In my regular dealings with service providers across the globe, it’s fair to say customer experience is a topic that crops up frequently as an aspect of service provision that requires constant monitoring and improvement. During industry events, service providers engage in earnest discussions about what they need to improve and how they should tackle this challenge.
Yet given all this focus on customer experience, it seems strange that this is the one area with the least improvement. To be sure, many customers say they hate having to speak to their service provider about a technical or service problem. In my own dealings with services providers as a consumer, customer representatives have actually apologized to me about what is often a far from a satisfactory resolution.
If I compare this with the customer service I receive in other industries, the situation is very different. For example, I am an American Express customer and I find their treatment of customers almost exemplary. True, I pay for it, but I am not alone in being willing to pay more if the customer experience is worth it. Another example is Apple, which is innovating the customer experience in our own backyard better than we have ever done.
Indeed, service providers in all sectors should be making the daily lives of their customers easier, not harder.
In the communications industry, customer experience may be at the heart of everything that a service provider strives to do, but this is not reflected in the actual personal interaction with customers. So why is this the case?
My take of the situation is that vendors have somehow successfully convinced service providers that customer experience is fulfilled by technology and technology alone. They see customer experience as a technical answer on the quality of the service.
While that may be true, of equal or even greater importance is how the customer experiences his or her interactions with staff who work on the front line; the customer representatives who answer your call should not be placed in a position where they have to apologize for the state of play. For example, perhaps a customer wants to see both their cellular and landline bills on the same page of their online account, but is told that is not possible to facilitate because the service provider still operates two different silos for these services.
This silo mentality is certainly one aspect that continues to plague the customer experience service providers currently provide. For example, customers may find they have to send in their bank details again to their own provider, simply because they have opted for a different plan or service. This may be a relatively minor issue, but it makes a bad impression.
In other words, the service provider’s thinking is limited to believing that the customer experience begins and ends with technology; they don't realize that customer experience must include all interactions with the customer.
Customers should be confident they will receive the same experience whether they are speaking to their service provider about a cellular, landline, broadband or TV service. They should get the same quality of service whether they contact their service provider online, on the phone or in person in a retail store. We are still far from the point where customers can get answers about all their services from a single source, and this will continue to be an ongoing area of frustration.