Customer pains

22 July 2014 | Dr Judy Reed Smith

Cover

Dr Judy Reed Smith

Blog Author | ATLANTIC-ACM; CEO


Since 1995 (yikes!) we have been asking wholesale customers to rate their carriers in a wide range of categories.

Since 1995 (yikes!) we have been asking wholesale customers to rate their carriers in a wide range of categories.

First, I want to thank those raters for their thousands of collective opinions. We hope your carriers have heard your feedback and acted upon it. Many thoughtful and insightful managers have used it well over the years and you know who you are.

For those who have not had the benefit of this feedback, let me share with you the three areas of ongoing customer pain. This will only cover the operational touch points. We'll cover products another time.

Fortunately for carriers – and probably not coincidentally – these ongoing pain points are not the keys to purchases. However, with carriers scoring very tightly in score for key purchasing drivers, they need something beyond price to lure customers (or retain them). To this end, a market-wide opportunity exists right now for many carriers to differentiate themselves with improvement in the following three areas:

Proactive sales
The lowest scores overall are for how proactive customers find carrier sales teams. In survey after survey, these ratings are in the low sixes (scale 1-10, with 10 being perfect), in comparison to Sales Professionalism and Technical Expertise, which rate a full point higher on average. In fairness, it's not everyone that stinks at proactivity; the range for individual carriers ranged from 5.7 to 8.5. The highly-rated teams are contacting their customers frequently and bringing them ideas for increased efficiency, effectiveness or innovation, even when those solutions generate less revenue per unit.

Billing
This second sore spot is quite understandable and in some respects is the most difficult to fix. Within the macro category of billing, the ratings for Dispute Resolution are also floating down in the sixes, on average. Again, some carriers are seen as stars in this area, with ratings as high as 8.8 for some metro providers. In fact, 13% of overall votes awarded the highest rating – a perfect 10 – to metro providers and another 10% of customer ratings were the same for domestic long-haul carriers. However, with overall ratings netting out so much lower, billing disputes and negotiations must leave negative feelings in the minds of many customers.

Provisioning
The third pain point – provisioning complaints -- represents an area that carriers have consistently improved upon since the 1990s "Race of the Pigs". However, the overall ratings are still less than satisfactory for many carriers, with a range from 8.5 for one carrier and as low as 5.7 for another. We ask, "For each carrier with which you work, please rate your perception of that carrier's provisioning based on your assessment of their ability to meet contracted dates of installation". Since we are aware of how hard it is to provision services, we thought we'd cut the carriers some slack by asking just how well they met contracts (instead of raw customer expectations). Since carriers set these expectations, shouldn't they be relatively controllable? For goodness sakes, make better predictions based on installation reality, communicate with your customer throughout the process, and maybe even surprise them by being early!

Some leaders in the carrier world have worked hard to reach scores of 80-90%, which is still sort of a B if it were grades. There certainly are a lot of moving parts in the operations of every carrier, but these three spots have been sore for the two decades that we have been tracking customer satisfaction.

Which carrier will be the first to fix all three?