Connecting The Data for a Better Customer Experience

By: Alan Coleman

The first ninety days of a new customer relationship are crucial because they set the tone for all future engagement. Communications service providers (CSPs) who get this onboarding phase wrong risk losing customers within weeks of acquiring them, while those that get it right create a lasting, profitable and valuable relationship.

As the customer profile and the services they use from CSPs have changed, so has the way in which the relationship needs to be managed. Users now rely on their CSPs for an ever-wider range of products, from mobile and broadband connections to TV, music and other content. In addition, customers increasingly look to their CSP for additional value with services such as security, cloud storage or smart home services—with this list of often complex-to-provide services continuing to grow. And a customer who switches all their services to a new CSP will be of great value, taking into account that the relationship has the potential to develop further as they may also add family members to the service.

This is obviously good news for CSPs as it brings immediate revenue opportunities. However, it also creates a significant risk, as losing such a customer would have a bigger impact. This risk is evident from the very beginning and extends from initial installation through billing and payments, to beyond customer care and communications and into personalization.

Installation risk

A plethora of things can go wrong during the customer onboarding phase. Among the biggest hurdles for many new customers are home installations, which involve them either having to book appointments and take time off work or trying to install equipment themselves. When they make a call to the contact center for support, they may encounter long queues and an unhelpful experience, rather than the friendly handholding they have been led to expect from the CSP’s marketing. 

Billing risk

The first bill from a new CSP is another critical moment, and it can also trigger the first step in a customer’s decision to leave. In our  report we found that a substantial proportion of customer complaints were due to billing and contract issues. Billing accounted for 30 percent of complaints while contract issues accounted for 15 percent. Compared to this, only 11 percent of complaints were made because of service issues.  

Bill-related causes of customer complaint stem both from inaccurate bills but also from charges that are different from what the customer expected. Significantly higher-than-expected charges result in bill shock, which has an extremely negative impact on the customer experience. Even when customers do not leave as a result of bill shock, they will usually take steps to restrict or reduce their service usage, limiting their spend and constraining the usefulness of their services. They will complain or inquire—raising support costs—or they will simply become unhappy, which undermines customer loyalty.

The same research also found that, despite its negative impact, bill shock is still surprisingly common, with 24 percent of customers reporting they have experienced it. If a CSP can anticipate bill shock and be more proactive by reaching out to customers in a timely fashion, it can lessen the fallout and reduce the associated costs.

Customer communications risk

The bill is not the only communication channel. For a positive customer experience throughout the onboarding phase and beyond, CSPs should make sure that every customer interaction is well thought-out and channels are connected. This includes clear pricing structures published on the website, simple sign-up forms, welcome messages, and service updates that are easy to digest. The CSP should keep the customer informed step-by-step while not overloading him with unnecessary detail. Customers appreciate messages that are consistent, personal and relevant, and they appreciate honesty. Nothing is worse than over promising and under delivering. 

It is also important to show the customer that the CSP continues to care, even once the initial honeymoon phase is over. Follow-up support with a well-timed check-in to ensure a customer is happy go a long way in building more trust. Creating a dedicated onboarding team that continuously improves and reviews the onboarding process also ensures a better focus on this key phase of the customer relationship.


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