Telcos Are Getting In Sync with Online Customers
Telcos are lagging behind their counterparts in high tech and retail in terms of how they treat their online customers, according to The Customer Respect Group's report, "First Quarter 2007 Online Customer Respect Study of the Telecommunications Industry." The research and consulting firm's assessment tallies telecommunications companies' Customer Respect Index (CRI)--an analysis of customers' online experience on a scale of 1 to 10--at 5.9, a slight improvement from six months ago, but behind high tech and computing's 6.1 and retail's 6.2. While telecommunications' CRI ties with the airlines and travel industry's score, the mark outpaces financial services' 5.7 and life insurance's 5.1.
The study examines 54 Web sites of companies in the cable, MVNO, telecommunications, and wireless/mobile spaces in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. across several elements. These include simplicity; accessibility (support for users with visual disabilities); inclusiveness (support for dial-up visitors); responsiveness; transparency; principles (respect for personal data supplied online); and privacy.
CenturyTel led all evaluated companies (8.1), followed by O2 (7.4), Virgin Mobile Canada (7.3), AT&T (7.1), Verizon Wireless (7.0), and Virgin Mobile UK (7.0). CenturyTel, AT&T and Verizon Wireless were the best-scoring companies in the U.S., according to the report. Canadian companies did, however, outperform their U.S. and British counterparts.
When segmented by subindex, Talk Talk, T-Mobile, and Virgin Mobile UK led the pack in simplicity, each pulling in a score of 8.7. Kingston Communications' score in the attitude category surpassed all companies, with a 9.2; Century's 8.5 was the strongest among U.S. sites. CenturyTel received the strongest score for responsiveness with 8.9, Sasktel in transparency with 8.4 (Verizon Wireless had the best showing among U.S. sites with 8.2), and Verizon Wireless in both principles (9.6) and privacy (8.8).
The overall telco industry has improved in online communications. Eight percent of emails were ignored completely, notably better than the overall industry average of 24 percent, and a 5 percentage-point improvement from the last report. Email response quality and timeliness also got a boost--nearly half received responses within a day and were helpful and relevant, up from about one-third a year ago, according to the report.
The telecommunications industry also fared better in all subindexes compared to all companies surveyed by The Customer Respect Group in 2006, with the exception of privacy. Telcos received a tally of 5.7, one-tenth of a point lower than the showing of all industries; 64 percent of telcos were deemed to ask for excessive amounts of personal data, compared to 43 percent in other industries, according to the report. Additional stats show that more than 75 percent of telcos use the data for ongoing marketing, while 64 percent of companies in other industries do.
Interestingly enough, traditional telcos had a stronger showing in terms of privacy, with a score of 6.2 compared to MVNOs (5.7), wireless/mobile (5.5), and cable (5.0). "If you look at the telecommunications industry, there's a lot of crossing over [into other] territories," says Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, adding that the industry is in a state of flux and churn. "Cable companies are selling telephone and telephone companies are selling Internet access. They're all selling each other's product, which means that there is a race to market to consumers right now. So, in that race to grab new consumers they're doing a lot more online marketing than they would traditionally have done, which means you collect data and keep reusing that data over and over to see if you can grab as many customers as possible."
He adds, "The traditional players--telecommunication companies--they're not as aggressive at the moment. [But] there's a danger as [companies get more aggressive]...they might actually turn off those customers if they cross over the line. They've got to be very careful getting that balance right."
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