What Causes Telco or Cable Customer Service Issues?
Most telcos and cable companies have gotten much better at customer service over the last decade. That isn’t to say most surveys show people think the service is “outstanding,” or “best,” but that more effort is being put into customer service.
That said, most customers will, at least on occasion, find themselves angry, frustrated or exasperated with telco and cable execution.
As this graphic suggests, complexity can be an issue. As most consumers will recognize, using more than one channel, or more than one agent in any channel, will require providing information at the beginning of each session. Different actors a consumer might interact with to solve one problem might require different data base operations, some of which will not seem to be coordinated, or which can take months to reconcile.
In my own experience as a consumer, most of the larger service providers do a decent job providing what it was they sold me. That is partly a reflection of the objective and subjective parts of the experience. Nearly always, what I bought “works.” But they tend to cause friction in other areas, ranging from their business policies to data base integration, though I tend to think even the data base integration issues could be related to business policies.
That does not mean I do not anticipate dropped mobile calls from time to time, or slower mobile broadband in some locations, at some times of day. While none of those characteristics of the service tends to make me categorize communications service providers as “excellent,” there are known performance issues, and I can deal with it. One might say I am a “tolerant” consumer in some ways: what I buy from ISPs, mobile companies and video companies works well enough, and for the most part provides sufficient value, that the actual delivery isn’t a big sore point.
On a more subjective level, value and price are generally in line for some features and services, generally relating to broadband access, always in line for voice, and almost perennially out of line for multi-channel video entertainment, which is the product which has the biggest gaps between value and price alignment.
Keep in mind that I am a heavy “mobile everything” user, so the “slower” speed and “greater latency” or higher cost per bit issues are simply a trade-off I am willing to make. My usage is either “mobile mostly” to “mobile exclusively,” with the exception of entertainment video, which remains “tethered” for the most part.
I understand what “best effort” means, what “contention ratios” are, and, in a general sense, what the sources of “latency” are.
My point is that delivery of service generally is not where service providers fall down. In my experience, that tends to happen with billing-related or data base issues. In fact, as a rule I’d say the delivery is generally (within the context of my expectation that calls will sometimes drop, speeds will slow or latency be a bit of an issue) not an irritation. But the apparently “not integrated” data bases, and access to those data bases, almost always is an issue, which means I typically anticipate some level of friction.
I realize service providers struggle to maintain consistency, compliance with regulations, while protecting security and privacy. I realize a service provider cannot actually afford to spend too much on “customer service.” But I also will note that interactions with two of the four major service providers in the United States, though satisfactory to good during the four to five years I used them, were decidedly unpleasant during the termination period, and not because I was breaking a contract. I am always “out of contract” when any service is terminated.
For whatever reason, the issue is trailing disagreements about the “final bill” which seem to be unnecessary, or can’t be fixed immediately and fully, without escalating the process. So a relationship that had been trouble free became a memorable issue when stopping one particular service (though generally I continue to buy other services from the same provider).
This is important for a simple reason. I have over the last decade simultaneously used services from four to five major service providers at a time, at multiple locations, for different reasons. I might change one account (mobile and broadband, typically) from time to time, but the relationships tend to remain.
Most of the major providers tend to claim they are the “best” at one or another aspects of network quality. Sadly, few can claim to be consistently as good at the customer service ends of their businesses, at least for consumer-facing services. That probably is one reason why cable companies and telcos tend to run in the middle of the pack, or worse, in most consumer opinion surveys.
I understand that consumer service providers cannot afford to spend much money on consumer customer service. I would also say that when buying business services, the experience tends to be different. When service providers make enough money from an account, they are better at most forms of service.
Of course, the services worked well enough that my preferred interaction with my providers is “no interaction.” Terminating service, even when a contract is not involved, has not been universally pleasant, and it seems to be related to data base or business rule issues and call center interactions. I would add that the front line retail store personnel, across the board in the mobile space, are doing fine. It’s the call center processes you worry about.
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