White Paper - Knowledge Series: Web Self Service For The Telecom Industry
IR Knowle DGe Se RIeS June 2009Web Self-Service inTelecommunications:Growth, Differentiation,and a Sustainable Solutionto High Cost Customer Support“Frustrated web site visitors are more likely to opt for analternative site (45% would do so) than they are to bothercontacting customer service, or end up flooding customerservice with questions, driving up support costs.”Jupiter Research, 2008“Even in economic downturns, firms need to keepcustomer experience momentum and chart a coursetoward Experience-Based Differentiation.”Forrester Research, 2008Now is clearly not the time to abandon a focus ondelivering a superior customer experience online.
Web Self-Service in Telecommunications: 1Growth, Differentiation, and a Sustainable Solutionto High Cost Customer Supportwhy Telecom executives should be InterestedTo say that the telecommunications industry Among the report’s recommendations for telecomis undergoing rapid change would be an firms, Forrester Research warns thatunderstatement. “even in economic downturns, firms need to keep customer experience momentum and chart aMore market entrants have arrived in the highly course toward experience-Based Differentiation.”competitive telecommunications space over the last Now is clearly not the time to abandon a focus ondecade than in all the years preceding; customers delivering a superior customer experience.are increasingly turning to the online channelfor research, transactions and resolution to their In another recent report measuring onlineproblems; and the vendor offerings themselves customer service specifically, the Customer Respecthave expanded and deepened in complexity, Group examined 10 leading providers of TV,with greater choice and interoperability than ever Internet and telephone triple-play services. Thebefore. group gave each provider a score out of 10 in each of the two categories for Online Help and AccountAnd so, in the face of this rapid change and under Management.the constant threat of customer churn, how aretelecom companies managing the customer The results for these 10 leading companies wereexperience in this new era? For most, the answer “all over the map”, with many providers scoring wellwould be “Not very well”. below an acceptable average for any industry, let alone one faced with an ever-changing competitiveWith high service expectations and a plethora of landscape and the challenges associated withchoices to meet their needs, modern consumers significant customer churn.demand rapid, accurate and in many cases instantservice and support. The majority of telecomproviders, according to industry benchmarks, offerpoor-to-average customer experience online, andface a major upswing in support costs as customer Many Telecoms offer a poorsupport systems struggle to keep pace withincreasingly complex product offerings and customer experience online,a demanding customer base. and face a major upswing inOne market analyst report that (ratherunintentionally) highlights this issue is ForresterResearch’s recent edition of its Customer Experience support costs as a result.Index. This report ranks the customer experiencecapabilities of many leading companies across avariety of industries. Out of 114 companies indexedin the report, the bottom ten organizations, or theworst performers in customer experience, weredominated by the telecommunications industry.The dubious honor of being in the bottom 10 wasshared by three TV service providers, two ISPs andone wireless service carrier.
Web Self-Service in Telecommunications: 2Growth, Differentiation, and a Sustainable Solutionto High Cost Customer SupportThe Silver lining:Customer experience Is the Path to GrowthIs there a silver lining for the telecom executive? By contrast, in the telecom industry, where aYes. In other industries (such as hospitality, for majority of companies offer mediocre customerexample) customer experience scores typically experiences, the opportunity to achieve differentiationtrend much higher(1) meaning more firms through enhanced customer experience is very real.congregate at or near the top of the customerexperience playing field. With many firms already With the customer experience bar currently low,enjoying high customer satisfaction ratings, change and advancement can have major results.enhancements to the customer experience comesdown to the pursuit of incremental gains. Among a The telecom company that commits now tofield of leaders, it’s harder to be seen as the leader. breaking away from the pack has a much greaterDifferentiation is harder to achieve. opportunity to distinguish itself as a truly customer-focused organization and enjoy the customer loyalty that goes along with this (not to mention revenue growth potential). with the customer Knowing this, it stands to reason why most telecom executives recognize that improving the customer experience bar so low, experience across all channels (including online) is the path to stimulate growth. But how can this change and advancement be accomplished within a reasonable amount of time, resources and budget; and most importantly, can have big results. where do you start?Blueprint for Improving the Telecom Customer experience:First, Understand the CustomerPerhaps more than any other industry, the Online, it doesn’t matter that these business-to-“web-savvy” segment of the telecom customer consumer experiences do not take place within thebase is growing, and dominating all other same industry, what matters is that they take placecustomer segments. As such, for many telecom within the same channel (that is, they all take placeproviders, customer satisfaction (and loyalty) on the web).begins, and is heavily shaped by, the experiencethey deliver online. “If I can apply for a mortgage and transfer funds online, then why not investigate, bundle, andWhat’s more, that satisfaction is being compared inquire about telecom and entertainment servicesto other experiences online, regardless of industry. too?” a customer might wonder.As far as today’s online customers are concerned,it’s fair game to compare likes, dislikes, features “what’s more, if I can process an entire credit cardand functionality experienced on any combination application online, with zero frustration and noof corporate web sites, whether these web sites are need to resort to a customer service hotline, whythat of a bank, a resort, a manufacturer of sports can I not find the information I need to select theapparel, a university, or a telecom provider. home entertainment bundle that’s right for me?”
Web Self-Service in Telecommunications: 3Growth, Differentiation, and a Sustainable Solutionto High Cost Customer SupportBlueprint for Improving the Telecom Customer Experience: First, Understand the Customer (cont’d)A telecom vendor knows there are complexities totheir service offering and delivery. The web-savvycustomer, however, who lives by the credo that“everything is, or should be, easier online” A major benefit ofdoes not see things from the same point of view. improving the onlineCompanies who understand and, more importantly,act to enhance the online experience have an customer experienceopportunity to not only positively impact customerloyalty but also to significantly reduce customer is improvement to thesupport costs.How? With an optimal and effective web self-service. bottom line.The Appeal of web Self-Service:Growth, Differentiation and Cost ReductionWeb sites offer a convenient and efficient Clearly, what telecom companies must do is to givechannel for customers to explore, understand customers the ability to use their web sites to moreand customize new telecom services. In fact, 83% efficiently resolve customer issues, questions andof consumers indicate their primary source for concerns on their own.non-technical customer service information iscompany web sites.(2) The key word here is resolve.How frustrating for the customer who tries to find Certainly, the essence of customer satisfaction iswhat they need and can’t. Also, how costly for the the resolution of the issue that started the customercompany that ends up paying the ultimate price on the path to inquiry in the first place. When thisthrough customer defections. Or for the company resolution can be made online, in a self-servicewho incurs staggering support costs by attempting manner, the customer experience is enhanced andto resolve simple informational queries that its cost of service is significantly reduced. No emailsweb site (the preferred service channel of many sent. No calls to customer support placed.of its customers in the first place), could not. Recently, a number of innovative telecom providers“Frustrated web site visitors are more likely to have achieved this by adding Instant Answer Agentopt for an alternative site (45% would do so) than technology to their web site. An Instant Answerthey are to bother contacting customer service, or Agent allows web site visitors to find answers to theirend up flooding customer service with questions, support concerns quickly, by keying in questionsdriving up support costs.” – Jupiter Research in natural language and getting the “One Right Answer”, regardless of the hundreds of ways a singleIndeed, up to 60% of email volume is caused by question may be asked.customers who cannot get answers online.(3)
Web Self-Service in Telecommunications: 4Growth, Differentiation, and a Sustainable Solutionto High Cost Customer SupportThe Appeal of Web Self-Service: Growth, Differentiation and Cost Reduction (cont’d)Contrast this positive customer experience withthe dreadful ones prevalent among web sitesthat do not offer effective, next generation webself-service. One painful example is the use of a what telecom providerskeyword “search” tool where customers are beingserved with dozens of pages of results, each with must do is to give customersvarying degrees of relevancy. Another example iscustomers visiting a FAQ page that offers scores the ability to use their webof questions and answers in short blurbs withadditional links to “additional information” – with sites to more efficientlythis type of self-service, what customer wouldn’tneed to pick up the phone? resolve customer issuesFour Steps to next Generation web Self-ServiceTruly effective Web Self-Service platforms deliver 3. Customize the experience.measureable cost reduction, enhance the customer Replaced your company-centric approach to onlineexperience and provide true insights into the support content delivery and replace it with aquestions and concerns of a disparate and fickle customer-centric approach.telecom customer base. Focus on the following fourkey steps as you work towards delivering optimal There is no need to perform a series of clicks ininformation and service across key touch points for the quest to finding the answer. Customers shouldyour telecom organization: not have to click through sections of the web site to identify the context, category, or product type1. Deliver consistent information. as it relates to their question. Instead, they shouldOne of the major frustrations customers experience be able to simply key in their question, in theiron some web sites is that answers can be found own words. What’s more, when the results of theirin multiple locations. Sometimes answers can be query are served, there should be no further effortconflicting with stale information remaining live required on the part of the customer to then “find”on some web pages while not on other web pages. the answer amidst pages of search results.What’s more, answers often vary in depth andcompleteness depending on where they are found. 4. Create a SeamlessFor example, information on a specific product Multi-Channel Experience.page could be very detailed compared to the quick When a customer is in need of direct humansummary information found on an FAQ page. interaction, make sure your site can facilitate a seamless multi-channel experience by recognizing2. Make the path to resolution easy. prompts that indicate the customer shouldClearly mark the “path” to the answer for be transferred to an assisted support channelcustomers. Do not bury key information such as email, online chat, or a call center. Fordeep within an FAQ page. Ensure that this example, certain questions such as “How do Iis prominently located so that visitors can cancel your service?”, “I need to speak to a liveimmediately begin to ask questions using natural representative”, or “How do I purchase yourlanguage, just as they would on the phone or in deluxe package?” can trigger an automaticperson, or at one of your retail locations. escalation to a live attendant.