Will telcos ever really get to grips with customer service?

Source: Ofcom

Source: Ofcom

  • Latest Ofcom report shows that UK operators could do better
  • Supermarket MVNO beats operators in overall mobile satisfaction
  • What if CSPs focused more on improved customer service?

The latest UK telecoms customer satisfaction report from regulator Ofcom tells a familiar story: None of the network operators are doing much better than the others in making their customers happy, but subscribers appreciate it when an effort is made.

And it seems the best customer-focused efforts come from virtual network operators.

That much is highlighted by the overall satisfaction score for mobile services, which shows Tesco Mobile, the MVNO run by the major UK supermarket chain, attaining the highest overall score.  

Tesco, of course, doesn’t have its own network – it uses O2 UK’s infrastructure. But O2 UK’s overall satisfaction score is 93%, whereas Tesco Mobile’s is 97%. And even though both services use the same network, O2’s score for “Satisfaction with reception or signal strength” is just 85%, while Tesco Mobile gets 92%.

How can this be? 

The answer seems pretty simple to me. It’s all about how you treat you customers, which in turn impacts customer perception – happy customers will give better scores… happy customers will have a more favourable (and more forgiving) impression of their reception and signal strength than those frustrated by their service provider, even if they’re connected to the same network. 

It’s notable also that the UK mobile service provider with the second highest overall satisfaction score (95%) is giffgaff, another MVNO that uses O2’s network (and which is actually owned by O2…).

The Ofcom report, of course, focuses just on the telecoms service providers and how they compare against each other. But how does the UK telecoms sector compare against other industries? 

Not well, is the answer, as Omnisperience analyst Teresa Cottam pointed out in this recent blog, citing a July 2020 UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) report – “The telecoms sector is still 10th out of 13 verticals measured when it comes to customer satisfaction. Satisfaction with telecoms firms has gone down from 74.7 to 74.2 year on year,” she noted. 

Telcos have long claimed to be champions of customer satisfaction while seeking to invest the bare minimum. And that doesn’t make sense: So much money is spent in trying to attract customers and they trying to persuade them not to leave when they feel let down. Doesn’t it stand to reason that churn costs would go down, and happier customers would spend more over a longer period of time, if the CSPs invested more in processes and systems that better met the needs of their customers, including making interactions less complex? Investing in some social media bots is not enough…

Maybe one day a network operator will decide that investing heavily in improving and maintaining customer experience is the route to long-term success and predictable, recurring revenues, but I’m not holding my breath.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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