Operators should stop annoying subscribers and invest in customer support

There have been some fascinating shifts in how mobile brands position themselves in recent months. For example Orange, which is known for using animal names to market mobile tariffs, has moved away from that strategy in some markets such as Romania, where not a panther nor a humming bird is now to be seen, at least for new subscribers.

Multi-service plays such as quad-play have also generated new branding moves including the Magenta One plans of Deutsche Telekom and the now long-standing Fusion plans of Movistar in Spain.

Effectively, brands and service strategies are evolving to meet the demands of new and different services. Customer service support, particularly in call centres, also needs to evolve accordingly, and it is here that telecoms operators still seem to be falling short -- at least if one new report and recent personal experience are anything to go by.

Indeed, a new consumer study by Lithium Technologies for the UK suggests that brands are unable to keep up with increasing customer demands. The survey said its findings suggest more than 15 million UK adults rate being stuck on hold to a telephone operator as their top annoyance of 2015.

That certainly rings true with me. Recent dealings with Vodafone customer services in the UK had me wanting to hurl my rather expensive iPhone against the wall. There is nothing wrong with the customer service representatives once you get through -- in fact, they all seem very nice. It's that awful automated answering system that takes you round in circles even though none of the options meets your needs.

It's enough to drive anyone to a different operator altogether -- but would they be any better?

According to the study, communication providers (34.2 per cent) and utility companies (33.2 per cent) frustrate consumers most, followed by financial service institutions (23 per cent). Top three factors that drive customer call centre annoyance are communication barriers caused by language differences (56 per cent), having to go through several options and security checks before talking to a real person (48 per cent), and the call centre representative sounding like they're following a script and not offering personalised advice (37 per cent).

Essentially, customer service expectations are continuing to increase, but customer service techniques are not evolving fast enough to keep up. The answer is of course to invest more in this area -- keeping the customer happy will please them more than having a new name for their mobile plan.--Anne

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