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Industry Research : Telcos Urged to Lift their Game for Small Businesses
Telecommunicatons companies should take a page from the playbook of airlines and distinguish between premium-paying customers and cattle-class travellers, according to new research.
A study of 260 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees showed evidence of poor customer service; they didn't enjoy a higher level of customer care compared with the average punter. It found that 29 per cent of small business owners suffered the same customer service and complaint-handling issues experienced by consumers. The most common customer service problem for small business was for fixed voice services, at 46 per cent.
Complaints ranged from the length of phone calls (22 per cent), being on hold (18 per cent), being passed between departments (9 per cent) and having to call multiple times (7 per cent).
One business owner who was not identified complained of being left on hold for hours. It took 14 telephone calls over three days to resolve the matter, and every customer service representative provided a different answer to the queries. Another complained of being charged for a non-existent fixed phone line, and even a non-existent account manager.
Many respondents cited dealing with overseas call centre staff and their poor grasp of English as a common bugbear while lodging complaints. Other issues included response times to fix technical or service issues, and lack of clear or correct information. Respondents also had customer service problems with mobile voice (33 per cent), fixed broadband (32 per cent), voice over IP (29 per cent), mobile broadband (21 per cent) and Eftpos (11 per cent).
"The vast majority of respondents use business-grade services. By paying a premium for business services, there is an implicit understanding that as a business customer they would enjoy a higher level of customer support," the report's author, Shara Evans, said.
"As will be evidenced by respondent comments, this is not always the case."
The study was conducted by Market Clarity and funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.
More than 50 per cent of respondents admitted to having no back-up plan if their fixed broadband stopped working.
Ms Evans urged businesses to purchase a mobile broadband "dongle", or obtain a fixed broadband service from multiple providers using different technologies to their business being impacted when offline.
Price was cited the most important reason for choosing a telecommunications service at 42 per cent, customer service came in at 27 per cent, plan inclusions was 13 per cent, while the remainder picked other criteria.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013