Telecommunication services providers will increasingly use online platforms to deliver customer service as they fight against rising costs and a more competitive market, according to a new report by Ovum.
Released Thursday, the study unveiled that telcos' customer service directors saw some of the greatest growth in investment in online portals , as they looked to improve customer service and satisfaction levels and, at the same time, manage spiraling costs.
To secure customer loyalty in light of "disruptive" competitors such as Apple and Amazon, telcos must be accessible, responsive, consistent and effective, said Clare McCarthy, Ovum's practice leader and co-author of the report.
"Web-based customer service delivers on accessibility and consistency, and has the added benefit of diverting costs away from more expensive alternatives such as contact centers," McCarthy explained. "In addition, it has the ability to scale without adding massively to costs, so it's easy to see why telcos are increasingly viewing it as a high investment priority."
The huge growth in the smartphone market and subsequent rise in mobile broadband traffic are other key drivers of online customer service, placing an unsustainable burden on existing telco customer service infrastructure. Queries on smartphones can take 10 times longer to resolve than those for high-end mobile devices that were available five years ago.
This is driving investment in online portals that enable customers to self-serve their smartphone problems, McCarthy said.
The Ovum analyst further noted that letting customers solve their own problems such as resetting passwords and checking account balances online is a lesson that telcos can take from other verticals. If portals are easy to navigate, and customers can see that their issues have been resolved satisfactorily, they are more likely to be happier with their telco supplier, she said.
However, not all customers want to use online customer service, she noted.
"Telcos know they must follow the customer journey on the customer's terms," McCarthy said. "It is for this reason that even telcos continue to improve their service offers in retail stores nd via the contact centers."