If you’ve ever dealt with your local cable, internet, or phone company, then you won’t be surprised to learn that these Communication Service Providers (CSPs) aren’t known for excellent customer service. However, you may be taken aback by the depth of the problem.
The Temkin Group reported in 2015 that CSPs have a NetPromoter score (NPS) of 6. The score is an indicator of whether customers would recommend the provider to someone else, based on the number of promoters vs detractors. To understand the depth of the abyss, born-digital entrants like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon score around 72—making them 12x more likely to get favorable word-of-mouth referrals. Keep in mind that word-of-mouth is trusted by consumers more than any other form of marketing.
While the chasm may be deep, there are many opportunities for bridge building. From my professional vantage point, a solid place to start is with is—ironically—better communication. Here’s a quick list of things that CSPs can do to make service more satisfying:
- Get Personal. According to Experian, personal emails are up to six times more effective than their bulk counterparts. Better communications start with emails and invoices that demonstrate that you know a little bit about your customer. I always love it when my birthday rolls around and I get a special offer. I also appreciate the alert that tells me when my bill is due or my account is reaching its data limit. It helps me stay on top of things and helps my wireless company get paid on time. And if you can’t build personalization in yourself, there’s probably an app for that. Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights has done some initial investigating and provides a list of 16 website personalization tools.
- Real-time or No Time. Amazon not only provides me with a personal recommendation of “what I might be interested in”; they do it instantly while I’m browsing. Likewise, customers expect your billing should be as immediate and transparent. Things are improving with CSPs. You can get push notifications on your phone when your bill is due, packaging is getting less complicated as voice and text has been commoditized, and they provide online tools that show you how much data or voice you use in a historical context, so you can easily see where you are and if you need to upgrade or downgrade your service.
- Provide Context. Besides knowing what you might be interested in, CSPs should know basic things like the customer’s billing address, account plan, and preferences. Repeating your information every time you get transferred to a different department gets annoying fast. To do this, they’ll need to integrate single database across billing, CRM, provisioning, and ERP systems. Luckily, cloud billing capabilities like Aria’s Active Orchestration are bringing this all together to form a single record of truth of the customer. With that, online support, billing, and your service tech all have the same info. That, and sports fans can get location specific alerts that serve up the hot ball game later that night or inform them about the sports package for their local baseball club.
- More of It. In a digital, opt-in, world there are a zillion opportunities to reach out to the customer: When they sign up, pay for a bill, or even miss one. When the product is provisioned, an invoice is sent. At Aria, we call these touch points “revenue moments” because they provide an opportunity for the customer to select another feature, sign up for a different plan, or add service for another user. Even account termination can be an opportunity to forward service to a new address. In this case, less is not more. Customers want to be engaged, and if you’re not initiating, then who is? (Hint: your competitors.)
- Comprehensive Self-service. Everyone wants it. CSPs and other companies have gotten pretty good at providing online chat and group forums where customers can troubleshoot, get reviews, and mull over the latest product information. You can provide more empowerment by enabling customers to change account information and swap out plans by themselves. End-to-end self-service saves your company resources and empowers your customers to make their own decisions on their own time.
While you can’t please everyone (literally nobody has a perfect 100 NPS score), better communication leads to more positive outcomes. While you may not instantly earn a world-class NPS score, it’s certain to get you moving in the right direction.