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Perspectives

Doing the Hard Work to Deliver Simplicity and Reduce Customer Efforts (Part 3)

2017-08-02


Communications services providers must commit to human-facing simplicity, rethink cumbersome processes, empower employees and deliver on the basics of good service.

In our previous installments we described the business need to simplify and what simplicity means for customers

Given the ever greater variety of services you must offer and the constantly evolving technology you must support, your business is anything but simple. Customers, too, struggle to cope with this complexity. They call, e-mail and use internet chat to ask about everything from your introductory offers and which data streaming, paid TV options and Internet speeds are available in their neighborhood to a myriad of technical support and billing questions.

When customers cannot, or are not willing to, navigate your self-service options they turn to more expensive alternatives, such as — a service rep or a visit to a store. Since our first annual customer survey, the number of customers contacting their service provider more than once a month has increased significantly across all ages, genders and service types. Billing and recharge are the top reasons for contact, followed by browsing for products and services, reviewing service usage, service disruptions and technical support. 

Figure 1

To field these queries, your service representatives must navigate numerous legacy systems depending on the service the customer is calling about or the region where they live. In some cases, these platforms were designed in very different ways and disconnected from each other because they were acquired through mergers or acquisitions. This complexity not only drives up your cost (time on the phone or on chat is money), but results in frustrated customers who often can’t get the personal attention they need.

Your customer cares nothing about this complexity. They just want to know the answer to their question, such as why their bill unexpectedly jumped, their Internet service is so slow or how to find Showtime in their online guide. They want fast action with as little effort as possible. If they can’t get what they need, there are a multitude of competitors eager to provide a better experience. 

As our most recent survey shows, simplicity is the common thread behind many customer needs. But it is important to remember this doesn’t just mean driving internal operational efficiencies through systems and process re-engineering. It must make life easier for human beings — your employees and customers — by making machines handle the routine behind the scenes detail so humans can interact in the simplest, most effective ways. In other words, bringing human sciences to customer experience. 

Among the changes required to deliver simplicity are: 

  • A commitment to human-centered simplicity in everything from the design of services and pricing options to the look and feel of self-service apps. Go beyond traditional focus groups and market research to a cultural shift that puts the customer perspective at the heart of every product, service, interaction and communication.       

  • Leverage voice/natural language as an easy to use interface to transactions such as authentication, ordering and support. If customers can ask their Amazon Echo to order more laundry detergent, why can’t they ask their phone to order them an upgraded model?

  • A thorough understanding and reengineering of processes that have become convoluted, requiring too many people and systems to complete even routine tasks. Take a step back and ask “Is there a better way of doing this?” and whether your employees are empowered to solve customer problems. The necessary changes may require reworking existing processes and technology enablement. But they can have big impacts by increasing first time resolution of customer issues and driving customer loyalty and, thus, sales.

    At one service provider, for example, we found outdated rules requiring that any type of sale be handled only by certain groups of service representatives, resulting in unnecessary transfers for even the smallest changes in service. Empowering the front-line representatives to handle the inquiries not only improved customer satisfaction but also the morale of the front-line representatives, allowing them to solve more problems while freeing sales staff for more complicated sales work.  

    Even a process as straightforward as chat can be improved to increase customer satisfaction while reducing costs. We restructured chat for a leading CSP, updating customers about their place in the queue and sending them links to answers to common questions while they waited. We also helped the CSP develop standard responses to common queries, which improved the consistency of its answers and reduced resolution times. All this raised the satisfaction of chat customers above that of customers using the phone, and is expected to deliver $20 million in benefits over five years.

  • Empowering your employees with the information and authority they need to serve the customer. Don’t leave your data in a data warehouse or “lake,” but make it actionable provide  insights to your frontline. This will allow you to, for example, offer free relevant services that can turn a problem into an opportunity to cross or upsell. (“We noticed you’ve experienced extensive load times on Netflix over the last few days. Along with our apology we’re giving you two weeks of free access to our premium sports channel…”)

  • A continued emphasis on the basics, such as executing service calls/repairs on time, with proactive, accurate and timely advisories on delays or changes such as expected arrival times. It is impossible to claim you’re making life simple for a customer when, as one complained, “…Nine different techs, and one actually showed up in shorts, flip flops, and a tank top… (and I still experienced) Internet speed issues.”

All these require some level of effort, and sometimes painful rethinking of organizational structures, training methods, compensation schemes and workflows. Maximize your ROI, and build support for your simplification efforts, by starting on areas where complexity is losing you the most customers, revenue or brand equity.  

In the following Perspectives article we will go into more detail on your first steps to achieve simplicity.

We also invite you to check out more findings to validate how these processes will create the customer experience needed.

For additional study insights, see our infographic; to learn more about our communications services, visit our website.

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Doing the Hard Work to Deliver Simplicity and Reduce Customer Efforts (Part 3)