Stemming the tide of customer defections in the wireless teleco space

by Ken Reimer

We’ve all seen the ads on TV. One mobile phone carrier or another touts how easy it is to leave your provider and change to its service. In fact, the mobile carrier will even pay your costs to switch. This endless jockeying is getting painful to watch, even if you love to save money on your wireless bill, as I do.

With customer churn rates running between 1.5% to 4% per month, telecomm is a pretty brutal space to operate in at the moment. Providers are cannibalizing their own profits to acquire new customers as retaining the ones they already have seems like a lost cause. As you’ll read in this entry, part one of our “Stemming the tide of customer defections” series, wireless providers urgently need a way to stop the defections and boost customer retention.

It’s been a tough problem for telecos, especially in wireless. Successfully reducing churn rates requires working across the siloes of information that have grown up and become entrenched in mature teleco organizations. Many of these companies don’t yet have a single view of the customer that spans the entire customer journey or a way to leverage disparate data sources to yield insights that improve customer experience.

To boost Customer Experience, many wireless providers are trying to target notorious pain points in the customer journey – those unpleasant moments that lead people to go elsewhere. To surface the pain points, many providers are turning to customer-survey systems from popular CX vendors. The more advanced projects survey customers across many touchpoints and different channels.

Surveying is often viewed as essential to understanding where the points of friction lie so they can be reengineered. The only problem? Surveys that capture only a small sample of the customer’s sentiments at one point in time are clearly insufficient.

Wondering why? Let’s look at an experience I had as a mobile phone customer just today. I called a call center for help with a billing problem on my account. The first time I got through and the agent was able to help me. It wasn’t a stellar experience, but it was good enough. Then, I had to call back because I forgot to ask something.

This time I was put on hold. I hung up in frustration after a few minutes and called back in. I was put on hold again. I didn’t have the time to wait, so I hung up again. You can imagine how I was feeling about my wireless provider right then.

The problem is, my mobile carrier doesn’t know how I am feeling, because I hung up. Even if it was planning to push me a survey when the agent finished with me, my feedback was lost because I hung up. It doesn’t take much more than one or two experiences like that to drive someone to switch.

This anecdote shows why mobile carriers – and other types of companies — need more than just surveys to fully understand customer pain points and their overall journey.

At CX Group, our approach is different. Our CXQuest system enables marketers to leverage all the data generated from customer interactions – not just surveys. Instead, our system will crawl through the emails and other contacts to deduce what the customer thought.

This has huge implications. We do surveys, too, when appropriate, and for a specific purpose. But we also collect roughly 20 times the amount of data the survey companies collect. So, we can see, based on the pattern of contact, when problems crop up that demand immediate attention.

So, with my mobile carrier example, using CX Quest, the marketers would have seen that I called three times and hung up twice. Not good. Imagine how powerful an experience it would have been if the carrier called me back to find out what was wrong. That’s just the kind of action that drives real customer loyalty, something that’s in precious little supply among mobile customers today. If a carrier has truly loyal customers, it will be much less vulnerable to another carrier poaching its customers. When you have a good relationship with your wireless providers, switching just to save a few dollars doesn’t seem as enticing.

To prevent churn in the teleco industry today, we propose an approach called the “demographic of one.” Read more about this approach in the next installment of our series “Stemming the tide of customer defections.”

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