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Why are big brands like EE failing their customers?

It’s a story we tend to hear time and time again, big telecoms firms are letting down their customers with the level of service they provide. This time, giant mobile operators Vodafone and EE are failing on the basics of customer service, according to the consumer group Which? It isn’t the first time we’ve witnessed similar companies falling short in consumer research and surveys.

So why are EE and Vodafone struggling to deliver the very basics to their customers, and how can they take measures to really improve customer service?

Vodafone itself has been around for quite some time. Founded in 1991, that makes the company older than many of the frontline staff working in its call centres today, and this is part of the problem.

Older, larger companies mean they work with a huge amount of legacy technology and archaic processes to manage the customer experience. In almost all cases, mobile operators want the very best for their customers like any other business.

One major problem is that they simply don’t have the structures to support emerging and effective customer experience methodologies with software, systems and practices that have more in common with a Sinclair C5 than today’s call centre solutions.

EE is of course another telecom leviathan. Established in 2010 as a result of a T-Mobile and Orange merger, the company is now in the middle of a lengthy process of being acquired by British Telecom.

The complexity and chaos of several mergers means trouble for the customer experience. Brand personality becomes a Frankenstein’s monster of old and new values squished together, corporate messages become confused, and the IT and software from each brand are haphazardly integrated.

For both companies, these factors place an enormous amount of uncertainty and strain on the call centre, where customers easily and often fall through the gaps. Change is slow for organisations of this size, but this shouldn’t mean falling short on customer service fundamentals.

Regardless of periods of long term transformation, big telecom brands are still renowned for their shoddy customer service, so what can these companies do to change their reputation?

Service-based companies like telecom providers have a difficult time differentiating themselves. Consumers want a phone that works, and at a reasonable price. The big defining factor in customer preference now remains almost solely in their experience. Brands who can leverage human interactions to delight their customers will be the ones who gain a competitive edge.

Empowering call centre staff to improve customer service.

Efficiency is huge pain point for companies who have massive call centre functions. Longer handling times can create costs reaching millions of pounds each year. This may seem like a danger, but the relentless focus on efficiency and a scientific approach to managing call centre staff creates an even great one - disengaged agents who critically fail to meet customer needs.

Many call centres are currently switching their focus from traditional and ineffective Workforce Optimisation solutions, to Workforce Engagement - an approach that balances business efficiency with the wellbeing of their staff, and the needs of their customer.

It’s time that brands like EE and Vodafone addressed the root causes of their consistently sub-par customer experiences by investing in their employees, and empowering them to own and resolve customer issues. This is the only key to long term growth, rather than endlessly looking for ways to improve the bottom line immediately.

Without an engaged workforce, the old guard of the telecoms world will be quickly usurped by newer, agile and innovative customer champions.