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Cut Customer Anxiety Part 2

By Katie Williams, Founder & CEO, CommuniKateCo

In Part 1, we discussed things you can do to decrease your customers turn-up anxiety and increase their loyalty to you by improving their customer experience with you and your carrier. That discussion covered improvements you can make during the implementation phase:

1.       Explain the implementation process up front.
2.       Get involved in getting all the technical information.
3.       Attend customer turn ups.

In Part II we will discuss what you can do after the turn-up to keep your clients focused on you as their telecom and data go-to professional.” Lets face it, unless you are a rebiller, they are getting their invoices from the carrier, and they could easily cut you out of the picture.  There are a few things you can do to keep this from happening.

1. Be the carrier liaison.  Having the customer call you for all of their carrier questions or trouble-tickets may not be something you want offer as a service as it can eat up a lot of your time.  However, the byproduct of winning their confidence during the implementation phase is that they are going to think of you first when they have a trouble or question.  Its not a bad thing.  Its actually very good for business.   Make sure you are prepared for this by having carrier contact numbers at your fingertips.  Program them into your cell and your VoIP and Outlook directories in case you get a call.  You can do a warm transfer and inform the customer to call you back if they arent getting the information they require.  Its a short call for you and another good customer facing interaction.

2. Keep track of customers information such as circuit IDs, main numbers, account numbers and contract end dates.  The carriers require a minimum amount of information for verification.  Having that information available when you get a call at 6 p.m. on Friday from your biggest customer saying their circuits are down can save you a lot of time and fumbling.  How you keep track of this information is another story.  I have clients who use Excel spreadsheets and their Outlook calendar for reminders about contract dates or they modify the use of some other system like Salesforce.com, Lotus Notes or SharePoint.  Some develop custom-built Microsoft or other CRM solutions.  Excel may sound primitive in comparison, but you can keep it on your smartphone.  How you choose to track is less important than having it conveniently available.  Its important the customer feels they can count on you when this information is required and a little preparation up front will save you a lot of time in the long run.

3. Help them through the disconnect process.  This is often a sticky point for customers.  Theyve decided to buy services from you but they need to disconnect with their old carrier and they dont want to pay for both carriers at the same time.  There are few things it will help the customer to know:

  • Most carriers require 30 days notice to disconnect and stop billing.
  • Placing a disconnect request while the new order is in process can stop a porting request.
  • Customers typically will get two bills from the old carrier after the disconnect. 
  • Carriers bill a month ahead for facilities and a month behind for usage (hence the last two bills).

In most cases, the safest thing for a customer to do is to be prepared to pay for two carriers for 1530 days. Customers need to understand that disconnecting with the old carrier too soon could leave them without service if there is a facility issue with the new service or some other calamity at the time of turn-up.  I recommend putting together a brief e-mail or checklist for the customer explaining their options and risks, as well as a brief description of how the carriers bill so they wont be surprised.

4. Call your customers quarterly.  Calling them every month may be overkill but make quarterly calls.  You will be keeping yourself fresh in their minds and it keeps you abreast of any needs they have or staffing changes.  Nothing is worse than developing a great relationship with a customer through a great implementation and then losing them because the new IT person didnt know the company was working with you.

Katie Williams is founder and CEO of CommuniKateCo, which provides telecommunications back-office support to agents and resellers.  Williams has worked in the telecommunications industry since 1996 in both CLEC and incumbent organizations.  Previously, she was a product manager for a wholesale carrier supporting 30 carriers and a large VAR base with product pricing, training and post-order processes.  For 15 years, Williams has assisted sales teams, agents and VARs in managing implementations, driving process improvements and providing sales tools that help them to effectively serve their end-users. 

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