The Never-Ending Process of Improving Quality

I am STILL renovating my house, but I am glad to report that it’s about 80 percent complete. As part of the process, I had to call my service provider to reinstate my triple-play offering. The whole process, which was divided into two distinct parts, once again demonstrated the meaning of the phrase “end-to-end customer experience.”

Phase I

I started by calling a call center agent. She said I needed an inspector (due to the renovation) and only then would she decide which technician should come and when. At first I was OK with the idea, until I was told that the inspector couldn’t come for at least a week, and then I would have to wait even longer for a technician. I tried to explain that in the era of the connected world two weeks without connectivity is unbearable – and since we are talking about triple play, I would barely be able to live my normal life. After further negotiations and some mild yelling on my part (we’ll just call that “advanced negotiations”), we agreed upon an earlier date.

Phase II

Once the technician arrived, I must admit that I was blown away. Gone are the days when you needed three different people to install all services. An extremely efficient and friendly representative quickly installed the phones, Internet and TV – and even refused a tip. I have of course already started using the services – the TV is great, voice is OK (some static) and the Internet is fast.

Am I Happy with the Quality?

The incident left me thinking about how we measure and rank our experiences.

Am I happy with my provider? Did phase 1 leave me scarred, or will I forget it because of phase 2? Am I dreading what will happen if something again goes wrong with my service? The reality is that in my overall ranking of the provider, everything matters – every touchpoint along the way. And many consumers aren’t savvy enough to distinguish between quality of service and quality of network – they just want good quality, period.

This is exactly why quality has been the focus of some of the marketing campaigns we have seen around the globe. For instance, Best Buy, a global retailer and developer of technology products and services, heavily promotes its “Geek Squad.” The Geek Squad is the “first national 24-hour task force dedicated to solving the world’s technology challenges” and has “20,000 active Geek Squad technicians patrol Geek Squad precincts in all U.S. Best Buy stores.”

T-Mobile devotes a page of its Website to the awards it has won, many of which focus on quality. They list a “Highest Ranked Wireless Customer Service Performance” award from J.D. Power and Associates, to give one example. Likewise, TELUS published a corporate social responsibility report that is designed to “help ensure our team members put the customer at the heart of what they do. In 2011, our opportunity is to elevate our performance with respect to the customer experience and the metrics that support it.”

Network quality also frequently features in marketing campaigns. Vodafone Italia, for example, recently announced the launch of a device that it says will offer “high quality mobile network coverage inside buildings, houses, industrial facilities and partially isolated areas not reached by the mobile signal.”

When we look at broadband services, a recent survey found that on average, during peak periods DSL-based services delivered download speeds that were 82 percent of published rates. In this climate of best effort, it is no wonder that providers, such as SingTel in Singapore, are promoting the speeds that are actually delivered. SingTel has published the “typical speeds” of its mobile broadband. “We are constantly listening to our customers to understand their needs, and they have told us that they are not getting the speeds that are advertised,” said Yuen Kuan Moon, SingTel’s executive vice president of digital consumers.

So how much quality is enough when we look at experience?

The answer is “it depends.” Millions of people love free services from over the top players, such as Google’s Gmail, but what happens when they experience problems, or are locked out of their accounts, and there is no one to talk to?

In general, I would argue that controlling multiple channels for a customer increases loyalty, but raises quality expectations. It feels like my house renovation may never end (at least in the meantime I can now surf the Internet and watch Glee again). Likewise, service providers’ quest to improve the quality of the end-to-end experience is ongoing and requires much careful thought and hard work.

*Special thanks to Eric Danis for his editorial assistance.

3 Comments

  1. Jeff Barat
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    My recent experience with my service provider has convinced me to switch. A CSR cold-called me to discuss my wife’s plan, so I decided to use the opportunity to discuss the whole family package, which I know can be improved. Whether because of silo’d systems or poor training, the CSR insisted she could only talk about my wife’s plan, and basically hung up, not even promising that someone would call back to discuss the issues I wanted to discuss. My provider, by the weekend, will be my ex-provider, and all because of a lack of quality at the first customer touchpoint.

  2. Posted September 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the blog Dana. This begs the question, are people willing to pay more for a better quality experience? Assuming all the other factors are equal (call quality, data speeds, equipment, etc), will someone knowingly pay more to a service provider with better customer service. My own personal experience says yes. In looking to cut communications cost I noticed that a local triple-play provider is offering a deal that would save me a not-insignificant amount of money on my overall communications costs for the same level of service. But having been a customer of theirs in the past, and having had a very negative experience with their customer service, I could not make myself go back to them just to save a few bucks. So I can actually quantify how much I am willing to pay for good quality service (or to avoid bad quality service).

    Service providers should be making these calculations as well and taking a hard look at whether their customer service is making or losing them money, and how much.

  3. Ronald Setty
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post..I agree with Dana that the more channels the consumer has with a provider the higher the quality expectations will be. Also, the scope in each channel is important, for example with the trends of mobile devices becoming even more critical to consumer’s daily activities (e.g. payments, TV video, connected world, etc), I believe quality expectations will grow and consumers will be more inclined to pay a premium for end to end quality of service. I would definitely do so as US consumer.

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