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Will Vodafone usher in a new culture of customer service for telcos?

Customer service mobile CEM

Either customer service is an afterthought for the telcos, or they are just genuinely terrible at it, but Vodafone’s new 30-day service guarantee sets to challenge the status quo of sub-standard service in the telco arena.

For new or upgrading customers, a 30 day trial period will be offered allowing consumers and small businesses the opportunity to cancel contracts without penalty if they are not totally satisfied with coverage, customer service or the performance of a new device. While coverage will be put to the test on a network which has had mixed reviews over the last few years, the focus here seems to be geared towards customer service. Areas which will come under the microscope include Vodafone’s 24/7 customer care, AI customer service chatbot, TOBi, the human customer service agents, biometric voice-recognition software and the effectiveness of the in-store tech team.

“We’ve been listening to what our customers want and over the last year have worked tirelessly to introduce new technology and initiatives to help us deliver great customer service,” said Nick Jeffery, CEO at Vodafone UK. “Now we’re backing our big improvements with a big promise – try us for 30 days and if you’re not impressed, you’re free to walk away.  No penalties, no ifs, no buts.”

While this is a promising step forward, whether it will have a lasting impact on the telcos depressing reputation for customer service remains to be seen. Considering the past experience of the telcos, stepping into the firing line is certainly a brave move for Vodafone.

In a recent survey from Which, Vodafone ranked bottom of the list for customer service satisfaction scores. This might be a damning reference for the telco, but it should be worth noting the other network owners scored pretty shockingly across the board. Vodafone scored 49%, while EE was the next worst with 56% and O2 as the fourth worst in the UK with 58%. Three fared better with 64%, though the top ranking spots were all taken by MVNOs.

This is not the first time telcos have been singled out for poor customer service, as it has been a pretty common story over the last few years. It does appear the telcos give little concern to this aspect of the business, perhaps due to the limited number of providers in the market, and the critical importance of connectivity in today’s society; if everyone is bad, the consumers will have little option but to accept the status quo, as going without is not an option.

Customer service has never really been a selling point for the telcos, but perhaps this is the kick-start which was needed. All you can eat data packages weren’t common place in the early days, though Three challenged the industry and forced the hand of competitors, while the same could be said of all-inclusive calls and SMS. Evolution of services doesn’t seem to be an accepted term in the telco space, usually it requires disruption for any notable changes to benefit the consumer; perhaps Vodafone breaking rank might spur the cumbersome industry into action.

Vodafone has certainly been re-evaluating the business in the last 12 months, and now it seems to consider itself in a position to tackle the UK’s leading telcos. It’s always amazing to think Vodafone was once the leader in the UK market, though with a new mindset in customer service, new spectrum for mobile and a new partnership with CityFibre to tackle the broadband market, it is shifting itself into a promising convergence position.

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