Liberty Global projects says telcos might have got the customer service memo

Liberty Global has announced the beginning of a new project which will transform it communicates with customers, leaning on the ‘conversational commerce’ idea championed by Amazon.

Considering it is such a prominent industry which spends so much on customer acquisition, you have to ask why it took the telcos this long to figure out that tolerable customer service is a good thing. Most businesses would tell you it is far more financially attractive to keep current customers happy and spending than it is to replace them with new ones, but idea doesn’t seem to have been received by the telcos. Yes, customer churn is a metric which measures the performance of a company, but have the telcos actually being doing anything notable to reduce this. We’re not too sure.

The first step in the process will be with Virgin Media in the UK, with customers able to text VM with simple questions and queries. It sounds like a really unassuming idea, but it is one which could make a notable impact on customer relationships. How many of the younger generations actually spend time talking on the phone nowadays? Texting is almost second nature, so would seem like a logical step in updating how a company communicates with its customers. The same strategy will roll out across Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

“We understand that the lives of our customers are fluid and demanding,” said Melanie Longdon, VP of Customer Experience Operations at Liberty Global. “We simply don’t have time to wait for answers to our questions – that’s why we are messaging each other more than ever in our personal lives. Knowing this, we are using LivePerson’s market-leading  technology to ensure Liberty Global goes fully digital, and align with consumers, empowering them to use our services on their own terms and at their own pace, for a best-in-class experience.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this idea develops, as LivePerson (the company providing the SMS platform) offers quite a variety of ways to engage customers. SMS looks to be the simplest of the platforms, though the company does also offer a number of customer service bots which can be implemented in various scenarios including in-app, Facebook and web messaging. The fact that LivePerson claims to already work with 18,000 companies around the world shows how far behind the trend the telco industry actually is.

A couple of days ago The Institute of Customer Service released its latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), which rated the telco industry as 74.2 out of 100 for overall customer satisfaction, which compares to an average of 78.1 across all industries.

In fairness, there are players in the industry who are trying to do something about this negligence to the customer. Vodafone has been implementing an AI-driven customer service solution called TOBi for quite a while now, though there are few other examples. We get the impression that telcos are more concerned about stealing market share off competitors to reduce p*ssed exiting customers, than actually doing something about customer satisfaction.

With perceptions like this it is of little surprise the telcos are heading towards the dreaded title of utility.

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