7 Smart Ways To Improve Customer Service (for Telcos)

We sat down with Elisa’s customer service team leader to discuss the smartest ways telcos can improve their customer service experience.

Here at ultimate.ai, we devoted all of Q3 to an industry we work closely with: telecommunications. In doing so, we produced a series of articles and an e-book that contained a wealth of knowledge, ideas, tips and advice for how telecommunications companies can improve their customer service -- yes, even now, during COVID.

What’s more, we teamed up with the customer service team leader at Elisa, Henna Vuorenmaa, who has provided her expert insights and tips on each point.

Here are the top 7 learnings:

1. Bad customer service plagues the telco world

    T-Mobile CEO John Legere called customer service “the biggest pain point” of the telco industry for good reason. Customers, frustrated with the low-quality support given to them by their provider, have become “serial switchers,” changing contracts the moment they can legally do so, in search of better customer service.

    Henna: We believe that good customer service with excellent skills of empathy and deep customer understanding creates customer loyalty.

    >> Learn more about customer service and the telco industry in our e-book, The Telco Directors’ Guide to Customer-Obsessed Support Teams

    2. Telco Customer Service Teams Must Learn To Be Resilient

    Telco customer service agents are prone to burnout. The nature of the job, which often involves executing long, complex processes. It can take a toll on one’s mental health as well, when agents need to handle emotionally charged complaints -- since customers are often calling in to report a service disruption in their WiFi, TV or phone, which have become essential forms of communication these days.

    As such, customer service trainer and expert Donna Earl recommends instilling resiliency into your telco team, or better yet -- hiring candidates who demonstrate resilience in their job application.

    Henna: In our firm, we train our team leaders and managers continuously. Here, it is considered very important that our managers have the ability, and as such, we provide our managers with regular coaching sessions to help them react to changes in employees’ welfare. Team members and team leaders are provided with the possibility to enhance their emotional skills, which we see as the key factor in supporting a person's resilience in different situations.

    >> Learn all about Attributes of Customer-Obsessed Telecommunications Teams.

    3. Telcos Are Ideally Positioned to Embrace AI

    AI automation eases the pressure on telecommunications teams when there are customer service spikes at peak periods and during service disruptions. An IVA on the frontline of your support team can maintain a consistent customer experience at scale. This then frees up your agents from the boring, repetitive tasks to tackle the more complex, higher-value, and rewarding customer interactions (rescuing customers from cancelling their contracts, upselling them more services, etc.).

    Telcos are ideally positioned for this kind of assistance because of their sheer size, which makes manual management difficult. Furthermore, telco customer service teams, being innately dynamic and heavily digital, lend themselves naturally to AI technology.

    Here’s what Finnish-Swedish telco Telia had to say about implementing AI automation with ultimate.ai:

    “With automation, we are able to kill several birds with one stone: customers get a higher-level support system, our agents are more valued than ever, and we are significantly cutting costs.”

    • Janne Nieminen, Product Owner, Telia
    Henna: We believe that AI is a good help but at the center of customer service, there is always the people. Collaboration is the key to an enhanced customer loyalty as well as employee satisfaction: when AI and people work seamlessly together, we all benefit. AI offers us possibilities to help customers quickly. For example, in chat, we can use the chatbot to answer the more simple questions, whereas the customer service agent has more time to concentrate on tasks which are more complex and demand a higher level of emotional skills.

    4. AI Solutions Should Be Chosen with a Deep Understanding of the Industry

      When considering potential AI solutions for your telco, it’s important to remember that not all solutions are created equal. Telco customer support teams often work with a long list of products and services, placing customers in different tier groups across a number of different systems. As such, any AI solution selected should have robust backend integration capabilities, as well as self-service capabilities. This will allow the AI to create higher value for your company, thereby increasing customer happiness.

      Henna: AI demands continuous developing, which takes into account the aims we have towards an omnichannel customer experience. This includes deep integration into the processes we have in customer service, as well as continuous development of empathy and emotional skills in AI.

      >> Check out our Checklist: Is Your Telco Business Ready for Automation?

      5. The Most Important Qualities for Telco Customer Service Teams

        There are many different qualities that customer service teams can exhibit to create customer satisfaction. In our quest to discover the most important ones, we delved deep into the research to find studies conducted on telco customer service and the most important qualities that affect customer satisfaction around the world. Through our research, we identified five factors that could predict the quality of the service provided by the telco in question. They are:

        • Reliability: The telco’s ability to deliver their promises on time.
        • Responsiveness: The degree to which telco customers perceive their provider’s readiness to assist them promptly.
        • Assurance: The ability of the telco support team to communicate trust to their customers and the degree of courtesy shown by agents to customers.
        • Empathy: The degree to which specific telco customer needs and preferences can be understood and articulated, and the care and importance given to each individual customer.
        • Tangibility: The evidence of facilities, personnel, and communication materials the company uses while providing its services.

        Of these qualities, the general consensus showed that assurance and empathy were identified as the most important for telcos.

        Henna: Our aim is to provide an omnichannel customer experience which is effortless, trustworthy and filled with understanding towards the customer’s situation – and we constantly work towards developing these skills even further amongst our teams.

        >> Learn more about how service quality affects customer satisfaction in telcos.

        6. How To Calculate High-Quality Customer Service in Telcos

          What do the terms ‘high-quality service’ and ‘customer satisfaction’ really mean for telcos? The fact is, intangible variables like personal needs, previous experiences, referrals from other customers, and the telco provider’s communications strategy, can all affect customer expectations.

          To convert the intangible into cold, hard data, there’s a math equation to calculate customer satisfaction -- and it works well for telcos.

          It looks like this:

          Service Quality (SQ) = Customer’s Perception (P) – Customer’s Expectations (E)

          If you can quantify your customer’s perception and customer’s expectations, then you simply subtract the first from the second, and you’re left with a number to quantify your service quality.

          Henna: We measure customer experience and satisfaction with different metrics and methods, which are based on customer expectations. It is important for us to develop this, continuously taking into account everyday customer feedback and through different kinds of experiments.

          7. How Telco CS Managers Should Show Employee Appreciation

          Telco customer service expert and influencer Harald Henn explained to us that when it comes to employee appreciation, not just any method will do. Rather, it’s far better for a team leader to do so in the context of the specific situation.

          “For example, a major client has experienced a technical issue with routers and connections for one of his offices. One of the agents solved the problem with extra effort and engagement. The appreciation should always reflect the specific situation. In this case, a small rubix cube or superman figure, perhaps -- along with a voucher for dinner -- could generate a deeply ingrained memory for that employee.”

          - Harald Henn

          Henna: As a team leader, it is crucial for me to know my team. When I know what my teammates’ values are, what are the challenges they are facing and things they are happy about, I am able to give them the best possible support. It may sound like a bit of a cliché but I am here for my people. I do my best to find people’s strengths and help them to develop them even further. My aim is to make the strong even stronger – this tends to eliminate the possible weaknesses at the same time. I think that it is important to show appreciation also by making customer feedback visible for everyone.
          Also the carefully chosen gifts, on occasions when something has been done with extra great effort are important – but still, I think that the most important thing is the overall feeling that I am genuinely interested in my people – and that they know I value them and their work tremendously.

          To date in 2020, we’ve learned a lot about telcos and customer service. Bad service is still a huge problem amongst telcos, though many brands like Elisa are working to change that. Resilience is a key quality amongst telco customer service teams, who are prone to burnout. Yet the long, complex processes that can cause anxiety amongst agents actually makes telcos ideally positioned for automation (though deep backend integrations are key here). Still, not just any automation will do -- and telcos should take great care when selecting their AI automation tools to ensure they are getting a product that can fulfill their needs. From the customer angle, assurance and empathy are most important qualities that ensure customer satisfaction amongst telcos -- and it’s possible to quantify this concept with a math equation. Finally, employee appreciation should be done thoughtfully and in a timely manner to ensure its full effect.

           

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