This posts reflects my experience as a business user of Telekom Slovenije mobile phone services exactly 21 days ago and is not a knee-jerk reaction.
It’s dangerous to give ultimate promises to the market. A promise to customers sets a level of expectation and realizing those expectations is crucial for customer satisfaction. If marketing promises more than can be delivered in practice, it only generates unsatisfied customers. The simplicity of communication in today’s hyperconnected world enables these users to quickly and intensively spread their discontent to other users or users of competitive services, which may even turn away potential customers.
The simple fact is that negative messages spread faster than positive ones – not only in Slovenia, but all over the world. Negative messages receive juicy comments at the third social network level – friends of your friends on social networks. Commentators on that level usually don’t personally know the author of the message. Try analyzing messages that reach a certain viral level. What is the percentage of negative ones?
What is the key metric for long-term success of a company?
Customer satisfaction is a crucial metric in this regard and every company should rely on it. I’m not saying that every company should measure and monitor customer satisfaction because I want to promote our www.povejsefu.si service (service that enables you to collect your clients’ opinion about the service quality right after the service) – awareness of the importance of customer satisfaction should be a part of every company’s culture. Examples of good practice should be highlighted along with monitoring and training of the employees. Customer satisfaction should always be a topic for company management. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
More than a year ago, I wrote about how our business in Frodx had grown and at whose expense had this happened. Satisfaction of existing customers was a crucial component in this. We try to stay on this route, so most of the measures that Miha and I implement in our company as it grows is focused on keeping customer satisfaction at least on the same level. We feel that this is a key metric for the success of our company. The nature of our business prevents us from measuring the NPS index after every activity, but weekly reports of our success coaches that focus on the benefits and problems of individual customers in specific campaigns or products follow the same core principle. As long as the customers (and ourselves) are aware of the benefits we provide every week, they’ll be happy. If we cannot identify any benefits for them in a given week, we don’t need to ask them whether they are satisfied with our service. Simple, isn’t it?
What could Telekom Slovenije be thinking about?
This long introduction was necessary to contextualize an experience that I recently had on a teambuilding trip with my coworkers – 4 days of sailing in Dalmatia. Without this context, I fear I would be labeled as someone that constantly criticizes companies for his own promotion, especially after my post about cutting my Sava Hotels loyalty card which caused quite a stir.
This is the story. We took off on a Thursday in the middle of the workday. I had great hopes for finishing some urgent work during the five-hour drive to Vodice, but as soon as we entered Croatia, the internet stopped working. I was patient for the first hour and even the second hour, but after that I started doubting my phone, so I reset it a couple of times, checked my settings and checked with my colleagues that use other network providers if they have internet access. After 3 hours without it, I realized that only Telekom users didn’t have internet access in Croatia, so I contacted their call center. This was a start of an adventure that no (business) user would want to experience again.
Since I wasn’t driving the car, I had some free time to wait for an available call center operator. This involved exactly 12 minutes and 13 seconds of listening to their advertisements in which they call themselves Slovenia’s no. 1 operator. At the same time, I could hear incoming emails on my colleague’s phone – he uses the cheapest available cellular plan on the T2 network. I admit it, after being exposed to their advertisements in combination with really bad elevator music for 12 minutes and 13 seconds, I had problems keeping my cool while talking to the young lady on the other side of the line. The script that she was following and was supposed to help her deal with angry customers didn’t do her any favors either. Just the opposite. I was even angrier after constantly hearing “Sorry, I cannot hear you well. Hello, Sir, can you hear me?…”. Not to mention her admission that there was an error in their systems and that service technicians had already been dispatched.
At the end of this conversation, I waited so I could grade my satisfaction with the help they offered. I was hoping someone in charge would end up listening to this conversation, since I gave it the lowest possible grade. FrodX is supposed to have a key account manager in Telekom, and in my opinion, this person was supposed to detect this “incident”, contact and nurture their customer shortly after this happened. If our account manager called us a day later, apologized and maybe offered a couple of days of free roaming in Croatia, I’d be telling everyone how Telekom turned into a customer-oriented company and how pleasantly surprised I was. How much would doing something like that cost? I don’t believe it costs much if anything at all. It would have also been a great opportunity to feel out the customer and see if they could sell us anything else. Not a lot of skill is involved – you only need to know how to leave a good impression.
Another takeaway for Telekom
Since I always try to offer information that would inspire or at least educate someone in my FrodX blog posts, I am offering an idea for consideration. Only a fraction of the money that Telekom spends on promotion and expanding the reach of marketing messages would suffice to improve the level of services and nurturing of their business customers better. Business customers are prepared to spend more on telecommunication services because our business depends on their quality. Quality mostly (but not exclusively) depends on reliability.
What do I hear as a business user while listening to the advertisements for the no. 1 network in Slovenia?
– If I require support and contact the call center, I won’t wait more than 1 minute to start my conversation with the operator. Calls from business users could be diverted to a separate queue, so they could receive priority treatment.
– Identify unsatisfied customers that may share their negative experiences and nurture them. Also find customers that are very satisfied and ask them to recommend you to their friends. If customers don’t leave a satisfaction score after the call, send text messages to remind them. Our experience shows that 30% to 40% of customers respond to such reminders.
– Account managers should be aware of any conversations that business users have with your support staff (especially the ones with poor grades), and listen to them. They need to calm and nurture the customer so they can identify new business opportunities for Telekom. They could always assume that people in trouble need something. Some need a comforting word, others need an additional service or accessory.
– Advertisements don’t leave a positive impression on me when I’m waiting for help (obviously because I’m having problems with the service) – I’m not thinking about new purchases. Playing a notification about problems in the system would be more helpful. Perhaps it would be enough to calm me down. Anyone who called their call center from Croatia on 15. 10. 2015 could have heard a message informing them of internet access issues which are being solved. Information about the deadline for solving them would also be great. In my case, I would have been spared from waiting for 12 minutes and spared from losing my temper while talking to the support representative. This would also help call center operators do their job better.
– Relevance of information or user context according to their mobile services plan and current location is crucial. The text message that I receive upon entering another country only serves to confuse me, since it mentions cost that does not apply to my mobile services plan. I repeatedly wonder whether my option for unlimited conversation and data transfer in the EU had been cancelled.
Yes, business users demand better user support. This is a simple fact and the reason we are willing to pay extra.
If new technologies don’t leave room to improve telecommunication services, this doesn’t mean that development had stopped. As far as I’m concerned, there is plenty of room to invest in technologies for better user support and transforming subscription service companies into customer-oriented companies. This is an increasingly important differentiation factor for providers – even subscription-based ones.