At a recent Budd networking event one of our guests asked “we’ve had customer service, continual improvement, CRM and whatever the next buzz word will be, but do you really think customer service has improved over the last 10 years?”  She had a point.  As I’m just about to embark on our annual telco contact rate benchmark exercise it prompted me to question whether we would see any real change from last year.  At that time we saw the continued emphasis on shifting customers from pre-pay to post pay, the widespread use of 24 month smartphone contracts and the advent of social media support. All against a backdrop of generally poor NPS scores. And, contact rate reduction had levelled out too.  

On the surface it looked like another case of poor service and nobody really cares.  As always the devil is the detail and on closer inspection it became evident that it is no mean feat that contact rates remained stable given that mobile phones are far more complex that they were say, 3 years ago and our propensity to call is greater than ever. By encouraging the shift to crowdservicing through the use of community forums and customer help customer support, the telcos have managed to maintain their service in the face of greater demand.  I’m not saying service or the customer experience has improved and I still get incredibly frustrated when they do “dumb things”, but it hasn’t deteriorated either. 

That brings me on to the best find of last year’s research – giffgaff (www.giffgaff.com).  With their radically different business model based entirely on crowdservicing for support and crowdsourcing for new product ideas, they led the way and the big boys were following.  They had managed to build a loyal customer base by engaging and rewarding their customers in a way that hadn’t been achieved, certainly by a telco, before.  Known as the people powered network they integrated their community into the business from day one by incentivising them to recruit new members and provide support to the community. 

I’m not sure I’m going to unearth another giffgaff, but I’m hoping I’m going to find some innovations that really are having a positive impact on the customer experience and who knows, might even have a positive outcome for the telcos too.  Sadly, I’m not sure I will but I’m willing to be proven wrong. Watch this space.

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