Opinion: Customer retention suffers from a billing communications breakdown

telecoms, billing

By Orla Power, Head of Marketing at Brite: Bill

Communications Service Providers’ (CSPs) blinkered focus on signing up new customers means their early attentiveness soon turns to neglect.

CSPs’ share valuations are based on subscriber growth and, with most mobile markets saturated, growth is only achievable by attracting customers away from rivals.

Many millions of Euros are spent on these efforts to attract customers in through the front door but just as they’re succeeding in doing this, the back door is being left wide open for customers to leave and join a competitor at the first feeling of dis-satisfaction.

Part of this willingness to leave is down to poor communications during the life of the customer.

All too often, CSPs communicate with customers solely through billing and these communications are often confusing, unattractively presented and take no account of the individual preferences and needs of customers.

A one-size-fits-all demand for payment each month offers no scope for making additional offers, ensuring customers are happy and turning them into advocates for their CSP’s brand.

There’s a long road – typically the 24 month life of a mobile contract – between sign up and the decision to leave and between those two, CSPs do remarkably little to differentiate their offerings, explain their charging or give the customer the impression that they are highly valued.

However, before costly retention teams swing into action in month 23, CSPs could and should be communicating in a meaningful way with their hard won customers, building real relationships with them, cementing loyalty.

A CSP executive I spoke to at a recent event admitted that their approach amounted to: “We sold you a package 18 months ago and we haven’t spoken to you since, except for sending you a bill every month, that you don’t even understand.”

CSPs communications such as those are missing a huge opportunity by failing to communicate effectively.

Traditional bills reinforce the narrative that CSPs are just a bit pipe and that providers add no real value and have no real differentiation to offer.

This leaves the door wide open for over-the-top (OTT) providers to come in offering exciting new services rather than a list of consumption in meaningless metrics.

Billing communications are bogged down in traditional terminology and presentment even though the telecoms business has and continues to change rapidly.

A “gigabit” for example, may not mean much to a consumer when listed on their bill, but a “movie download” does.

CSPs need to alter the language to detail consumption in ways that customers understand.

The lack of understanding is a barrier because it can create the suspicion that something is not quite right.

Customers feel that, maybe, they’re being overcharged or consumption is being over-stated.

“Did I really get my full 3 gigs of data?” they ask.

Transparency, instead, can be a valuable tool through which an honest relationship can be created and maintained.

Transparency builds trust, trust builds loyalty and loyalty means a future customer that will buy more from you.

CSPs need to converse with their customers in a way that demonstrates they know and care about them.

They need to repackage their offerings in a more relatable and meaningful language that makes sense.

When it comes to research on how important customer centric communications actually are, the data speaks for itself; 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience, reports RightNow, and 60 percent of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, says Desk.

CSPs typically score among the lowest in customer satisfaction surveys.

In July 2016, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), published by the Institute of Customer Service found that telecoms continues to generate the highest number of complaints, with one fifth (20 percent) of customers having experienced a problem.

According to Gartner, 70 percent of customer communications will be digital, contextualised and consumed on demand via multiple channels, including the web, mobile devices and social media, by 2017.

This is an important statistic that shows the scale of the challenge CSPs face.

Customer communications are expected to be digital, delivered across multiple platforms and contextualised.

Customers have an expectation today that if they have given their CSP information about themselves and their preferences then the CSP should only ever engage with them with appropriate and relevant communications. 

Seven top tips for contextual communications

Creating this type of relationship between your company and your customers can help scale positive word of mouth which is absolutely priceless.

There are many ways to make a customer an advocate, companies that do this well typically follow the tips below.

  • Follow through on promises: Say what you mean and do what you say
  • Genuinely interact with customers, positive word of mouth get referrals
  • Listen attentively, really hear what customers are saying across a number of platforms
  • Continue to satisfy, offer personalised promotions and specials
  • Build trust, communicate news of any changes – both positive and negative
  • Be transparent, even when mistakes have been made
  • Always say thank you, gratitude goes a long way

For CSPs the opportunities are clear, it’s time to move towards more customer-centric contextualised communications that will enhance and build your customer relationships, which in turn will lead to a better more profitable business.

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