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online customer svcFace it, no one likes their phone company. But a new study shows progress toward closing the gap between "my phone company" and "my arrrgggghhh phone company." That gap is closing online, and Verizon is winning.

Go figure. A recent J.D. Power survey shows that only 27% of smartphone users are satisfied with their phone service. But in this area of great opportunity the effectiveness of online customer service solutions is playing a bigger role in customer satisfaction, retention and growth. 

In the evaluation of online customer service solutions geared toward customers who contracted with one company for wireless, landline, and internet services, Verizon led the way against nine of its competitors for both online help and account management.

According to The Customer Respect Group's "Best and Worst Online Customer Service Systems in the US Telecommunications Industry," Verizon overall, and others such as Qwest and Charter in specific areas, are winning by executing on:

  • Coordination: Disjointed systems hobble many sites in the industry. Lack of consolidation and consistency makes the experience on most triple-play sites confusing, with help systems spread across internal and external sites. Verizon has the best account management systems to serve by systems that are coherent and unified.

  • Customer knowledge: Not all account management systems know their customers well enough, according to the study. Customers who sign in to most account management systems are not be offered relevant and targeted up-selling offers or customized help topics. Customer knowledge (plan, upgrades available, etc.) wold give customers more targeted help and be able to take advantage of upgrade offers that best suit their needs.

  • Communication: AT&T and Verizon offer social media applications. They benefit customers that value user-generated content and users that are not able to find what they need by other means, states the survey. They allow customers to submit issues in their own words and get answers from more knowledgeable peers. 

  • Content: Verizon is also among the leaders in alternative content presentation, such as interactive demonstrations and virtual agents. 

  • Billing: Only a few sites are offering enhanced online billing.


The opportunity to improve customer care online is tremendous. J.D. Power estimates that every customer that needs service is worth an average of $50-100 more per month in gross revenue per service. That means a swing of just 10,000 customers would be worth millions of dollars on an annual basis. And add this stat: 18 percdent of all US homes are now wireless only. The subsequent revenue per customer loss means that customer retention is more important than ever.

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Published 17 March, 2009 by John Gaffney

John Gaffney is US Editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter

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