When will quad-play take off in the UK?

Telecoms Tech News magazine published an interesting article recently on whether quad-play could take off in the UK. Quad-play describes the bundling of various services that telcos typically offer – allowing customers to buy their TV, Internet, home phone, and mobile phone all with a single bill.

The intention is to lock customers in to the bundled service for a longer time, reducing churn and in return for this loyalty offering a better deal than would be possible if the services were all purchased separately.

Quad-play has yet to take off in the UK. The only big operator with a serious offering is Virgin, though others – like Talk Talk – are entering the market and seeing what happens. In the USA, all the major telcos have a quad-play offering and consumers can score great discounts by shopping around and getting all their Internet and home media requirements from a single supplier.

Most commentators have been talking about a need to drop prices and innovate on services – to create new services that the consumer didn’t realise they needed. However, I believe that the real story with the growth of quad-play in the UK will be how collaborative the telcos can be.

As I have mentioned in a few recent blogs, I believe that we will start to see more telcos working together, considering that the basic network infrastructure is not worth competing over and therefore helping each other to ensure the basics are in place. They will then compete on other areas, such as great original content or the best customer service in the industry.

The BT-EE collaboration over consumer mobile services is one example of this, but I believe there will be many more examples of these companies getting together and bundling their services, allowing many more options for quad-play offerings to grow.

What do you think of quad-play in the UK? Is it too early to see where it might go or have you already subscribed to a package? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

quad bike on 21 February 2010 - day 52


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The tourism industry is being reshaped as customer service becomes a priority

The recently published UKCSI (UK Customer Services Index) has shown some interesting results for the tourism sector. Six individual tourism-related organisations were named in the top 50 of all organisations in the UK.

The UKCSI research is conducted by the Institute of Customer Service and involves a survey answered by almost 41,000 customers across 13 business sectors. This latest research was carried out in May.

Food and non-food retail are the only industry sectors that score higher than tourism when the industries of the top 50 organisations are explored.

Tourism is an important sector for the UK economy and the companies that did well in this survey are all household names such as Center Parcs, P&O Ferries, Premier Inn and the Hilton group.

Getting customer service right is more important than ever for these organisations because it has become easier than ever to find information before a purchase – including reviews and notes from previous customers. Tools such as Tripadvisor are not only offering reviews, but also location awareness when used on a smart phone, so services that feature a large number of positive recommendations can end up being actively promoted to new customers through recommendation engines.

Many customers are now familiar with these tools and use them to plan holidays. Customers today now contact brands before, during, and after a purchase so the customer service function in a sector like tourism – where many information requests need to be handled – can be the difference between customers choosing your business or not.

Have you observed a change in the way tourism businesses are offering information and service to customers? Leave a comment here on the blog or you can reach me on LinkedIn here.

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What are the three key trends in the customer service industry today?

In my last blog I talked about the need for any executive planning a customer service function to explore the future. This is a fast-changing industry now and who could have predicted a decade ago that customers would be receiving service from brands without even calling for help?

So, it was good timing to see that the customer service expert in business magazine Forbes, Micah Solomon, has just published a list of ten key trends that are shaping the customer service industry globally today – in particular the way customer expectations are changing.

You can read the complete list by going to the Forbes website here, but if I had to choose the three examples Micah lists where I agree that he really has captured some of the most important trends then I would suggest:

  1. Customers expect 24/7; Whether you need to adopt a follow-the-sun strategy or just have the team rotating in shifts, you can no longer offer a customer service channel that shuts for the day at 5pm.
  2. Customers expect omnichannel integration; you can’t have different prices online compared to in-store. You can’t respond to calls in a minute, but email in 24 hours. Customers expect all the channels to operate in the same way today.
  3. Customers now feel empowered; everyone is a publisher. If a customer has a complaint, they don’t have to hope that the consumer editor in a newspaper runs their story – they just blog it or tweet it or Facebook it and if they have enough friends, that complaint could even go viral.

This speed of change and complexity in the modern customer service environment is one of the biggest changes. The customer now expects to communicate with a brand before, during, and after a purchase – not just when they have a problem. Your team needs to be ready to have those conversations.

Do you agree with these trends or do you think that my top three and Micah’s top ten have missed something important? Leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

First customers

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What is needed to help contactless tech go mainstream?

Have you used a contactless payment system yet? It took a long time to gather momentum in the UK, but has now started looking like a realistic way to make micro-payments without needing all that change filling your pocket.

My own bank card operates with a limit of £20 for these contactless payments. The security restriction is there because no password or PIN is required to make these payments – you just wave your card near the payment terminal.

I have been buying coffee and bus tickets like this for some time, but I have also been thinking about the security issues these cards present. If I do lose my wallet and don’t report my card missing then if someone spends £100 on various small transactions in a day then that is still quite a lot to lose – and does not require any PIN hacking or other criminality.

At present it seems that the banks are prepared to support customers by guaranteeing that fraud will be refunded, but as we go further down this path there will be a point where the banks insist that you treat your card as if it were cash. If you lost a £50 note from your wallet then it would seem ridiculous to call the bank and ask them to give you a replacement note – and I expect this is where we will be going with contactless eventually.

However, for it to become even more popular customers will need to feel that the technology is secure. At present the tipping point is not entirely clear, but there is certainly a steady increase in popularity for these technologies. It’s an area worth watching over the next year or so.

Have you used a contactless card? Do you find it useful or have you been concerned about security issues? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Contactless vending machine payments in ATL!


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How finely-tuned is your customer service?

We have all seen the customer service revolution that has empowered the customer with new ways to dictate the way they choose to communicate with the organisations they are patrons of but some industries have embraced the revolution whilst others have either fought against it or simply struggled to keep pace.

I don’t think anybody would disagree that customer service is no longer simply a department or function and instead it is an engine within an organisation with the potential to either power the business forwards or equally to stall progress if it lacks the right drive and traction.

The recent video statement from Jo Causon, the CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, contains some powerful challenges to organisations with which they can judge themselves as falling into one of two categories ‘monologue’ or ‘dialogue’.  Is it fair to say that those organisations still languishing in monologue customer conversations are being overtaken by those who have embarked on a journey of dialogue with their customers?

I think it is fair, and I also think that those who have already recognised that fluid, interactive and customer-centric service will allow them to differentiate from the competition, are already speeding off into the lead. But what does it take to have customer dialogue and how do you bring the customer into the Boardroom?

Firstly let’s look at what it takes. Jo describes those organisations who have what it takes as organisations who ‘’invest in the development of their people, focusing on the new era of Customer Service skills which require a much higher level of emotional intelligence, commercial acumen and technological development’’.  It is hard to disagree with the description Jo gives but for me, the most striking and obvious thing about that statement is that it is all encompassing ideology that demands an organisation to take a holistic view of customer service including the people within it, the technology deployed and the management methodologies used to govern and develop the environment.

What is certainly true is those organisations who have already recognised the need for a holistic and ideological view towards customer services will continue to develop their service offering, adopting new channels, technology and gaining plaudits, recognition and more loyal customers along the way. You can also say with confidence that those organisations who are in the customer service fast lane will most certainly also have the customer in the boardroom – they will be prioritising customer needs and ensuring an authentic relationship exists.

So how do you get the customer in the boardroom if they aren’t already?  That is a much more difficult challenge to solve, but I would suggest that it can only be done by learning from others and using their customer service engine to propel your organisation to the front of the grid or face life in the pit lane.

Leave a comment here on the blog or get in touch with me directly via my LinkedIn.

Dialog... (explored)

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Could increased inefficiency be good for your customers?

Forbes is the kind of business journal where a focus on efficiency is treated as so obvious that nobody needs to think that there might be an alternative strategy, so it was interesting to read Micah Solomon’s recent article on how it may be better for your customers to actually increase inefficiency.

What could he possibly be talking about? Well, what he is really talking about is looking beyond the conventional wisdom in your industry. Not just doing things the way that they have always been done. A good example might be the batching up of customer satisfaction surveys and analysing them just once a month. It’s the most efficient way of analysing feedback, but the best way would be to analyse feedback as it arrives.

Solomon also talking about hand-written thank you notes to customers and carrying stock that you rarely sell, just because it helps customers to know you always have every item in stock.

It was the economist JK Galbraith who coined the term ‘conventional wisdom’ when he was writing about how to make society a more equal place. He suggested that by always questioning and never making assumptions based on what we think is normal, interesting solutions can be found.

I tend to agree with what Solomon is suggesting. There are some very interesting areas of customer service that can be improved by not just accepting the conventional wisdom of what a customer expects, however I would also suggest that this a cultural attitude that needs to permeate all levels of the organisation – you cannot create rules that tell people ‘think differently.’

If your customer service team is given the autonomy they need to help customers and to explore new solutions when the standard ones don’t fit, then these innovations should naturally happen – the real challenge is then turning an innovative solution into the new conventional wisdom.

What do you think? Can you improve customer service by becoming less efficient? Leave a comment here or you can reach me on LinkedIn here.

Guardians of Efficiency


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Outsourcing: does size really matter?

A recent blog by William Carson here on the Teleperformance UK pages explored the perceptions of size in a partner company.

This is a question any company executive will ask when they are about to select a partner to work with. If you explore the information published by the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) in the UK, their best practice guidance includes notes on the pros and cons of working with companies of different sizes.

Teleperformance is one of the largest customer service experts in the world today, offering help to clients in 62 different countries. This scale means that we can offer expertise from one region to others and our team has deep experience of customers working across many different industries.

But, as William mentioned, other companies make a virtue of how small they are. Smaller companies are more agile is the supposed wisdom. Smaller companies will treat the customers with more care because you are less important to a large firm. This is all accepted wisdom that may have been true in the past, and possibly remains true in some industries, but I believe that the customer service sector is different.

Customers today are using far more channels than ever. Most customers are using at least 6 channels to communicate with brands and they often expect brands to react to communications that have not even been sent to any official channel – perhaps a tweet about a retailer.

This means that managing a customer service project is no longer about setting up a call centre and then expecting that service can run as specified for the next ten years. Customer service is changing faster now than ever before. There have been more changes in this industry in the past decade than in the previous five decades.

I’m naturally inclined to favour the way Teleperformance works because I am a part of the team, but I can see the way the industry is headed more generally. I think that our scale allows us to see new channels and trends before our clients need them.

You might not have been asked to offer support via WhatsApp yet, but you can guarantee that our team has already been exploring how it works. This expertise and the forward-thinking research coming from our Customer Experience Lab (CX Lab) in Portugul lead me to believe that big can sometimes be better –and more agile.

What’s you view on the next important trend in customer services? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

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