Mobile Companies Fail To Meet Customer Service Needs Online

Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic have declared that mobile operators are falling short of their online customer service standards. A study has found that 67 per cent of mobile phone users in both the US and UK are heading online to view or pay a bill, upgrade their phone, change their calling plan or purchase content.

Yet half stated that they have experienced ‘significant’ problems in doing so. Users identified poor performance (24 per cent), website functionality (18 per cent) and usability (19 per cent) as prominent pet hates when using their mobile operator’s portal.

Despite the research suggesting that UK respondents were increasingly disposed towards accessing operator services online, almost two thirds stated that their operator was unable to support tasks they wanted to perform. This means that telcos are missing out on the potential cost savings of providing online customer service, as visitors get disillusioned with online portals and instead choose to call on customer service teams.

The study also found that Brits are lagging behind the US in terms of engaging with mobile operators online and the use of rich media content on their phones. US mobile users are three times more likely to pay their bill online. Compared with 48 per cent of Americans, just 21 per cent of Brits use their phone to access real-time entertainment and 13 per cent of UK respondents access social media platforms such as Facebook, via their mobile, compared to one in four in the US. On the flip side, more people in the US were driven to call their service provider after encountering IT gremlins.

Location has become completely irrelevant – no matter where they are, consumers can go online to shop, check their bank balance or their utility bill online. In an age where time is at a premium people expect the sites they are accessing, either from their phone or computer, to work. For telcos, not living up to customers’ online expectations will have a negative impact upon their bottom line.

After all, the average cost of providing customer service through a call centre is estimated to be about $5 per call. By providing excellent customer service online, the industry could save millions. They are missing a trick if they can’t maximise their level of service and drive their customer base onto the web.

At a time when there is little to distinguish one provider from another, a poor experience does not engender brand loyalty. The results of this research show that consumers initially shun contact centres in favour of websites, but service providers are failing to capitalise on it.

It’s not just their online support that respondents flagged as an area for improvement. Demand for real-time entertainment has already increased and the rise of smartphones means that the trend is set to continue. Yet 70 per cent of US respondents and 58 per cent of UK respondents stated that their network had failed to support their use of real-time entertainment on the move.

With 73 per cent of US and 65 per cent of UK consumers active on social media networks, it takes seconds for one individual’s negative experience to come to the attention of hundreds of people. The research found that whilst more men are prone to discussing their provider via social media, women on both sides of the globe were disposed to complaining about their provider. Those aged 24 and under were more likely to complain via their social network, with 71 per cent in the US and 63 per cent in the UK stated that they had already done so.

We operate in a content driven world, where people are open about their frustrations. This represents both an opportunity and a threat for mobile operators. Having the right technology can give telcos the end-to-end control and transparency they need to deliver the services and products that consumers clearly want to be able to access online. The message is clear, get your service right and some customers might let their network know. Get it wrong and they’ll have no qualms about broadcasting it.

Russell has over 20 years of technical, marketing and management experience in the software industry. Before joining OpTier, Russell was AVP Product Marketing at OPNET Technologies. He was co-founder and CEO of Zettapoint, a venture-backed enterprise software startup and ran marketing for Open Sesame, a Web 1.0 startup that was acquired by Bowne (NYSE:BNE). Russell began his career at Oracle, deploying Oracle Applications for Fortune 1000 companies. Russell received a BA in Computer Science from Harvard University, an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT and an MS in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management.