports the operation of the “machine”, the network or networks, AND an on-device capability that acts as the “proxy” for the customer enables a strategy of Call Avoidance and Self-Care to be executed.


Closed Loop Telco Customer Care

Closing The Loop – realisable actions to address customer issues to build and maintain brand loyalty

An emerging (and obvious) need for Communications Services Providers (CSPs) is to close the loop as far as customer experience and network operations is concerned.

As an example, recent discussions with an Australian CSP indicates there is still a yawning gap between taking “corrective” actions in the Radio Access Network and then verifying the action in terms of Customer Experience. That is, there is usually some form of aggregated complaint which is analysed from an engineering perspective with action taken to address that complaint. However, there are no formalised or systemised actions to check if those underlying complaints have been resolved.  As a proxy for the customer, some CSPs use network probing to be the “voice” of the customer. The cost of probing the 3G and LTE networks at the RAN edge is prohibitively expensive. RNC’s and e-nodeb’s do not have the capability to provide a customer perspective “report” out of the billions of transactions that they need to focus and report on.

There are many aspects of Closed Loop customer experience and the RAN aspect is just one use-case that can be addressed by an on-device APP. Of course, there are other processes that need to be developed or refined to complete a 360deg sweep for care. Most CSP’s are organised in efficient pillars of operations – Networks build and deliver networks,  Operations operate them, Product groups own the resultant combination of networks and selling processes, and Customer Care organisations struggle with the complexities of triaging incoming calls. But, most CSP’s are not organised to effectively close the loop with the customer. Smart CSP’s are now addressing this through cross pillar advocacy groups but there is a long way to go to permeate the management lethargy to be effective day to day processes.

On-device APPs are the customer proxy as far as their user experience is concerned and they provide a missing information vector to help close the loop – BUT – the CSP must willingly want to close the loop and be prepared to disrupt the organisation to align towards the customer. The business case stacks up very neatly but in many cases the momentum of business-as-usual and apathy are powerful negative forces preventing the initiative.

It’s an exciting era in competitive communications and telco’s who do not actively address the “closing the loop” challenge are opening up opportunities for customers to churn away from them – a creeping poison that has a very costly antidote if not treated early.    

“It’s about Customer retention”