Self-service is making a comeback in Telecoms



John Ball

Soapbox

Self-service for telecommunications companies is not a new concept. The 1950s saw a radical change for telecoms...



John Ball

Soapbox

Self-service for telecommunications companies is not a new concept. The 1950s saw a radical change for telecoms users when customers were given the facility to dial direct without having to use switchboard operators. This facility offered more control to the user and saved time and money for the service provider.

Once again, the trend is moving back towards self-service - using the facilities of the Internet and e-commerce. This trend will fundamentally affect users' relationships with their communications services providers. The traditionally conservative financial services sector has embraced technology in order to gain a competitive edge. Telecoms companies need to learn from this.

For instance,in a recent NOP survey, 86% of First Direct's customers said they were either "extremely" or "very" satisfied with the service it provides. Its combination of PC banking, empowered telephone operators and 24-hour availability is yielding 10,000 new customers per month.

In order to take full advantage of the new mobile technologies, subscribers want to be able to oversee their own accounts.

In the US, statistics prove that the customer care element of self-service is good business. Those who bank and pay bills online are apparently 2.5 times more likely to stay with their bank than their offline counterparts.

The plethora of services available using mobile technology demands self-service. And the technology is available for service providers to provide the facility to empower their customers. We should learn from the experience of AT&T in the 1950s: self-service is better service.

John Ball is co-founder and CEO of Netonomy

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On the plus side, self-service can be empowering for some. And it's often much quicker. But on the flip side, communications are restricted, variety is reduced and service is diminished. For far too many companies, "self-service" is simply shorthand for a reduced work force and limited options.
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