yARN: Here's something radical - the existing customer comes first

yARN: Here's something radical - the existing customer comes first

New iPrimus boss, Tom Mazerski, reckons telcos have lost sight of their existing customers

The newly appointed CEO of Primus Australia, Tom Mazerski, reckons telcos have lost sight of their existing customers and are instead focusing too much on trying to attract new customers. There shouldn't be anything controversial about that. After all, the idea that it is cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire one is conventional thinking.

But when did your telco or ISP last contact you to let you know that a newer plan than the one you're on will cost you less or give you more? Or if you went over your mobile cap one month, did it bill you an extra $30 or whatever, or did you get the option move up from the $19 cap to the $29 plan and down again at will?

Have you ever seen a ‘new customers only’ offer that would have been just right for you? That strikes me as being particularly insulting to a long-term customer that 'earned out' their acquisition cost years ago.

Mazerski says that in his 20 years at Verizon "I had every job" and therefore he knows what employees face. What's needed, he believes, is first-call resolution, and that's what he's promising Primus customers. That's not a promise the company will be delivering on immediately, but he says "we've made a lot of progress" in the development of realtime processes to support that goal.

Mazerski’s view of the current situation in the industry is even more jaundiced than mine. The way he tells it, you call about a problem and you get a promise that someone will call you back. You’re still waiting two hours later so you ring again and your issue gets escalated, which means someone really will call you back. After another couple of hours with no response you ring yet again and get escalated to a supervisor who tells someone really, really will call you back.

I suspect most of us have had to make repeated contact with suppliers about issues that really should have been fixed on the first call or at the systems level. One example is the ISP that won't mail paper invoices automatically, can't send PDF invoices, and if you ring and ask for an invoice for tax purposes the call centre agent initially argues with you but eventually agrees to send it - but mysteriously the invoice never arrives. Solution: if postage cost is the issue, give customers the option of PDF invoices.

Then there's the bank that writes to tell you a new credit card is being dispatched in the next couple of weeks, but doesn't warn you when it can't stick to its own timetable so you ring to make sure your card hasn't been lost in the post or stolen from your mailbox. When it arrives a month or two later, the notification of the new card's PIN doesn't show up for another couple of weeks - by which time you've told the bank you haven't received the PIN so they issue a new one and you have to wait another week for that to arrive. Solution: inform your customers if something's going to take significantly longer than you said it would, and issue new cards with the same PIN as the old ones.

Mazerski wants a culture where "everyone works for the customer". I'm not a Primus customer, so I don't know what things are like there. If the large and medium suppliers that I deal with as a small business operator and as a private individual are at all representative, he's got his work cut out. But if Mazerski succeeds, that should help raise Australians' collective view of what constitutes acceptable customer service.

Is your organisation ready for the challenge of raised customer service expectations? If your CEO wanted to promise first-call resolution, how long would it be before your IT systems were ready to support the necessary processes? And are there any changes you could make that would save customers having to call in the first place?

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Tags TelecommunicationsiprimusyARNtelcosmobile solutions

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