Heroes or Villains? Customer Experience Spotlight on the Telecoms Industry

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Telecoms

Allow me to start this post by asking a question. Do you ‘like’ your Telecoms provider? It is a very simple question – it contains only 6 words – yet I believe it is a question that opens a large can of worms. Let me ask another question. Have you ever recommended your Telecoms provider to a friend or family member? Not – ‘are you likely to recommend’; but ‘have you actually recommended’?

These simple questions could be applied to any industry, anywhere in the world. However today, I want to focus on the subject of Customer Experience in an industry that on the face of it, appears to be struggling to keep its customers happy. There are undoubtedly those who will say that they DO like their Telecoms company. There will be others who have actually recommended them to others. So let us explore whether or not the industry that we all rely so much on (who cannot cope without a smart phone these days?!) is a HERO when it comes to delivering great Customer Experiences…… or a VILLAIN!

As an avid user of social media platforms, I am regularly exposed to stories by people I know and those who I do not know, about a wide variety of Customer Experiences. Over the last few months, I have noticed a significant increase in ‘volume’ of angst when it comes to the Telecoms industry – from all over the world. Only a few weeks ago, Rachel Percival posted her dissatisfaction with Vodafone on LinkedIn – the conversation that ensued was fascinating. Rachel has allowed me to share her ‘rant’ in this post – have a read for yourself:

My Vodafone fiasco:

So, like a lot of people I decided that as the new iPhone 6S was launched that I would upgrade my phone, had a look around and the deals were mostly the same, the benefit I felt of staying with Vodafone was of course one of ease (I’m lazy when it comes to these things) and I got to keep my “free” Spotify for another 24 months, so all I had to do was call, right?

Have you ever tried to get through to Vodafone? My word, they don’t make it easy for customers to connect with them. Ironic given there a telecommunications company – so when I finally got past the irritating IVR and to the place I though I needed to be I of course hit the queue. No worries – you press a few buttons and they call you back, which they did and I spoke to a very helpful advisor who duly placed my order and told me it would be 3-5 working days.

Fiasco number one – the week moves on and no word (or text as had been promised) on when said phone would arrive. I didn’t want to go via the IVR and queuing system yet again so I tweeted asking if they could update on when I would get my phone.  They duly tweeted back (the following day) with a link to check progress. All the link showed was that my order had been accepted. I tweeted them that and was sent a link for live chat … which wasn’t available – back to the irritating IVR. I get through, and the advisor can’t tell me when it will be delivered!! She will have to call the warehouse and call me back – no call back but a text saying my phone would be delivered the following day.

GREAT right? Nope – this was just the start of things getting worse and a complete break down of the experience! In a nutshell, the phone doesn’t work (it is a known issue with the touch screen with the new iPhone 6S – well, known to Vodafone not to me!). Despite going into the store to request that they did the set up (they wouldn’t … can see why now) no one at this stage had mentioned the issue. After several very frustrating attempts to activate the phone and even more frustrating calls to Vodafone, I decided to go back to the store to see if they could help and if not send the phone back.

Nope, they couldn’t get it to work (said it could take hours – they admitted that it still probably wouldn’t work) and their only solution was that I phone customer service yet again as they cannot send it back from the store .. really!!! Vodafone is clearly NOT adopting an omni channel approach. So I called Vodafone yet again and eventually get through to the correct person (pointless IVR!) who activated the return. I would have to wait for them to send me a returns bag (to date I still don’t have this!).Three minutes after the call I get a text saying the phone had been refunded, 30 seconds later followed by another message saying that my order was ready to collect in store, 30 seconds after that an email thanking me for staying with Vodafone, what the hell ?!?!?

Fast forward a week and several calls chasing the bag – nothing!! Once again go to the store who then tell me I can return from the store (REALLY) so the phone has gone back (although no confirmation of it reaching it’s destination). I have a PAC code which I will be using and I will NEVER take out a Vodafone contract again and would actively discourage anyone else from doing so! And guess what? Despite the phone NEVER working, I am being charged currently at the new contract rate……. yes, really!

RANT OVER !!

Wow – it is difficult to deny that Rachel’s experience is as painful as it gets. The mere mention of the Telecoms industry seems to set normally mild-mannered people into a rage! The following comments were posted when I stated the intent to write this post:

I am going for villains with the occasional white knight / hero operator? As an industry I find the CX on offer so hit and miss.

Difficult to say telco and customer experience in the same sentence without sniggering! Purposely confuse customers and take money for services not required and often not even used.

If you’d like a case study of the awfulness of BT – I would be delighted to share. I am at the point where I almost think I must be a special experiment customer to see how poorly they can treat me!

Another contact of mine, Karen Wenborn took to LinkedIn to share her experience with T-Mobile – now part of EE:

Customer effort. Adding another SIM to my @tmobile account. Or trying to. “Sorry, the system is currently unavailable. Please try again later.” Social guys told me to call! #CX

I could go on, but I think the case for the Telco industry being the VILLAIN of the piece is already pretty well made. However – there are always two sides to every story – are all the companies in this industry really that bad? Am I just reading too much in to the fact that disgruntled customers are far more likely to vent their frustration in public than happy ones?

Only this week, just one Telco who appear to have acted far more of a HERO was O2 – in case you missed it, O2 decided to help…… yes I did write the word ‘help’…..customers stranded in Egypt. This is what they did:

UK holidaymakers are currently stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh. In light of this, we’re zero-rating calls and texts from there back to the UK from 4 November 2015 until the stranded customers have been flown home, or the situation changes or develops.

You can read more about the story here. At a time when it is genuinely difficult to find anything positive to say about the industry, it appears rather refreshing to see one of the big Telco operators doing something like this. Interestingly (well I find it interesting anyway!!), the Telecoms industry used to be heralded as one of the most Customer Centric of all – in fact the likes of O2 and Vodafone were often cited as brilliant examples of how all industries should be delivering great experiences. Still today, I teach people about the O2 Fanbook – you can read about it in this article I wrote about O2 in 2013 – why has an industry that once seemed to understand people, now in a position where people do not appear to like it very much at all?

Whether it is greed; lack of focus; poor leadership; complacency; all of these things and more; I encourage anyone who reads this to get involved in the debate. Is the industry doing good things that consumers are just not aware of? Is the positive voice just not being heard – or not being heard loudly enough? Whilst you are pondering over your perspective, I will leave you with this one final story – that almost sums up the state of the industry right now.

2B4B7DF800000578-3194831-The_spoils_of_war_Business_development_manager_Dan_May_with_his_-a-25_1439372923955

Have a read of what happened to Dan May – it is comical…. So I conclude that in general, the word VILLAIN seems to be far more appropriate than HERO when it comes to this industry. What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.

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