Hang-ups for the telecoms sector

20th Apr 2016

Smaller telecoms companies are coming out on top with customers, while more established firms are struggling to deliver high-quality customer service, a recent survey by consumer group Which? shows.

Vodafone and EE received the lowest customer satisfaction scores in the survey, which compared mobile network operators throughout the UK. The two firms scored particularly poorly for ‘ease of contact’ – something that research by the Institute of Customer Service shows is a priority for customers.

More worrying, notes Jo Causon, the Institute’s chief executive, is that the sector’s weaknesses are not limited to the UK. “According to the Institute’s research, the telecoms sector has struggled to deliver on customer service not only in the UK, but across Europe,” she says. “It was highlighted as needing the most improvement out of all industries evaluated.”

“A large part of the problem is that, in this rapidly growing industry, the focus has been on expanding the customer base instead of nurturing it. The focus on sales and upgrades in telecoms stores means that customers’ technical problems or queries may not be seen as the main priority. As a result, they often feel undervalued, and are likely to go elsewhere.”

Causon cites the large number of mobile users assigned to contracts that do not meet their needs as evidence that the telecoms industry needs to listen more to its customers, and tailor its service accordingly.

However, it’s not all bad news for the sector. Young telecoms brand Giffgaff comes within the top 30 brands of the Institute’s own UK Customer Satisfaction Index with a score that improved by 6 points over the past 12 months, suggesting customers are open to challenger brands. The company is known for empowering customers with its flexible ‘no contracts’ approach, and favours fast, digital support over shops and call centres.

“The success of companies who utilise online agents in order to deliver rapid support clearly demonstrates how customer needs and expectations are changing,” says Causon. “Although this doesn’t mean physical shops are becoming redundant, it does mean that alignment across different communication channels to support customers is becoming increasingly important. 

“All modes of communication – online, in store, customer help lines, social media – should be equipped to provide support as well as generate sales. With this in mind, there is a huge opportunity for companies in the telecoms sector to set themselves apart by investing time and resource into robust customer service programmes.”

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