Mobile Phone Operator? You’re It!


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Mobile phone use in Great Britain is becoming something of a game, according to a study commissioned by a major call-center software provider. The survey shows that when people aren’t happy with a provider’s service, they just switch. A quarter of young people have switched mobile service provider as a result of bad call center customer service, the survey of more than 2,000 British mobile users found. The survey, conducted for software provider Corizon by pollsters YouGov, also found that the situation was almost as severe across the broader population.

Overall, 1 in 5 users—or 19 percent—across all age groups have switched mobile operator at least once, as a reaction to what they considered inadequate customer service. And of those who haven’t switched, more than a quarter (27 percent) said they have considered doing so.

Customers are fed up with the amount of time it takes to deal with their issues, both before being connected to a live agent and once the call has been connected. One-third of those surveyed said they have been kept on hold for more than 10 minutes. Being kept on hold for long periods of time and having an inquiry take a long time to resolve were among the top five things respondents said bothered them about mobile home customer service.

Yet, in the United Kingdom, practically every household has at least one mobile phone. Mobile saturation has been estimated by analysts to be more than 100 percent. So when customers are fed up, they just switch carriers and hope for the best.

“In the U.K., mobile pricing battles are aggressive and mobile operators are constantly looking to increase the average revenue per user by introducing new products and services, said David Davies, vice president of products for Corizon, in an interview conducted by email. But this battle for customers leads to a vicious cycle, according to Davies, who says that the introductions are “often confusing to the end-user,” requiring “some reliance on customer support, in the form of the call center.”

The survey is of particular note for what it says about the young adult customers. Mobile operators target 18- to 29-year-olds, the heaviest users of mobile phones—and call centers. “Older users are less likely to switch operator,” Davies said. Only 13 percent of those users aged 50 or older have switched their mobile phone operator because of poor call center service, according to the survey.

Corizon commissioned the survey, because it provides products to call centers. It hopes to be able to help call centers meet their top challenges through technology. “We were keen for background information as to how severe the problem is,” Davies said.

Top “pain points”

The five major customer “pain-points” identified by survey respondents were:

  1. Having to repeat a query to more than one agent (41 percent)

  2. Being kept on hold too long (32 percent)

  3. Being asked for same details repeatedly (29 percent)

  4. Believing the agent lacked the necessary knowledge to deal with the query (27 percent)

  5. The length of time it took to resolve the query (26 percent)

“The call center is effectively the front door to the mobile service provider and is often the only contact the mobile user has with the operator’s brand,” Davies said. “Poor customer service can have a dramatic effect on customer loyalty and churn.”

Davies believes that call center agents should not be singled out for criticism. Instead, call center operators should look at their process and technology implementation. “Call centers have invested heavily in many different technologies designed to improve the customer experience, but too often the result is that the call center agent is getting lost in a maze of complex IT systems as he tries to access information from an array of sources.” As a result, he said, “Call centers need to simplify the tools they give agents and help them to resolve this customer service time bomb.”

Gwynne Young
Independent Contractor
Gwynne Young is a former newspaper writer, columnist and copy editor who has managed online content for several companies, including and Gartner. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.


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