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Reducing Customer Problems Provides Differenciation for CSPS

When your competitors are offering to buy out your customers’ contracts to get them to switch, there’s no time to waste in improving the customer experience. This is especially true for communication service providers (CSPs) that remain consistently at the bottom of both NPS rankings and Temkin Experience Ratings.

While cost and coverage have been the two primary areas of competitive advantage for CSPs, cheaper is no longer better. Cost and coverage are not the differentiators they used to be. Instead, it’s time for CSPs to consider that delivering a better customer experience is becoming a key business driver due to the operational cost of problems. To put this in perspective, J.D. Power research proposes that a 5 point reduction in problem incidence equates to 16 full-time employees for every 1M customers. At an average cost per FTE of $75K, the cost of problem incidence adds up.

Problems often occur when something a customer expects to happen doesn’t, or when something happens that isn’t expected, given the nature of the customer’s relationship with the organization. Recovering from a problem with a customer is difficult. Whether it escalates to a complaint is not the point. As J.D. Power points out, “The distinction between a problem and a complaint is academic; if the customer thinks it’s a problem, it’s a problem.” This point makes the case for why prevention should be preferred over recovery. However, a preventive approach requires a shift in mindset to organizations that treat customer service reactively, rather than proactively.

CSPs Must Shift from Recovery to Prevention

Traditionally, contact centers were established to solve customer problems. They were considered a cost center and poised to provide reactive, after the fact, interactions with customers. The modern customer of today expects much more. Recovery mode should become the last resort, superseded by proactive and preventative service.  This is true not only from a customer satisfaction and retention perspective, but from a view toward account expansion.

These three shifts will help customer experience professionals to improve the way your customers view your brand, increasing loyalty and promoting more profitable relationships.

  1. Become more holistic: CSPs have operated within a silo framework that fails to serve customers in relation to all the products and services they can subscribe to. Transferring a customer from department to department based on resolving issues for cable, wireless, phone, streaming media and other services does not provide a seamless experience. But, more importantly, it limits your ability to make the right offers at the right time to expand share of wallet that will increase customer lifetime value. It leaves the door wide open for competitors to syphon off business that could be yours.
  2. Invest in agent training: First contact resolution must be considered an investment in your biggest asset—your customers. Your contact center vendor should be providing ongoing agent training and coaching based on the call types the center handles and identification of commonalities that can point to better ways to be prepared to resolve them. A specialized vendor should be able to bring an extra dimension to the design of customer interactions to elevate them to a “Wow, this was excellent service” rather than “Gosh, that was awful” response from customers. Research shows that unhappy customers will often choose not to complain, thinking that it’s not worth their time. By showing them how much you care through the provision of empathetic and knowledgeable agents, CSPs can turn the tables in their favor.
  3. Create a process for systematic problem solving: Once you have identified the problems, action must be taken. A disciplined, closed-loop action planning method allows directing attention to not only addressing the problems with the biggest lift to CSAT, but enables the customer service team to diligently track actions, root causes and progress of tasks.  By creating a direct link between the data and the action, measuring and reporting on the impact of action plans to performance becomes more accurate. Your contact center vendor should bring expertise in problem-solving methodology that can help you focus on fixing the problems with the highest payoffs to deliver on business objectives—as well as CSAT.

In a highly competitive marketplace, CSPs must move away from customer service focused on outdated values to a strategic approach that prevents problems from occurring in the first place. With a proactive focus on improving customer experiences, customer service agents will be more effective in building the profitable relationships CSPs need to retain advantages in a continuously shifting marketplace.