Keep customer service reps geographically close, says JD Power — Greenblatt

Industry Voices - Greenblatt

Significant work has been done by the wireless network service provider (NSP) community to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) applications into contact centers. This is especially true as NSPs continue to modernize their operations to the cloud and is doubly important for capturing opportunities in inbound call reduction through self-service. That said, there are still significant opportunities to integrate more data and functionality from a variety of NSP disciplines to improve live customer service representative (CSR) effectiveness.

True success will lie in tailoring CSR enablement to the specific go-to-market strategies of each network service provider: recent analysis from J.D. Power suggests that providers secure significant benefits by adhering to two general principles: 

●    Keep CSRs geographically close to subscribers they are supporting.

●    Equip CSRs with as much operational and technical information as possible and train them on the tools needed to develop better situational and contextual awareness of in-bound caller concerns.

The combination of regional connection and technical context creates a precious opportunity to elevate the user experience and improve first-call resolution — by far the most important variable for determining customer satisfaction in this sector.

Taking advantage of these opportunities, however, is easier said than done.

NSPs that have been around for decades continue to struggle with overseeing multiple generations of legacy technologies and infrastructures that often do not play well together. Interoperability and compatibility issues can stand in the way of letting CSRs easily access different systems to understand the state of network performance, regional weather events that can affect the user experience or insights about local developments (such as public construction projects) that involve industrial digging, which can often cut cables and interrupt services.

All too often, critical applications speak entirely different languages, making it tough for CSRs to get the big picture perspective during their engagement with subscribers. Moreover, language barriers can be a source of frustration for both the caller and CSR.

The good news is that industry executives recognize the challenge, with many carriers now moving to elevate application integration and geo-location coordination at the contact center level to empower CSRs’ ability to drive satisfaction.

Location, location, location

Location may well be the next frontier of differentiation. With the continuing success of work-from-home (WFH) in the call center space, routing inbound service calls to proximate reps is an opportunity to keep satisfaction high. Service providers that do not make this a priority may find it difficult to deliver the kind of positive customer experience subscribers have come to expect.

Customers demonstrate low tolerance for situations during call center engagement in which they get matched with a CSR who does not understand them, their perspective and/or situation. 

This unnecessarily reduces trust and is costly as calls are forwarded or escalated to other representatives or managers, lengthening call handle times and lowering first call resolution. It is a problem that is exacerbated when a customer must start from scratch with a new CSR following a call transfer. The data shows very clearly that “cold forwards” nearly always result in a meaningful hit to overall customer satisfaction levels.

J.D. Power U.S. Wireless Satisfaction studies show that geo-sensitive CSRs have a major edge on understanding the service interruptions that are most likely to cause disruptions to local operations. While capturing weather data is a helpful metric, other seemingly innocuous occurrences — such as local construction — can affect network performance in a specific area. Local CSRs who are equipped with that knowledge are better able to identify the root of customer issues and work to inform customers and take appropriate action.

Harnessing emerging technologies
Done effectively, tools that track and make sense of the inherent complexity of wireless network operations can provide CSRs with a simplified view of the variables that affect the customer experience. As a result, we are seeing the industry develop some interesting solutions to augment CSR capabilities. For example, speech-to-text tools that transcribe calls by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning technology can surface contextually relevant information that maximizes the level of service provided by CSRs. 

Year after year, J.D. Power Customer Care studies find that organizations fielding cross-functional, cross-trained teams of experts to bridge siloed workflows and technologies are better able to align and empower CSRs to drive up overall satisfaction. When service providers combine this with geographically proximate CSR teams — that have their finger on the pulse of local issues affecting service — they improve their likelihood of providing a positive experience to their customers.

Ian Greenblatt leads J.D. Power’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Intelligence. With in-depth industry expertise, Ian drives market strategy across the rapidly converging landscape, which encompasses the entire communication sector. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and DePaul University College of Law. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GreenblattTMT.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceWireless staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceWireless.