Telecom Process Improvement

          Most of the time in business, it’s very easy to recognize and quantify the cost of fixing something that’s been broken. If a shelf of product inventory toppled over and crashed, you can account for each item that was lost and come up with a total cost for replacing it. If there is a bug in your code, you can track the time it takes to find the issue and correct it. What is often much less tangible however, is the sunk cost of dealing with the issue. How much time is spent in the background holding meetings or speaking with customers to get to the bottom of the concern and figuring out the right fix? How does that process affect your bottom line? This isn’t often considered at all, since these types of interactions are just seen as ‘part of the job’. Believe it or not however, ignoring this part of your company’s output can be the difference between maximizing growth and burning into the red. Let’s discuss one example.

The Issue
Ivory Bridge Group was retained by an international telecommunications company with a retail customer base of 10 Million, to help identify and remedy the losses they were experiencing through customer complaints. Each year, the company averaged 1.32 million complaints from their customers on everything from service issues to account access problems. While their team was able to keep up and resolve the customer concerns, the company was repeatedly missing their target net growth and could not understand the reason.

New acquisitions were steady, customer churn rate was low and the team was dedicated and hardworking, yet the numbers did not reflect any of this. When IBG entered the fray, we knew there would be some deep analysis required to uncover the real issue.

Our Process
We began by taking a hard look at the client’s operations. In order to see what the team could not, we needed to understand the business and how it functioned daily, from sales management to customer interactions and accounting procedures - everything was a potential weak point. IBG identified the KOL’s or key opinion leaders on the team and spoke to each of them about the processes that drive the business. We spent time with customer service reps and segmented their customers into distinct persona groups to understand how and where income was being generated. It was at this point that the excessive complaints that reps had been receiving were brought to our attention.

These complaints became another layer of the information we were piecing together to understand our client’s problem. Based on these new details, IBG moved into market research, conducting extensive surveys and focus groups with dissatisfied customers to unearth what was most affecting them. We implemented a customer experience management (CXM) strategy that put the focus of operations on the customers to understand how they perceived the service provided to them by this company.

Throughout our study, none of these revelations could have been made in a silo. The key to narrowing in on the issue was compiling, organizing, comparing and strategically analyzing every new bit of information, including how it related to standard company processes. We ran analyses of the customer complaints and looked at them through the lens of the company’s KPIs. Uncovering the aspects of business that were hurting customer perception and requiring additional attention to ensure customer retention was critical to the process.

An interesting outcome from our customer research showed that while issues seemed to have been taken care of satisfactorily, there was a sense of exasperation with the act of filing a complaint. There were even a number of complaints about the process itself. Our concurrent studies of company processes unearthed some inefficiencies in their complaint handling system. Once we were able to more directly include this information in our surveys, we found that the complaint process itself was in fact a major pain point for customers. The outcomes were positive enough to keep them engaged with the company, but too many were absolutely frustrated with the method of getting to resolution.

Based on the process that was being used to resolve complaints - from the persons who needed to be notified, the average time taken in deliberation, completion of data entry, contacting the customer (often multiple times) and closing out the issue - IBG found that the company was spending $10 to process and resolve each complaint. Given the 1.32 Million complaints they received each year, this was a huge hit to their bottom line.

Solution & Results

Ivory Bridge Group was able to implement a process improvement for the way this telecom company dealt with incoming complaints. We worked with their KOLs and customer success team to set up a framework for rolling out the plan, which included service rep training and support as well as a reliable, well-formulated system of metrics for tracking changes in outcome. Once the new process was running smoothly, IBG conducted follow up surveys with customers to see how they felt about it. Feedback was largely positive and at the end of that year, the company saw a 27% decrease in complaints which resulted in savings of $3.6 Million. Customer satisfaction also went up by 10% - a notable improvement in consumer trust.

Not only did IBG’s suggestion for change make an impact on the customer experience, but it also left employees feeling more productive and less burnt out by the continuous process of issue resolution.

Final Analysis

In business, a single process change can have a dual revenue effect, saving both the time and money that would have been spent on fixing problems and processing them. Companies often have a hard time taking a number as nebulous as, in this instance, logged complaints and mapping it to a very specific financial benefit. Though rarely quantified, these ‘indirect’ costs can be pretty hefty. This is why the ability to unitize and monetize process improvements becomes a crucial part of tracking overall company performance.

Our work with this telecommunications provider was yet another proof that maximizing efficiency also maximizes profits. This is not only because of the reduction of complaints, but also because by improving the customer experience, you’re keeping them more sticky, or less likely to seek service from a competitor. The costs we were able to remediate in this case were found through a multi-faceted approach to customer service that led to the improvement of one high-ranking touch-point.


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