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China tops global telco service study

Press 12 for UK, 18 for USA and 19 for Oz

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Asian telcos came out top in a new global study of the prepaid mobile market by KPMG designed to find the best customer experience in-store and over-the-phone, with the UK, US and Australia all placing disappointingly outside the top ten.

The In Search of a Better Customer Experience study (PDF) rated 106 mobile providers across 25 countries.

KPMG used mystery shoppers to carry out over 850 store visits and 750 calls to contact centres, with providers assessed according to a variety of criteria including average wait times, ease-of-understanding, agent/sales consultant soft skills and use of voice recognition technology.

Overall in-store scores by country put China (82 per cent) in top spot followed by Indonesia (79 per cent) and Singapore (76 per cent).

Somewhat disappointingly the US came down in 11th place with a score of 68.5 per cent and the UK just behind with 68.3 per cent, while Australia came in 18th with 65.7 per cent, beaten by countries including Vietnam, India and Mexico.

Common problems seen by KMG which may have contributed to the poor scores included unavailability of SIMs and long wait times.

The report had the following:

The best practice was to have a concierge (56 percent of retail stores measured had a concierge) to greet customers, gather their information and allow them to browse products. One innovation observed was the use of tablet devices by the concierge as well as the sales staff.

Tellingly, fewer than 40 per cent of US and UK mobile stores had a concierge, with the number dropping to around 20 per cent for Australia. In China and Singapore the figure was 100 per cent.

When it came to contact centres, China again came top (87.5 per cent), this time followed by Portugal (86.4 per cent) and Poland (83.6 per cent). New Zealand crept into 8th with 75.7 per cent but the rest of the top ten was mainly filled with more Asian countries.

Again, more “mature” markets in the West performed badly, with the UK in 12th (74 per cent), US in 18th (71 per cent) and Australia in 19th (69.9 per cent).

A common criticism of failing telcos was complex and non-intuitive Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems.

The report added the following, which will ring bells with UK mobile customers:

In 10 per cent of scenarios completed, a task as simple as activating the SIM took more than five prompts. In some cases, even after inputting all the information in the IVR, the customer still had to speak to an agent, repeating content, which had a negative impact on the experience…Surprisingly only 20 per cent of telcos surveyed utilized voice recognition software, and the consensus was that it was not working well.

Long wait times before being put through to an agent post IVR selection were also highlighted, and it’s no surprise here that the UK and US performed fairly poorly at around the 1 minute mark, with China down nearer 10 seconds.

It should be noted that Asian countries have a relatively high penetration of prepaid mobile users compared to, say, the UK and therefore their telcos should be expected to deal better with this type of customer.

However, the report still serves to highlight persistent deficiencies with customer service in markets like the UK, US and Oz where telcos have been doing this for a lot longer. ®

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