With the rise in smartphone use and the ability to download any application a consumer desires, mobile operator call centers are finding themselves increasingly responsible for not only traditional network and hardware problems, but also software problems, says Stas Wolk, Vice President of Global Strategic Alliances executive at Cellebrite.
Since the introduction of the smartphone, in fact, mobile operators have witnessed a steep rise in software-related faults to about 40 per cent of total faults, according to a 2015 Ovum study. Despite significant developments in mobile operating systems in recent years and general improvement in customers’ mobile software knowledge, the difficulties for providers lie in the identification and resolution of software-related problems.
And that can be a problem for operators.
Mobile service providers face a range of direct and indirect costs from not being able to identify and address customer device malfunction issues. The Ovum study revealed a significant link between software malfunctions and customer churn with 18 per cent of consumer respondents, who recently reported a software issue, said that the experience would drive them to seek a new provider for their next phone.
One of the biggest direct costs providers experience results from “No Trouble Found” (NTF). As its name suggests, NTF refers to a situation in which a device is under warranty and is accepted to be sent off for repair, only for no fault to be found with the hardware or operating system. NTF rates for all handsets sent off for repair typically hover around 30 per cent, but can be higher or lower depending on the level of investment in technical support staff and functions. Even so, NTF is primarily a finding of no hardware trouble found. Without fast, reliable tools at the point of sale to identify and correct software faults that mimic hardware issues, operators’ NTF rates are much higher than they should be.
To reduce customer complaints, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce churn, there are three closely-related building blocks that mobile operators need to evaluate and adopt, if they are not already part of their portfolio: self-help applications, remote diagnostic tools, and advanced in-store technical support.
Handset challenges account for a quarter of all calls to operator customer care. While some handset vendors, mobile operators, and third parties currently offer self-help applications, many users find them too complex or with limited functionality. More advanced, easier-to-use applications are available and would be valuable to both the user and the operator, as they could help identify smartphone issues and allow the user to resolve them at the click of a button.
Furthermore, the Ovum study proves that consumer demand exists for such self-service solutions. An astounding 39 per cent of users would “definitely” use a self-service application, while another 44 per cent said they would “most likely” do so. Only 6 per cent of respondents said they would never use such an application.
While many providers already offer self-help tools, often in the form of online help pages and forums, providing a more advanced device application would deliver a greater level of customer care. On-device applications for handling phone issues, such as those offered by Cellebrite and others, can yield higher customer satisfaction and help to cut customer service calls and costs.
Remote Diagnostic Tools
Operators that wish to offer a more advanced level of technical support should also consider a remote technical support service. Beyond saving the customer a trip to a technical support location, this service would make the most efficient use of technical support staff.
Telco customer-care executives wary that remote diagnostic tools will increase the length of calls to call centers, a key performance indicator on which they are measured, should consider two additional factors: First, with better tools, there will be a higher percentage of first call resolutions, which is another key KPI. Second, when implemented in tandem with a self-help app, an operator can expect fewer calls, and fewer total call-center minutes, another KPI that is a key cost driver.
The remote tools need to provide clear messages to the support staff, as well as offer to fix the issue, if possible, or recommend other courses of action. With direct access to malfunctioning handsets, such tools could also provide historical data on the phone’s diagnostic history that can act as a reference point for device performance over time. This offering will be most efficient if remote diagnostic tools work across all devices and OSs, so that support can be provided to all customers.
Advanced In-Store Technical Support
Some mobile operators have already invested in qualified technical staff to offer better help to customers, but often they lack the tools to diagnose more complex software issues. While trained staff are generally more efficient at addressing technical challenges, even they cannot always diagnose and resolve smartphone issues without appropriate tools. In many retail locations, the personnel handling phone issues are also the sales agents. The amount of time these sales representatives spend on troubleshooting activities, which do not directly generate revenue, is a key concern for operators.
Furthermore, when in-store staff are unable to advise a customer on why the issue first arose, the customer may experience a recurring problem, become frustrated, and contemplate changing providers.
More advanced diagnostic tools can effectively pre-empt this scenario and help mobile operators by providing in-store support staff with the capability to quickly and efficiently identify the real underlying smartphone issues – and then provide the right resolution to permanently fix them. Automated identification and resolution of problems, for example, reduces time-consuming manual troubleshooting. Greater accuracy provided by automated solutions ensures more first time resolutions, eliminating repeated visits for the same issue.
Improving Customer Support Improves the Bottom Line
Today, the majority of consumers with smartphone issues typically consult in-store support, unverified sources for troubleshooting, or no one at all, revealing poor diagnostic support chains and decreasing brand loyalty.Consumers are increasingly self-reliant, though, if they are given quality tools. For service providers, universal self-service resolutions can raise brand value and cut overhead.
An integrated, multi-channel solutions platform consisting of self-help applications, remote diagnostic tools, and advanced in-store technical support, makes even the greenest agent a technical expert. Adding a self-service application transitions the vast majority of customers out of the high-cost channels for their first line service, reducing call centers and in-store visits to escalation points for when the app cannot solve the problem. Providers can then funnel non-revenue generating activity to the lowest-cost channel and free up additional resources for more essential tasks.
The result: a more cost-effective solutions system for operators and consumers alike, maximising overall efficiency and customer satisfaction.