To tackle rising costs and an increasingly competitive market, telecommunications companies are turning to online platforms to provide customer service, according to the Ovum report ‘Customer Service: Where are Telcos investing?’.

The report, which looks into the priorities of telco customer service directors, finds that online portals will see some of the greatest growth in investments as they seek to ‘improve customer service and satisfaction levels whilst managing rising costs’.

Clare McCarthy, Ovum practice leader and co-author of the report, says, “To secure customer loyalty in the face of disruptive competitors, such as Apple and Amazon, telcos need to be accessible, responsive, consistent and effective.

“Web-based customer service delivers on accessibility and consistency and has the added benefit of diverting costs away from more expensive alternatives such as contact centres. In addition, it has the ability to scale without adding massively to costs, so it’s easy to see why telcos are increasingly viewing it as a high investment priority.”

A key reason why telcos are heading online is the massive growth in the smartphone market and the rise in mobile broadband traffic. According to the report, growth in these areas is placing ‘an unsustainable burden’ on existing telco customer service infrastructure, with queries regarding smartphones taking 10 times longer to resolve than those for high-end mobile devices that were available five years ago.

Investments in online portals will enable customers to self-serve their smartphone problems, says McCarthy: “Allowing the customer to solve their own problems such as resetting passwords and checking account balances online is a lesson the telcos can take from other verticals. If portals are easy to navigate, and customers can see that their issue has been resolved satisfactorily, they are more likely to be happier with their telco supplier. However, this is not the whole story, as not all customers want to use online customer service.”

“Telcos know they must follow the customer journey on the customer’s terms. It is for this reason that even telcos continue to improve their service offers in retail stores and via the contact centres,” McCarthy concludes.