The cost of wasting a customer's time

Competition in the telecom industry is fierce, and so is the fight for customers. Churn rates remain high, particularly in difficult economic times as customers know they don’t have to put up with bad customer service because there are plenty of companies that are desperate for business.
Telecom operators and broadband providers have traditionally focused heavily on prices and packages and content and services for differentiation and to retain and attract their customer base. However, as research continues to highlight the value of customer satisfaction, one area that has received little attention from most operators is that of the customer experience and satisfaction around home installations and repairs.
The flexibility and level of communication maintained between customer and telecom companies is still typically very poor. This lack of communication does little to enhance the operators reputation or bottom-line, and tends to increase pre-installation cancellation (PIC) rates.
All too often operators expect customers to wait for four to eight hours for an engineer to arrive. There is little flexibility for off-hours appointments, and as a result customers are forced to take time off from work, and operators frequently experience wasted truck-rolls, when the customer is not home when the engineer arrives.
In addition, many operators fail to appreciate that home visits by engineers are often an operator’s only opportunity for face-to-face interaction with their customers, and thus an important point of contact.  All too frequently the experience around this visit is poor and does little to enhance the brand.
Costly inefficiencies
This is not only frustrating for the customer; it is also an inefficient and costly way to manage a field workforce. At a time when companies in all industries are looking for ways to increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs, operators with field workforces comprising several thousand employees can make significant year-on-year savings by improving workforce management processes while addressing a key customer service challenge.
Better field workforce management can significantly reduce the mileage driven by engineers; increase the number of appointments completed each day; reduce the number of wasted truck-rolls; remove the need to pay overtime; reduce the volume of in-bound calls to customer call centers; and reduce the home appointment windows assigned to customers to as little as 60 minutes. These savings can equate to around €10,000 per engineer/per annum.
One example of this success is Spanish cable and telecom operator ONO, which rolled out a cloud-based mobile workforce management solution to manage its 2,000 field engineers (many of whom are third-party contractors). In doing so, it reduced customer appointment slots to 60 minutes and in 96% of cases the engineer arrives within the allotted appointment window. ONO can now schedule installations within 48 hours of receiving a service request or new customer order and PIC rates have fallen from 18% to 12%.
US cable company Cox Communications has also achieved savings between $50 million and $60 million a year and further enhanced its customer experience by deploying a mobile workforce management solution to address the issue of customer wait times. It has also reduced appointment windows to 60 minutes, and has introduced a predictive customer communications system, which reminds customers of their appointment and sends automatic updates if there are delays to their engineer visit.
ONO and Cox Communications have each benefited from the ability to schedule engineers dynamically, in real-time. This has meant that they can be confident of meeting the shorter 60-minute appointment window, because they can redeploy engineers if problems occur during the day. Schedules can also be compiled at the last minute, ensuring that engineers do not have to travel too far between appointments. 
For both operators, the decision to put the customer first and address the way they manage home appointments from scheduling to improved customer communication has produced significant benefits. Both companies have happier customers, lower churn rates and at the same time the companies have delivered savings of tens of millions of euros a year.
Richard Alden is president of TOA Technologies, Europe, a provider of cloud-based mobile workforce management solutions