Telcos are more trustworthy than banks but failing at customer experience: survey

Telcos more trustworthy than banks but failing at customer experience: survey
Rob van den Dam, global telecommunications industry leader at the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), presents preliminary findings of a 42-country consumer survey at TM Forum Live! Asia

An upcoming global consumer survey from IBM warns operators that customers don’t think very much of their mobile broadband video offerings – or their networks in general, or even their customer service. On the bright side – and perhaps ironically – customers do find telcos trustworthy when it comes to collecting and handling personal data, which is good news as telcos will need that data to improve the customer experience

Rob van den Dam, global telecommunications industry leader at the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), presented preliminary findings of the 42-country survey on Thursday at the TM Forum Live! Asia conference in Singapore. The full results will be published early next year in three parts, focusing on video experience, customer loyalty and digital trust.

Overall, said van den Dam, telcos are struggling with the first two – at least from their customers’ point of view. “Keep in mind that the results are not about the actual performance of your services, but how customers perceive your services.”

In the category of watching video over mobile broadband, the survey found telcos are not highly valued for video delivery, said van den Dam. “Overall, cable companies, video platforms like Netflix and even social media sites like YouTube and Youku rate higher in terms of the quality of experience of watching video on mobile devices.”

This is an important metric, he added, because consumers are watching between 15 minutes and 60 minutes of video a day on mobile, and that is expected to increase in the next couple of years – especially in emerging markets like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

But right now, the experience is not great – 66% of respondents said they often experience buffering or stalling problems. Other commonly reported problems include waiting too long for the video to start playing, video picture quality and frame-freeze.

“There are many reasons why these problems happen – it could be the device, or the video server, or the app has problems,” van den Dam explained. “But according to the survey, customers are more likely to blame the telco.”

Over 70% of respondents said that video quality is very important to them, and over half said they would switch service providers if the quality is bad enough. Also, 42% said they would pay extra to ensure good video quality.

A matter of trust

The customer experience and loyalty section of the survey reflects the reality that generally, telcos generally have negative NPS scores to the point that on lists that rank various industries by NPS, telcos tend to be near the bottom of them.

According to the IBM survey, the main reason is because consumers are not satisfied with the network in terms of coverage, reliability and speed. However, when asked what would make them loyal customers if they assume all service providers are similar in terms of price, coverage and speed, many respondents said quick and fair resolution of problems is the most important thing, followed by rewards for loyalty (points, discounts, promotions, upgrades, etc).

“For customers, their ideal customer experience is prompt and effective response to queries, outstanding service and fair resolution to complaints,” said van den Dam. “But telcos are falling way short of that ideal. They generally rate average to good – but that’s not good enough. You really have to excel at customer experience if you’re going to be competitive.”

A key tool for CEM is big data analytics that can crunch customer data to understand them better and identify what’s important to them. However, that also requires customers to trust the companies that collect and analyze their data. On that score, telcos actually score high. On a list of different business sectors (including retail stores, device makers, social media and others), telcos and banks are the most trusted, in that order. (Social media is the least trusted.)

That’s important, says van den Dam, because if telcos are going to be in the center of the digital ecosystem, trust is very important.

That said, he added, “in the post-Snowden world, and because of news about personal data being stolen from companies like TalkTalk, that trust has declined in the last three years for most countries,” although he noted it has gone up somewhat in some markets, including Indonesia, Thailand, India, China and the Philippines.

The biggest concerns consumers expressed about data collection are companies selling data to third parties, and failing to keep it secure, which indicates that customers want more knowledge and control of their data, van den Dam said. “They want to know how it’s used, how it’s stored, and they want more control over that.”

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