Commitments to improving customer service levels are more important than offering extra product incentives, according to an independent survey of customer service requirements of over 4,000 European telecoms subscribers, announced today.
The survey charts sentiment toward customer service among telecoms consumers in key European economies and also reveals how changing consumer preference and behaviour is redefining the rules for telecoms customer service operations. The survey was undertaken online by YouGov Plc and commissioned by eGain Communications Corporation.
In contrast to previous research into the sector, overall, customer service experiences of telecom providers were rated very positively, with less than 5% of respondents citing their most recent experience as poor. Among a range of many other specific findings, the research also found ‘talking to a human being' (18.9%) as only the 5th most important customer service priority, and recorded a high degree of preference for online communications methods such as live web chat.
- Customer loyalty can be better won through commitment to service levels than by introducing special offers/incentives on products.
o Respondents stated that commitments to faster (53.7%), more consistent and personal (38.1%) and multichannel (41.2%) customer service would make the most difference to them. Only 24% placed ‘more special offers' among their top three preferences (only 14% in Germany).
o Providing access to customer service via ‘any conceivable communications method' such as online self-service, telephone, chat, email and SMS was more important to French (47.3%) and German (44.4%) respondents than British (35.5%).
- Talking to a human being is less important than getting a fast, accurate or personalised and consistent response.
o When asked ‘What do you feel is most important to your own customer experience when dealing with your telecoms service providers?', just under 1 in 5 rated ‘access to a contact centre agent' in their top two preferences.
o Getting a knowledgeable response to a query was most important to respondents, with 41.6% citing this requirement in their top two preferences.
o 24/7 service availability (34.57%), a quick response to a query (33.1%), and a personalised and consistent service (30.88%) also scored well amongst respondents' top two preferences.
- The vast majority of respondents rated their last customer service experience as positive, although UK respondents were less optimistic than French and German subscribers about future service levels.
o 55.3% of respondents who have a communications provider cited their last telecoms customer service interaction as positive, with 15% calling it ‘excellent'.
o Customer experiences were less positive in older age groups. 50.35% of 55+ year olds had a ‘good' or ‘excellent' experience, compared to 57.9% of 18-24 year olds.
o Consumers are more optimistic (22%) than pessimistic (9.5%) about the development of their telecoms customer service levels over the next 12 months.
o Only 2.75% of respondents thought that service levels would worsen significantly over the next 12 months.
o French (36%) and German (25%) customers were the most optimistic about the prospect of future service improvement. Only 13% of UK respondents anticipate that service levels will improve in the next 12 months, with over two thirds (68%) of them expecting to see 'business as usual'.
- The survey suggests consumer preferences for online customer service vary according to situation.
o The sample was asked which e-communications channel they would choose in two different service scenarios: 1) resolving a problem with a communication service or handset, and 2) changing/upgrading a product or service.
o Customers are happiest to serve themselves in an upgrade scenario (with 34.4% placing web self-service as their preferred contact method) yet want some level of interaction during in a problem scenario (with 27.7% and18.8% of respondents citing email and web chat respectively, as their preferred contact methods).
o Respondents preferred to use web chat more for solving problems than for upgrading. While 18.8% (23% in the UK) chose it as their preferred channel of e-communication in the problem scenario, less than half this number (8.26%) would chose it when looking to upgrade.
o Email and web self-service are the most popular interaction channels across both scenarios.
o French consumers expressed the highest overall preference for the listed e-communication channels. In the problem scenario, 81% of French respondents highlighted preferences for e-communications methods, compared to 77% in the UK and 63% in Germany.
- Demand for customer service delivery through social media and mobile devices was ranked low in respondents' service priorities, although younger respondents expressed twice the interest.
o Few respondents agreed that commitments to extending customer service options through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter (5.3%), and supporting mobile device interfaces (9.6%) would make a significant difference to them. Demand for customer service delivered through mobile devices was highest among the youngest respondents (12.3% of 18-24 year olds); almost twice that of the oldest (6.8% of 55+year olds)
o French consumers are more predisposed to innovative service delivery than the rest of Europe, with over 15% prioritising mobile device service delivery (compared to only 6% in the UK) in their top three choices, and over twice as many French respondents citing social media as important (8%) than in the UK (4%) and Germany (4%)
"These positive results confirm the acceleration in telecoms customer service innovation and investment over the past two years. However, many telcos still have some way to go in successfully meeting the fast-paced change of consumer demand," commented Andrew Mennie, General Manager, eGain EMEA."The telecoms sector is highly competitive," continued Mennie. "With handsets and price plans becoming less meaningful as market differentiators, the ability to deliver accurate and rapid multichannel customer service has clearly cemented itself as a key factor in retaining customers and increasing Average Margin Per User (AMPU). Telcos should take note of the migration toward online service resolution that is already well underway; as these subscribers increasingly communicate more through electronic channels, providing top-notch eService and integrating it seamlessly with the phone is critical for success."