Have Number, Will Travel

A recent study by The Management Network Group cited that 6 percent of wireless phone users--about nine million--would switch carriers within the first 24 hours after the Local Number Portability act (LNP) takes effect. The LNP states that wireless users can keep the same local number even if they change carriers. Additionally, according to the study, 27 percent of current wireless subscribers--about 39 million customers--will churn "as soon as they receive a better offer," and more than 50 percent of wireless customers who had experienced customer service problems in the past year would switch carriers. How can wireless providers solve the problem? By delivering superior customer service. "Products and price are no longer differentiators," says Matt McConnell, cofounder of Knowlagent, a provider of agent performance solutions. "The only real differentiator among wireless carriers is service." According to market research, there is a strong link between agent performance and customer churn. A recent J.D. Power and Associates study indicates that customers who found customer service agents knowledgeable were significantly less likely to switch providers in the next 12 months. A recent Gartner survey states that 68 percent of customers had left a telecom service provider because they were upset with the poor treatment they received. Since revenue-per-minute has dropped significantly (at present the cost of acquiring each new customer ranges between $300 and $425), wireless providers must make a serious effort to retain customers with loyalty programs and superior service, according to Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. McConnell says companies that focus on training agents to regularly facilitate first-call resolution will see the least amount of churn. "Carriers are looking to inspire confidence and recall in their agents, so they can not only have an answer, but have the right answer, and solve the problem for good right then and there," McConnell says. According to Gartner research, 70 percent of all business transactions occur over the telephone and 92 percent of customers get in touch with businesses through the customer service center. "This means each time a customer phones a customer service center there is an opportunity to increase their satisfaction and cross-sell," McConnell says. "The person on the front line--your customer service agent--determines whether customers stay, grow, or go. It's time for corporate executives to pay attention to their customer service center."
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