Employee Engagement

Ofcom’s £4.6 million fine for Vodafone consistently letting down its customers and for which it has apologised profusely included £925,000 for failing to handle customer complaints in any way effectively.

Customer service agents were unprepared to handle complaints, without the right processes in place to address customers’ issues and escalate complaints as appropriate. Customers weren’t even given the right information in the first place, with Vodafone failing to inform them of their rights to take unresolved complaints to a third-party resolution scheme.

Frank Burnett-Alleyne, Telecoms Manager at Rant & Rave said “The details of Ofcom’s investigation reveals that customer service agents lacked “sufficiently clear guidance on what constituted a complaint” and did not deal with these cases in an appropriate, fair or timely manner.

“We know that the central component for handling customer engagement is the frontline employees. Whilst training is vital to ensure staff understand how to deal with the customer, so too is engaging employees and to do this two things are needed – direct customer feedback on their performance and empowerment to act.

“In our experience, for frontline employees, understanding customer feedback and sentiment is critical to success. Customer sentiment tells employees where they were great and where they could improve. It provides evidence to the business as to where the employee is doing the best they can and where systems or processes are not only hampering delivery of great customer service but also potentially damaging employee morale as the employee is not at fault.

“This record fine from Ofcom should act as a wakeup call to the telecoms industry. Businesses need to consider how effective customer engagement can be proactively implemented, with the likes of sentiment analysis, rather than in a response to negative feedback from customers or industry feedback. Whilst today’s news appears to be an example of the worst case scenario, it is positive to see that Vodafone is taking steps towards change, starting with an apology to anyone affected by the errors.”

Matthieu Clauzure, brand and marketing manager at customer experience specialist CCA International, which helps major brands in the worlds of telecoms, soft drinks and automotive (such as Vauxhall and Peugeot) give their customers the experience they demand, had the following to say:

“Providing a poor, or non-existent, service is bad enough; to compound this by hampering customers’ ability to complain after the event is unforgiveable. Any organisation should be able to not only let customer know their rights, but also to provide a smooth, satisfactory experience when those rights are put to the test.

“This means ensuring agents are trained on how to recognise, deal with and escalate complaints when necessary. It means making sure all information about a customer, their account and their issues is accessible to any agent, at any time. And it means making sure that any communication a customer has with the business is treated as a single, uninterrupted conversation, no matter how many different channels or points of contact it covers.

“Organisations should now take this as a wake-up call; even if their own activities are whiter than white, they should still make sure that their complaints procedure is sufficient. After all, a near-million-pound fine is still no drop in the ocean.”

Mike Davies, VP EMEA at customer communication management specialist GMC Software, which helps organisations in finance, insurance and government engage with customers in the way they want, when they want it, said:

“In the 21st century, it’s not enough to assume that customers will be aware of their rights from a business, or that they will see every piece of critical information. The business must be able not only to share this information, but to prove that it has done so; and that the information has been read. Simply sending out letters isn’t enough; consumers will expect these communications across channels that suit them, whether that is email, SMS, or even by post.

“While not every company will suffer flaws in its billing system, they will all have to deal with customer complaints at some point. To ensure they avoid Ofcom’s attention, they need to make sure that customers are given information on their rights in a consistent manner across all channels, and that they can record every instance of when, how and to whom information is sent.

“This needs to continue throughout the entire process, with customers always receiving the information they need, over the channel that suits them, without the need to repeat themselves. By learning from examples such as this, businesses can protect both their customers, and themselves.”

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