Billing is the backbone of customer service – just ask the customer

customer service
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The latest report on customer service in the telecoms industry makes for depressing reading. Telecoms is even worse than ISPs. Only telcos in Asia Pacific are the ‘least worst’, even a little better than that.

Against a backdrop of rhetoric from CEOs, which has been going on since the early 2000s, it seems that little or nothing has changed. Telecoms companies have the longest wait times for calls (still the favourite channel for communication) and they are getting longer. 65% of emails from customers are ignored, not even acknowledged and they are generally irrelevant or not helpful. Many hide behind the ‘pandemic excuse’ for bad service.

Customers are angry and getting angrier, particularly at the moment. They are suffering from Bill Quake, says Teresa Cottam, and we can only agree that the quake you hear is from angry, frustrated customers.

We all have stories about contacting our telecoms company. We dread it, we put it off, we know that it is going to be a bad, frustrating experience. Customer service, in the telecoms industry, is all but dead.

Much of the frustration is still about bills and billing. And if nothing has changed in the customer service realm then it is safe to assume that the Global Billing Association KPIs we built around the billing process at the beginning of the 2000s also hold true.

At that time – the latest survey was 2006 – we revealed that 16% of incoming calls to customer service were about the bill. Further work revealed that they were unclear, badly laid out, too busy, as every department wanted to get their piece of the bill real estate.

For a long time, customers even got separate bills for every service they got from their supplier.

In the end, we gave up.

During several ETIS sessions on billing, we concluded that billing was dead, no-one needed a bill, customers simply looked at their bank statement every month and if it was ‘about right’ they moved on. Only when there was a discrepancy did they need more information and some help from customer service.

The problem was that asking customer service for help was frustrating because customer service was probably as confused as the customer and had the same lack of information.

You might say that ‘that was then and this is now’.

But the tools we have today far outstrip those that we had then. We have AI, which should be able to automate and handle many of the queries about billing as well as many others. Vendors are now promoting automation across BSS and with some success.

We have the tools to deliver on the promise of ‘empathy’ and personalisation. We have the tools to explain the bill, to warn and advise customers if something is about to trigger extra charges, even to provide advice about network problems and new services.

Yet still all the telecoms industry seems to do is try and sell us new stuff without providing the level of customer service that supports us and keeps us loyal.

Surely, finally, there must be acceptance at the very highest levels, that customer service is paramount. Great customer service during (and after) the pandemic, a helping hand here and there, and loyalty will be locked in.

That must make sense.

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