October 29, 2015

6 Ways for CSPs to Get into a Customer-Centric Mindset

Communications service providers realize they have a problem with customer satisfaction, and to turn things around they are changing their attitude and taking steps to improve perception.

Customer care, customer experience and customer engagement are just a few of the terms thrown around as the industry collectively searches for ways to unravel the mysteries of what makes customers tick and how to please them, and with good reason. CSPs historically rank near the bottom of surveys examining customer service. 

A recent Wall St. 24/7 Zogby poll surveyed consumers about their overall experience with 150 major U.S. corporations spanning retailing, food service, financial services, consumer goods, technology, aviation, hospitality and telecommunications and found that of the 10 companies with the highest percentage of “poor” scores, 7 were CSPs (2 banks and Walmart round out the list). At the other end of the spectrum (those with the best scores) were Samsung, Sony and Apple.

The simple fact is you can have all the systems, processes and data analytics you want, but it won’t move the needle until there is a change in mindset. And it’s clear CSPs still don’t get it. That’s not to say CSPs don’t realize they have a problem. They do, and they are spending a lot of money attempting to right their wrongs.

Going Beyond ‘One Size Fits All’

Traditionally, CSPs have equated customer care or customer service with repair or support – similar to a service desk in a store. But that viewpoint misses the bigger picture, which is that they are constantly touching and interacting with the customer. And make no mistake; customers are always tuned to whether they are being treated the way they want or not.

Customer service is an attitude – a mindset that permeates every thought and action within the business. Done properly, it can't be separated out, outsourced or made into a department. It’s the essence of the company, and it impacts how they view the market and influences almost every decision they make. 

This is perhaps the single biggest asset OTT and digital service providers have. Their ‘secret sauce’ is a respect for their customer’s intelligence and a recognition that when people have choices, their business and loyalty must be earned every day and with every transaction.  Their guiding attitude is to treat customers the way they expect to be treated, which makes them magnetic for attracting more customers.

The tricky part is that the idea of great service is in the eye of the beholder. Rather than a one-size-fits-all entity, service is actually composed of numerous parts including promptness, courtesy, convenience, ease, quality, price and more. Some people want to be waited on and fawned over; others want the most efficient self-service they can find. This means CSPs have to be able to deliver several different types of service that enable customers to find the one that suits them.

How to Dispel Negative Perceptions and Keep Customers Happy

What customers have come to expect in their day-to-day lives with retail and other industries involving service seem to be absent when dealing with CSPs.  And all too often, they approach the line of absurdity, such as having a different web portal for each service, or not being able to cancel your service until you justify your decision to a customer care clerk. These types of practices would put most other companies out of business. 

To combat this negative perception and take real steps forward, here are some practical things CSPs need to do right away:

  1. Get on the same page. Nothing will change until everyone from the Chairman and CEO on down makes customer satisfaction their sole purpose.  Nothing else matters because this drives everything else – revenue, profits, etc.  What if bonuses and raises were tied to customer scores?
  2. Be honest. Is the CSP’s culture one that encourages people to take risks, do whatever is necessary to please the customer, and are they rewarded when they do?  Is this attitude continually displayed and reinforced from the top down? Customers and employees have uncanny radar when it comes to phoniness. Sincerity, truthfulness and actions are what will win the day.
  3. Make it easy. Whatever the customer wants to do – however they want to do it – let them. Customers shouldn’t have to be mind readers in order to navigate their way around. 
  4. Share information. Put everything you can online for people to find and use. Whatever can’t be placed online needs to be at your service reps fingertips, including call center, retail and repair personnel. Without this, customer satisfaction goes into an unrecoverable death spiral.
  5. Measure twice. This is the age of analytics, but numbers can deceive. The last thing you want is a false sense of security, so develop multiple metrics and methods for gathering data. Make sure each method uses a different way of capturing and assessing data so there is a set of checks and balances in place.
  6. Be thankful. There’s an old joke about customers getting in the way of doing business, but sometimes that attitude gets conveyed to customers. Customers have a keen perception and can detect insincerity or phoniness a mile away. Customers pay the bills and everyone’s salaries. Treat them accordingly, or someone else will.

The age-old debate about the future of CSPs being dumb pipes or value-added DSPs isn’t about networks, services or technology. It’s all about respecting the people who spend their hard-earned money with carriers. The same principles that have separated successful businesses from those on the dust heap apply here as well, and CSPs will do well to rethink their view of the customer.

Photo by Garry Knight with Creative Common license


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