Snowden Burgess, Telesperience's 'man on the inside' talks about why too much focus on efficiency can actually harm the customer experience, and why CSPs need to face up to the brutal truth.
George Andrew Reid, Women Operators, 1919
Customer Experience is not the easiest of concepts to define and quantify within the telecommunications industry. In short, there is no defined standards or approach.
The one consistent approach across most telcos and service integrators is that they accept how important customer experience is to their success. They then allocate limited funds and resources to actually support any consistent or structured approach to improving it.
After more than 20 years in the industry, though, I have seen at first-hand multiple attempts at improving the customer experience across several organisations, but have yet to see any real improvement in how we treat our customers. The truth is, most programmes are launched with considerable pomp and marketing, but little internal resources, authority or funding to back them up.
In one of my previous roles I was responsible for customer experience improvement within a major telco. I was advised that I had the full support of C level executives. So I met the challenge head on and started immediately to formulate a plan to identify and then tackle the internal issues that caused poor customer experience and perception. Many of these were re-occurring problems that are common throughout the industry, including:
late and incorrect delivery of services
inaccurate and late invoicing
poor data integrity within internal systems
poor service assurance and an inadequate escalation process
inefficient processes and procedures.
It became clear to me very quickly that I only had the full support of the leadership team so long as I didn't actually change anything. Even when critical changes were approved by senior executives though, disseminating this change into senior and middle management was nearly impossible. I rapidly came to the conclusion that while I had all the responsibility, I had little authority to make any necessary changes.
Let's be clear: this was not because these teams did not want to provide a good customer experience or improve the way in which they worked. It was simply because they were targeted on the wrong things.
Teams were targeted on metrics such as throughput and quantity, but not measured on key metrics that really mattered such as quality or accuracy. (A key take away from this being the importance of targeting the right behaviour.)
This led to most internal teams becoming very efficient, as they improved the actions they needed to take to meet the targets they were given. However, becoming efficient in the wrong things means that at best the current customer experience remains the same (ie unimproved) and at worst declines.
What's the point in dealing with more complaints per hour (volume) if the complaints are not actually being resolved adequately (quality)? Or better still the virtuous circle is not being completed so that lessons are learned, and changes made to prevent mistakes of the same type reoccurring in future?
The focus on efficiency has shifted most CSPs into a fire-fighting mode, rather than a fire prevention mode.
To truly improve customer experience, those given the responsibility need the authority to tackle the brutal facts within an organisation - some of which will be very uncomfortable.
But we don't have forever and a day to change this. Our customer base is becoming more demanding as technology changes at a rapid rate and the customer base we serve becomes more technically capable. Customers have more choice than ever, and are less willing to put up with sub-standard services. This means consumers want more, faster and better, and services more tailored to them; businesses also increasingly want a B2C customer experience in a B2B world (and expect quality and accuracy as standard).
You simply cannot hide the real experience any longer, as technology is now readily available that reveals and measures the performance customers receive from CSPs (the 'real experience'), and this will radically change the face of customer experience over the coming years. This means that CSPs can no longer stick their heads in the sand and ignore so-called intractable problems, but need to face up to what's really going wrong and fix it.
Telesperience is the community for telecoms software (BSS and OSS) and data professionals. We help service providers improve their operational efficiency, commercial agility and the customer experience they provide.