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Telecommunication companies are under immense pressure to provide better, faster services. According to Jen Palmer from T-Mobile, “If we don’t provide the service our customers want, expect and deserve, they can leave us.” Despite this, telecoms are notorious for having the lowest rated customer service departments and representatives of any industry.

For consumers, there seems to be very little differentiation from one telecom company to the next. In fact, pundits even say that not competing has been key to their success. What consumers can control, however, is how they rate the level of customer service and satisfaction.

As a result, telecom leaders take customer experience metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) very seriously. So why are consumer dissatisfaction numbers nearly double that of other industries?

Looking beyond traditional customer experience (CX) metrics

What might have provided telecom leaders with a better understanding into customer satisfaction 14 years ago (the same year the Nokia 6010 launched), may not be relevant today.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was first introduced in 2003 as a way to measure customer satisfaction based on consumers’ responses to one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend our service to a friend or colleague?” At the time, it offered decision makers an easy and effective way to measure loyalty. The metric’s simplicity was both its advantage and reason for growth in popularity, and its disadvantage.

The problem with NPS surveys

NPS doesn’t consider the entire customer journey and how a customer’s experience and expectations may change with every interaction. Instead, NPS is often driven by the last experience a consumer had with a communications provider.

For example, if a wireless carrier customer has a history of frustrating interactions, but the last experience happened to be relatively good, they may answer an NPS survey differently. This gives the company a limited and temporary view into the customer’s overall satisfaction.

By relying on traditional customer experience metrics like NPS, telecom leaders are not getting the whole picture, or actionable solutions. In The Enterprise Guide to Customer Experience, Tyler Douglas, chief sales and marketing officer at Vision Critical, wrote on the pros and cons of standalone CX metrics. “The problem with NPS is that, while it can tell you if customers are likely to recommend you, it can’t tell you why,” Douglas explained. “NPS can’t tell you what about an experience makes a customer want to recommend you to a friend or not.”

Winning the battle for customer loyalty

“It’s our responsibility to consistently earn our customers’ loyalty by resolving their issues and providing the best experience in our services, our offers and across all customer interactions,” said Palmer. In order to achieve the best possible customer experience, companies need metrics that not only give insight into how they’re doing, but why, and how to improve.

In other words, don’t stop at the NPS survey. Ask your customers follow up questions to dig deeper.

Take Telstra, the leading provider of mobile phones, devices and broadband internet in Australia, for example. In 2016, the company recruited 30,000 willing respondents from the back of NPS surveys in order to ask more targeted follow-up questions and get real solutions. The program allowed Telstra to make business decisions driven by consumers, including new billing formats and messaging. By listening to Telstra customers and implementing their suggestions, the company saw great results.

“In one year, Telstra has seen a 17 percent increase in customer satisfaction, a 20 percent decrease in call center traffic and increased speed of innovation,” Jannine Wood, the user experience research lead at Telstra said at the 2016 Customer Intelligence Summit in Australia. “All of which can be attributed to our customer intelligence platform and its 500 percent ROI.”

Winning over a customer’s loyalty may just boil down to how fast an issue can be resolved, or how easy it is to connect with a real human when the internet’s down. But without truly understanding why a customer would—or would not—recommend a service, telecom leaders will never really know how to set themselves apart.

That’s a $1.6 trillion gamble.

Want to hear more? Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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