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Caroline Thomas

Telecoms organisations face a highly challenging business environment as digitisation continues to fuel the relentless disruption of established business models and practices, to enable increasing competition from new, more agile, entrants and forces constant regulatory changes as the market grapples with the societal shift to living and conducting business online.

The prediction that customers are about to become less forgiving was made in July this year by Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), which polls 10,000 UK consumers on their experiences every six months: “Customer patience has worn thin, and as we move out of lockdown, discerning customers will become increasingly less lenient.”

Even though customers believe companies have made more mistakes during the pandemic restrictions, they’ve been assigning them higher satisfaction scores in ICS surveys. For instance, in the utility sector, customer satisfaction is the highest since January 2019 even though the percentage of customers experiencing a problem is at its worst since 2010. Apparently, companies have been given the benefit of the doubt as they struggle with sick or self-isolating staff.

Adding to the potential pressure for telecoms companies is another result of the pandemic: a reframed discussion on employee wellbeing and remote working.

In a recent interview, Jo Causon told the BBC: "Workers are saying that people are becoming more aggressive… It is across all industry sectors, in contact sectors, we're seeing it in frontline staff."

She said staff and product shortages caused by global supply issues were a legitimate concern but added: "There's an important difference between you and I as consumers getting a little bit frustrated, and some of the abusive behaviour that we're seeing."

According to new research from the Institute of Customer Service, 60% of customer service workers have experienced hostility in the past year. And nearly half of those who had faced abuse said customers were becoming more aggressive because of stock and staff shortages.

Supporting colleagues

Staff working from home often have less access to immediate support than when in an office or call centre – a factor which can take its toll on the agent absorbing the concern (and sometimes high emotion) of customers. This can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction amongst colleagues, increased sickness and an increased likelihood in them leaving their job. All of which can lead to a shortage of people to run day to day operations and associated increased costs for the employer.

The other additional cost to be considered is that of falling levels of customer satisfaction and, inevitably, customer attrition: a complaints handler struggling with their role is arguably less likely to be providing their usual high quality service, with the result that customers may become dissatisfied with their experience and resolve not to use your services again.

Taking a holistic approach to improve customer and colleague experience

There’s a clear correlation between customer satisfaction, retention, and brand advocacy. And today, more than ever, prioritising employee wellbeing - making sure your staff are supported to be at their most efficient and effective so that they can engage the customer in as positive a conversation as possible - is an essential step to long-term organisational success.

At a recent Capita-hosted roundtable for Connected Britain, C-Suite telecoms representatives debated how telcos can move towards profitable growth, following the impact of Covid-19. There was a general consensus that the pandemic has shifted the paradigm. Many organisations have had to transform their businesses out of necessity. However, customer experience needs have changed and service centres need to be aligned and more empathetic to the customer.

There’s an emerging group of vulnerable customers needing a more empathetic experience as many are faced with increased financial pressure following the end of the furlough scheme and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on their businesses.

Customers are demanding a greater level of intelligence from the service they receive and expect telecoms providers to deliver it.

Harnessing technology to support agent wellbeing

Technology is a critical tool that can improve efficiency, whilst delivering better and more consistent customer outcomes. In addition, it can ensure the wellbeing of advisors. At Capita we use assisted customer conversations, a revolutionary AI-assisted tool that combines technology and human expertise in a sophisticated yet intuitive system.

Assisted customer conversations adds value to the call handling process, using analytical tools to provide insights and guidance to advisors in real-time, allowing them to really listen to the caller and reach resolutions quickly and effectively.

As the technology analyses both sides of the conversation in real-time, a prompt can inform supervisors immediately of distressing or challenging content, allowing them to reach out to colleagues, intervene or offer support when needed, regardless of where either are located. Suddenly that agent working at home is no longer quite so alone when it comes to managing their most difficult calls. Blending highly-trained, empathetic advisors with the latest AI technology can help to ensure colleagues are properly supported when the going gets tough.

Discover how our assisted customer conversations are transforming both the customer and employee journey
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Written by

Caroline Thomas

Caroline Thomas

Caroline Thomas CMgr MCMI has over 25 years contact centre experience working across all sectors. Part of the Innovation Team specialising in customer centric design solutions, she works closely with clients to identify and solve business problems using innovation and or best practice. Caroline is the product owner for Assisted Customer Conversations – responsible for over seeing successful deployments across our clients.

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