Breaking down the wireless bill
(Second in an ongoing series of articles focused on how the telecom industry is addressing customer service. Read the first installment.)
When the first version of the iPhone came out, in what Computerworld magazine called one of “technology’s 10 most mortifying moments,” consumers with 300-page bills voiced their disdain in what became a viral video on the Internet. While Apple shortly thereafter modified its billing practices, complexity and confusion in billing continues to be a pain point for many wireless customers and, in turn, the customer service division of the carriers who field the complaints.
According to a J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Wireless Customer Care Performance study released today, the average amount of time wireless customers spend on hold this year is 4.4 minutes, a 34% increase from the average hold time in 2003. The increase in hold times correlates with the complexities introduced with new handsets and advanced services, the study said, finding that 49% of wireless customers have contacted customer care within the past year. Inherent in this is the confusion that advanced services can introduce into the wireless bill, often leading to charges that come as a surprise to the customer.
“You would think the telecommunications industry would have figured out they really need to coach a new customer in terms of what their first bill is going to look like…get in front of the complexity of this, whether it’s the purchase of and understanding of the bill or the installation and talk them through it to give them a realistic preview of what’s to come with their first couple of bills,” said Phil Doriot, partner and head of the telecom practice at CFI Group. “I think they could probably help themselves quite a bit if they did more of that.”
Take, for example, customers who use their wireless phones overseas. With overseas roaming charges, data transfer rates and connection fees, it is not unlikely that a consumer returns with a bill totaling hundreds of dollars more than anticipated. The carrier is then put in the position of collecting the overseas revenue at the risk of losing the customer or refunding the money anyway.
“You’re angry, and to make you less angry, they give you money back,” Doriot said. “They’ve shot themselves in the foot twice because not only did they make you angry when you got the bill and looked at the confusing overseas charges, but they’ve been willing to give you some back, but they make you take the initiative to call and ask for it.”
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