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Survey calls for customer experience overhaul

When Forrester Research asked nearly 5,000 consumers about their interactions with a variety of companies to gauge the usefulness, usability, and enjoyability of their experiences, wireless carriers kept coming up short. Consumer feedback indicated that wireless customers are largely displeased with their carriers across the board. The survey, however, also showed they are even unhappier with both their Internet and television service providers.

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Forrester used the survey findings to calculate a Customer Experience Index (CxPi) for 112 firms spanning nine industries. With a CxPi of 66%, wireless carriers came in fifth in the industry rankings. Internet providers came in third to last on the list of nine with a CxPi of 62%, and TV service providers followed, beating out only medical insurance providers, at a CxPi of 60%.

In order of overall CxPi, the wireless carriers ranked included Virgin Mobile, Alltel, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, TracFone, AT&T, Nextel and Sprint. Only the top three wireless carriers received "excellent" ratings in usefulness, and not a single carrier was considered particularly enjoyable to work with. In fact, Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile barely scraped by with "okay" ratings, while Sprint, Nextel and TracFone all scored in the "very poor" level.

Forrester analyst and report author, Bruce Temkin, noted that if you remove Virgin Mobile from the mix, the industry would actually fall near the bottom of the list of all nine industries. As wireless handsets add more applications and features and smart phones become more pervasive, wireless carriers’ biggest problem was in ease of use.

Sprint, however, fell behind in all categories, including cross-channel experiences, an area studied in earlier reports. Temkin recommended a radical overhaul of customer experience efforts for Sprint as it comes off a rocky year of financial troubles and WiMAX woes. Temkin also called for a strong commitment from the CEO, a spot temporarily filled by Chief Financial Officer Paul Saleh, until the company replaces the position vacated by Gary Forsee in October.

“While Sprint received the lowest scores in all three areas of the CxPi, it ran into the most problems with ease of use -- where it was rated well below every other wireless provider,” Temkin said in an email interview. “It's hard to tell the cause and effect with customer experience. Certainly a poor customer experience will hurt business. But sometimes, companies take their eye off of key customer-facing processes when their business is struggling, which can create customer experience problems. This can cause a real downward spiral.”

While the survey didn’t provide a report card for AT&T and Verizon’s IPTV service offerings, it did rank eight satellite and cable operators in its survey of television providers. DirecTV scored highest, and at the other end of the spectrum, two firms, Charter Communications and Cablevision/Interactive Optimum ended up with “very poor” overall ratings. Ease of use and usefulness aside, most consumers said they are simply not enjoying their television service. All TV providers scored in the “very poor” range for enjoyability.

Charter Communications continued its losing streak in the Internet provider realm coming in last across the board. Overall, BellSouth, now part of AT&T, topped the list and Earthlink was voted the easiest to do business with.

As wireless, TV and Internet technologies continue to evolve, the results seem to indicate that either consumers are expecting too much or service providers and carriers are failing to deliver. Temkin’s determination, at least as far as service providers are concerned, is that it is time for the industries to undergo a complete customer experience overhaul.

“When it comes to customer experience, these firms should stop benchmarking each other, unless their goal is comparative mediocrity,” he said in the report. “If service providers want to break out of their customer experience funk, they need to look outside of their industry for best practices to emulate. This will take a significant effort, as it will require considerable shifts in the firms’ processes and cultures.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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