How good is the telecoms customer experience today?

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at how CSPs think they're performing in terms of the customer experience they provide to their customers.


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Gyorgy Vastagh, Chatting



We're constantly being told that CSPs finally get it: they realise that providing a great customer experience is a critical differentiator in competitive markets. With a new wave of competitors entering the market (the so-called OTT players and MVNOs), CSPs need to differentiate their offering more than ever in order to retain customers and avoid dreaded bit pipe status. 


Many millions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen have been spent on initiatives to improve the customer experience - both directly and indirectly 'improving the customer experience' has become a modern-day telecoms mantra. So how are CSPs doing? Well a quick qualitative review will tell you there's a mixed bag of results, and many of the millions spent have not resulted in more satisfied, loyal customers - not in the consumer sector and especially not in the enterprise sector.


Telesperience set out to measure the customer experience more quantitatively. Although some regulators collect statistics on how operators are doing (such as complaints data), and some CSPs publish data such as retention or CSAT scores, this data provides only part of the picture. Complainants can be bought off; retention does not mean loyalty; CSAT or net promoter scores are frequently wrongly collected or interpreted. And, of course, having an excellent "telecoms customer experience" does not mean it's excellent in comparison to what some other industries might provide (as an industry we're not at the cutting edge of customer experience).


So another way of benchmarking the customer experience we provide is to ask CSPs themselves how they think they're doing and plot the progress. We did this in 2010 and repeated the exercise in 2013 and the results show that despite all the emphasis placed upon providing a great customer experience, CSPs themselves are less confident they're doing so.


Very few regard themselves as providing an “excellent” customer experience in 2013 (5%). In fact, the proportion of CSPs that regard themselves as providing an “excellent” customer experience has dropped marginally since Telesperience’s 2010 study (when it was 8%).

Likewise the number of CSPs rating themselves as providing a “good” customer experience has fallen from 63% in 2010 to 54% in 2013. However, those rating themselves as providing an “average” experience has risen from 21% in 2010 to 39% in 2013. Fortunately, those now rating themselves as providing a “below average” experience has fallen from 8% to 2%.


This finding reflects the fact that the customer experience continually evolves and commoditises. There is thus strong pressure towards a customer experience “norm”, which means what was once an “excellent” or “good” customer experience will rapidly become an “average” experience as more companies are able to provide that type of experience. In order for a CSP to continue to provide an outstanding experience it’s therefore necessary for them to continually innovate to remain ahead of their rivals and provide a truly exceptional and differentiating customer experience.

A geographical analysis reveals distinct regional patterns as to how CSPs think they’re performing with regards to the customer experience.

  • Asian operators are most likely to be confident they are providing an excellent customer experience, but this is also the region with the most low-performing operators.
  • European operators generally believe they provide either an average or good experience, but 8% believe they’re delivering an excellent experience. None think they provide a below average experience.
  • North American operators believe they deliver either an average or good experience, but none rate themselves as providing an excellent experience or a below average experience.

If you would like to read the full findings of this study, please download the attached report. To get other free Telesperience reports or to be added to our mailing list to receive future reports, please email



Other resources:


Read: Driving business benefit through use of social media (includes infographic)

Read: The four main pillars of the telecoms customer experience (includes infographic)



Listen to: The Cage: why businesses are customers too


Read: Why are we still not reaping the benefits of a great customer experience


Read: Why focusing on the customer helps CSPs avoid disintermediation


Read: Is telecoms geared up for multi-channel retailing?


Read: Underwear and customer care


Read: A great customer experience depends on a smooth OSS

Listen to: The Cage: how will improved understanding of data usage help differentiate MVNO offerings?

Read: Revenue maximisation: the hidden dangers in upselling


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Recent personal poor customer experiece tied in with my current involvement in deploying a new Customer team and IVR has prompted me to make a few observations about Customer Experience (CE) and measurement.


On measurement:

Asking a customer about their experince is all about timing and context. For example, requests for customer input straight after a customer care call or very shortly after (i.e. with an automated call-back) are a waste of time. I, the customer, will be unsure whether the CSP is asking for a measure of the agent or the service - and might have polar opposite views of the two. Also, the sale or resolution promised has not been delivered, by this point in time, so the response is irrelevant. Further, If I've had a pleasant agent who tried their best, but ultimately was unable to solve my problem I may say positive things even though I'm dissatisfied. Worse I may have had a great experience that cannot, eventually, be fulfilled thus leading to really poor CE levels. If I had earlier given a positive response to the experience questions, that makes me even more dissatisfied.


On Customer Experience:

One of the most frustrating things is being made to feel that I (the customer) am alone and that I have a unique problem - even if its true. My recent disasterous experience of attempting to move one of my home (business) lines to a new CSP had so many poor CE episodes that it would be the topic of a novel. But all three CSPs involved, who will remain unamed (all major UK or international brands) came off looking extremely poor, to me, all for different reasons.


Here are a few CE pointers for CSPs:

1) Don't change someone's service or take over a line when you have not confirmed that its the right line and/or property (equivalent of checking that the patient is who you think they are before operating on them).

2) Do train your staff to be correct about what they can achieve and what they can't.

3) Do train your staff to hand over a customer to an agent who knows the subject so you don't waste the customer (or your agent's) time on dead-end attempts to deliver a solution (closely linked to 2. above).

4) Do ensure that your IVR has options that cover more than the Buy, Pay & Network fault selections. When your customer is already fed up this is the very best way to get them to swear they will never, ever, return.

5) When a customer has waited over 30 minutes to speak to an agent because there is no valid IVR option, then do not redirect them to another queue (especially not more than once) where they will wait for another 30 minutes before being spoken to.


I could go on, but enough said.

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