CHICAGO – It’s not spectrum. It’s not technology. It’s not even cool devices. What’s driving today’s and tomorrow’s wireless world is the customer.

“2010 was the year of change,” said Susan McNeice, vice president at the Yankee Group, sponsor of this week’s 4G World confab in Chicago. “The customer is in the driver’s seat.”

“Customer experience” is the buzzword, and McNeice noted, adding consumers choose the best screen for their video and content depending on time of day and location. And most enterprise devices are being chosen by the end user and not by the IT department.

“Yankee Group believes customer experience is the last way service providers will be able to compete on differentiation,” she said. “Price is not the differentiator. You have to deliver a world-class service.”

She continued, “Customer experience is the through which transformation investments should be measured, because that will ultimately drive reduced opex.”

Customer loyalty should be a key goal of any service provider, and there are four distinct dimensions to customer experience: delivery and operations, company and brand, products and services, and channel.

“Customers want a consistent, dynamic and transparent experience,” McNeice commented. “Customer-service representatives  need to do the same thing all the time and do it quickly, in real or near-real time, especially in wireless.”

And the fine print needs to be revamped in all contracts for products and services, she added: “Customers don’t want to have to take their attorneys with them to the retail shop when they buy new stuff because of the fine print and the hidden surprises.”

She concluded, “Customers will pay more to get the consumption experience they want.”

Also touting the customer-experience mantra was Yossi Zohar, head of product marketing at Amdocs’ customer-management division.

“The call center is the first place customers go with problems, because they want a real person. They don’t like the Web,” he said, adding only about a third of customers use the Web for product-and-service troubleshooting.

Fifty percent of questions concern billing, he said, and smartphone support is a huge issue; the cost of smartphone support is between 10 percent- and 50-percent higher than support of other wireless phones.

There are several ways service providers can revamp their customer service:

>> There has to be a “single version of the truth” given on the Web, by customer-service reps and by retail stores.
>> There has to be a streamlined user experience in assisted channels.
>> The self-service (Web or IVR) experience has to be enhanced to increase adoption.
>> Social media has to be embraced as a channel.
>> The customer experience has to be measured and analyzed.

Debra Baker

The Daily

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