Wireless Customers Want Less Automation
For many of the nation’s wireless phone users, customer service issues that are personally handled by service representatives, either over the phone or at a retail store, are significantly more satisfying than those handled by interactive voice response (IVR) systems, according to the J.D. Power & Associates 2011 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Performance Study, which was released last month.
Now in its ninth year, the semiannual study provides a detailed report card on how well wireless carriers service their customers in three contact methods: telephone calls with customer service representatives and/or IVRs; visits to a retail wireless store; and on the Web. Within each contact method, the study measures satisfaction and processing issues, such as problem-resolution efficiency and hold-time duration.
Overall, among customers who speak with service representatives without going through an IVR, the customer care index score averages 774 on a 1,000-point scale, well above the industry average score of 739. Among customers who use other methods of contact, satisfaction is considerably lower.
The study found that one of the main factors contributing to this performance disparity is the quality of responses provided. A service representative—either over the phone or in person—can answer both initial and follow-up questions from a customer and clarify answers. That kind of flexibility is limited in both IVR and Web-based contacts.
“As more companies encourage customers to contact them on the Web to save operating costs, they run the risk of increased customer churn if the number of contacts needed to resolve a complaint or issue rises,” Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power & Associates, wrote in the report. “Switching intent is four times as high among those who rate their wireless carriers below average in customer care, so the challenge for wireless carriers is to offer an easy and efficient customer care transaction experience.”
Fifty-one percent of telephone contacts are resolved primarily via service representatives. The study also found customers are most satisfied with their experiences when they can reach live agents quickly and spend only a short time using IVRs to resolve problems.
“While customers tend to be more satisfied when they can reach a service representative quickly, heavy reliance on live representatives is much more costly for wireless carriers,” Parsons wrote. “If wireless carriers can drive improvements in satisfaction with non-human interaction channels, overall customer care performance scores will improve dramatically by making the process more intuitive and efficient, and likely so in a much more cost-effective manner.”
The study also found several key customer care patterns:
• Wireless customers who indicate they have had positive care experiences are more loyal and, therefore, are less likely to switch carriers in the future. Among customers who indicate they “definitely will not switch” carriers in the next 12 months, customer care index scores average 810, compared with just 566 among those who say they “definitely will switch.”
• Although the vast majority (88 percent) of customers get through to their carriers on their first try, 12 percent are misdirected or put on hold for too long and must make more than one contact. The average wireless customer spends 6.24 minutes on hold when trying to reach carriers via phone—a substantial increase from 5.27 minutes just six months ago.