While industry sectors such as energy, property, copyright licensing and telecommunications are continually increasing their speed and efficiency, they are also experiencing an escalation of another kind. The latest Ombudsman Services report brings to light the increased level of complaints between 2012-2013 across a variety of industries, but with a high number for telecommunications companies.

With 10,000 complaints filed against telcos in 2012/2013, the report illustrates the monumental rise from a mere 500 complaints logged just ten years ago. Breaking down the figures, the main cause for complaint was the quality of customer service (at 37%), with complaints about billing in second place (at 21%), highlighting that the industry has a customer service problem on their hands.

In many cases, a complaint is the only point of interaction between a customer and service provider, and ultimately an unavoidable encounter no matter how satisfied people are with your services. Therefore dealing with them becomes a critical issue for companies, as negative experiences can lead to serious financial and reputational repercussions.

The need for seamless and effective customer service is further magnified in the age of social media, where hours turn into minutes as consumers and customers expect instant responses during interactions. The failure to handle these appropriately has the potential to make or break the reputation of companies, resulting in the loss of new, as well as existing customers.

The Organised Enterprise

Apart from making sure that a company’s products, services and purchasing channels are properly managed to cut down on the amount dissatisfied customers, in order to ensure rapid and organised feedback, managers need to optimise back office operations. Customer complaints and queries need to be efficiently logged and managed, from first point of interaction all the way until the final resolution.

With the sharp increase of complaints, and multitude of channels to communicate them through, the importance of a modern and integrated customer service system is now seen by telecom providers as an important addition to their business model. When customer and brand loyalty can be so easily influenced, they have no other choice than to recognise its value.

Adapting To The Modern Telecoms Customer

It is no secret that the telecoms industry has become increasingly complex and confusing as the quantity of services offered steadily grows, and therefore, it is hardly a surprise that the amount of complaints have also risen.

10-20 years ago, customers would have most likely expressed dissatisfaction about landline and dial-up services, while telecoms providers are now expected to hold high standards of regular and fibre broadband, fixed lines as well as mobile offerings provided to customers, often offered in bundles. The status of broadband has undergone a transformation from an optional luxury into an essential feature of households and workplaces, and therefore customers’ demands for responsive and instant feedback have significantly risen.

One way to maintain this level of customer service has been to introduce cloud-based solutions. As products and services enter the market at ever increasing speeds, the arrival of ‘next generation complaints’ provide consumers and businesses with more choice, but may also lead to more errors in the customer service process. Resorting to cloud-based alternatives can improve how queries are handled through simplifying the method of introducing new products.

These innovative solutions can lead to improved order processes and a smoother customer experience, by using integrated subscription-based software to easily bundle complex products and bring them to the market. Configurations such as pricing, quoting and ordering can be unified and standardised company-wide, improving order fulfilment and trimming the operational processes to make them faster and leaner.

Introducing cloud-based systems into the customer service aspect of the business can be beneficial to providers of any size, and may be the sought after solution to cutting down on complaints, of which 21% derive from billing and disputed charges.

The Flexibility Of The Cloud

Cloud-based services may provide organisations with a much more efficient, powerful and productive office stack than previous solutions. A carefully selected combination of services will better meet the requirements of flexible applications and infrastructures, which need to react to rapid change and sufficiently meet fluctuating levels of customer service.

The opportunity for cloud solutions to enter the customer service space becomes apparent looking at the benefits an integrated approach can have for providers, as well as customers. While customers are given the full freedom to contact the company through any channel desired, be it phone, email or Twitter, live queries should include records of previous contact and allow individuals to experience a hassle free and efficient journey towards a resolution.

Operators that implement a central system approach, aggregating all customer data, will stand to gain a serious competitive advantage in years to come. With telecoms becoming an increasingly homogenous market as businesses increasingly share networks and infrastructures, providers have an opportunity to outshine their competitors through offering the best customer service.