Wednesday 28 September 2016

Hello Telcos – it’s time you listen to your customers to build Trust

If there is one industry in Australia where “Trust” has significant impact – it would be the Telecommunications Industry. The Telco industry has faced record complaints last year. Poor mobile phone coverage and service drop-outs are some of the major reasons cited for these complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the past year. The situation is forcing the regulator, Australian Communications and Media Authority, to step in to address issues such as “Bill shock” forcing Telcos to send SMS alerts to mobile phone customers or emails to internet users to warn them as they approach the limits on their “caps”. We have also seen Telco companies cope with privacy issues as personal information of customers were exposed on the web (I was one of the victims) and has led to investigations from the Privacy Commissioner. Findings from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer vindicates the current situation.

The Telco industry globally is trusted by a strong majority ahead of Consumer Packaged Goods, Energy and Banks. In APAC, all countries except Australia scored the highest in trust rankings. Australia, with a 47 per cent score, was below the global average which shows that general Australians are vastly more skeptical of the Telco industry.

However, it is interesting to note that informed public had comparatively more faith in the Australian Telco industry with Trust rising from 38 per cent in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2012.

So what could be the reasons of varying degrees of trust between informed public and general public? I think these could be some possible reasons:

  • General public still rely on traditional means of contact such as calling customer service centres to resolve their issues which sometime could be frustrating because of hold times. Informed public are more dynamic and can get a faster response by contacting Telcos through social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook
  • The increase in smartphone adoption among general public has meant that sometime issues related to devices might be construed as network issues. This could lead to a decline in trust among general public. Informed public tend to find their answers to their problems by posting questions in Tech community forums such as Whirlpool
  • Whilst the NBN is the biggest telecom infrastructure project that is being rolled out in Australia, general public might not be fully aware of the benefits that NBN offers as compared to informed publics who are better aware of how they can utilise high-speed broadband connectivity. A recent survey has found that Australian’s support NBN

Telcos still have a long way to go in building trust with general public. When we asked the general public about the top three attributes that are key to building their trust, they listed them as:

  • Listens to customer needs and feedback
  • Offers high quality products or services
  • Places customers ahead of profits

It is loud and clear that customers want to be heard! Launching new products and innovations to add value to customers is definitely needed, however they can’t afford to do it at the cost of servicing their customers. We have already seen Telcos take steps towards improving their customer service by launching new tools to assist customers to manage issues such as ‘Bill Shock’. Customer expectations are also changing. They no longer expect Telcos to just meet their performance and operational metrics  but they also want them to meet societal needs. Transparent/ethical business practices and placing customers ahead of profits is key to building trust.

From a communications point of view, consumers are looking for open, frequent and honest communications. Here are some tips:

  • People trust ‘a person like me’, therefore it is important to use tools to monitor what is being said about their brand in social networks and quell any customer concerns as soon as they can. Listening and engagement is vital.
  • Consumers don’t mind hearing the bad news, what they don’t like is sugar coated corporate speak. Even if you make a mistake, they want you to own up for it and tell them how do you plan to fix it. Be pro-active and transparent
  • Senior Management might not always be the best source deliver a message, leverage other employees within the organisation who are passionate and come across as more believable (could be the product manager who is working on a prevent ‘bill shock’ application)
  • People also believe messages heard overtime from multiple sources. Traditional media is important however, they need to invest in creating interesting content that helps customers discover new ways of using their service and share it across social and owned media channels

The Telecom industry is going to face some tougher times. Frost and Sullivan has predicted that Telcos will face increased revenue pressure in future in the mobile arena as the market is getting saturated and investment in renewing and acquiring new spectrum for 4G is needed. A renewed emphasis on customer retention and ensuring they are meeting customer expectations is essential for their future growth.

Shiva Kumar, Associate Director