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How Telefonica O2 got Customer Experience & Services so Wrong, and 27 Principles to save O2 Chaotic Experience

How Telefonica O2 got Customer Experience & Services so Wrong?

To say that the marriage between Telefonica and O2 is bad, is an understatement. Since the merger, Telefonica O2 yields high return, but poor quality in services and customers are the ones suffering the most. Truth be told,  it never had great services, but it was acceptable when O2 was standing alone. The CEO  Markus Haas apparently never really understood that customers are the reason a company exists and serving them well will keep them longer or engaged forever if they deliver in their promises.  Despite their low public perception, they continue to be profitable and  is the largest mobile operator by subscribers in Germany. But why? It’s simple. Give customers a low enough price, they will turn a “blind-eye” to the bothersome customer service and lack of customer centricity. Since the company is  still very profitable, management never really  took time to develop an improved customer experience strategy, besides mentioning to their employees how this could help.  When the integration of this last E-plus acquisition was completed, this what the CEO and his team mentioned:

“The company added that by bringing together a uniform, modern and efficient platform, its customer base will be able to benefit from improved tariffs and products, as well as the faster implementation of new offers” – Team O2  This may have been their wish, but it did not happen like that, and my family recently experienced their utter lack of their customer-centric focus. A brand that I have been a customer of for 14 years…

Recently, one of the most important German business magazines,  Manager Magazines, even criticized Telefonica and O2 CEO’s management skills and the nightmare their customers haveand continue going through today.  Unfortunately In Germany,  a cheap price still wins over customer experience in several cases; therefore, B2B and B2C customers need to start forcing companies here in Europe and specially in DACH (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) to delivery significantly better customer experience, and if not, move to their competitors. This is happening very often due to the fractionated and friction plus customer experience and difficulties to make a simple transaction with this company and some of their competitors . So here is a question for you: Why does the German market mainly care about price instead of customer experience, as do most other western countries? Share your thoughts.

The good news is, if you don’t live in Germany, chances are that you have access to better experiences  , since people need companies that are really and authentically focusing on their customer’s needs. . Companies can claim many things about how they view their customer experience; however, how they actually interact and follow-through and deliver their brand messages and customer experience can be entirely different or disconnected from reality. Even though O2 is trying to improve, their services, they aren’t progressing with customers and actually frustrating  many of them.  The sad reality is that  Germany is decades behind the world in customer experience, services and empathy in several sectors. Despite these shortcomings, some countries like Germany,  Austria and Switzerland still have great products and some outstanding companies that early on, understood that customer experience had to be a priority. Companies like SAP, Zalando, Mercedes-Daimler, BMW and Software AG. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. 

You may be wondering what happened during my experience with O2? I simply wanted to change my plan from an individual one to a family plan, while keeping our respective numbers that we’ve had for 14 years.

In the store I was told that they could not ensure that O2 would let me keep my numbers, meaning, I could easily go to one of their competitors and keep my number. It wasn’t the store’s fault for this, O2 management does not allow the stores to make some key decisions on their own. Their teams understand the lack of flexibility and understanding of customer needs and feel really ashamed to not be able to effectively help customers. The lack of empowerment and trust of O2 management, with their own employees is as frustrating to O2 customers as it is for their own employees. Despite wanting to help, they simply cannot.  As if my in-store experience wasn’t bad enough, my SIX attempts at a resolution via their customer service hotline was even worse. Here are some highlights of my interaction with their online customer service team:

Hi Ricardo, I am very sorry to read that you have had such negative experience with our customer service. I apologize for that. We cannot offer you a callback here but of course we are happy to assist here directly in English. What exactly do you need to solve? Do you need a new SIM-card? Or a new phone for your wife? Or do you want to change the tariff? ^XX”

I had to repeat my issues with Telefonica O2 at least three times… Then I mentioned again I needed a simple call back to solve my issues as fast as possible… here is what we got instead:

Hi Ricardo, of course we value you as our customer but we can neither do nor arrange a callback for you as the social media team handles contact via social media platforms. Sorry for that. Still, we are happy to be there for you if you find the time to explain what you want to order. Regarding your invoice: you’re using a data pack that is charged with XX,XX € and also single connections have been charged. You can check all the details in your itemized bill: ^XX*”

This doesn’t even cover the 10 other days in-between, trying to get to some sort of resolution. I assume their omni channel and customer services teams never heard about time-to-resolution– a basic measurement for services and employees in some companies– really basic. This is just one example of inefficient and poor customer service as a total lack of understanding of a terrible customer journey. A good employee would have solved it in any average company faster than 3 weeks.  A real shame for their new CEO and their leadership team and this does not even delve into all the other blatant issues that I’ve experienced with their  lack of intercommunication. Have any of you had a worse telecommunication network experiences than the one just described? I wish this article will help Telefonica 02 to be better.

The Bottom line

A company that doesn’t empower their customer interface teams to decide and help customers in stores, social media and omni channels, is simply not offering strong customer experience services. Lack of flexibility in this very competitive world of telecommunications, is a killer for companies and a great gift for their competitors.

When your company completely disregards its customer’s experience–both good and bad, you are putting your businesses’ success at the chopping block. Not only was the O2 customer service and lack of empathy horrific, but their channels to contact them are out of touch with the times. When contacted via social media, we were told  that they are not allowed to call back. A successful customer service outreach should include a cyclical response. Calling, writing, chatting should all be interchangeable. The goal is to solve customer’s concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible—NOT to save money by cutting corners. I hope that in reading this open letter, that Telefonica O2 will see that as a customer foremost, then as a customer experience and services  global strategist, that my intention is to call-out their flaws in hopes that they take the serious steps needed to improve. 14 years ago, O2 offered much better service and even a bit better customer experience. So I know it can be better. If they continue to ignore the basic principles of customer service, they will not win the market back and gain a lot of detractors around Europe.

Image is a courtesy of https://www.eptica.com/blog/importance-empathy-customer-service-interactions

Empathy is a very important factor in basic services and customer experience, if and only if solve customer afflictions and issues.

Telefonica O2 has a long way to go when it comes to offering QUALITY, real-time customer service that will keep their customers loyal and recommending them but I hope, my advices bellow maybe will help them.

The  27 pieces of  advice that can drastically improve Telefonica O2 Customer Experience and Services and start a serious transformation in their customer experience culture  now:

  1. Ensure every interaction in any channel is working great and solve customer issues. People will remember your brand if you deliver a very good experience in a timely fashion.
  2. Don’t focus only on profit first, and don’t assume because the company is very profitable that the customer will stay without a very good customer experience and services. Profit is a result of a great services, customer experience and work not just lower prices.
  3. Enhance O2 services and customer experience capabilities and awareness with a  practical approach.
  4. Change your nonexistent customer service culture to something great and valuable to your customer now. Theory doesn’t work, but a culture of services excellence does.
  5. Hire great people focused on serving and helping others. Deliver on-going talent development trainings.
  6. Empathy is key for serving others and going  above and beyond to solve customers’ issues.
  7. Being in tune with customer emotions is crucial. Don’t discredit or disregard anyone’s experience.
  8. Layoff or transfer employees that hang up phones in customer faces, this happens very often in Telefonica O2 German and English hotlines. They are in the wrong place.
  9. Make a Customer Experience road map (Planning)  and execute on it to win the market and customers hearts, so far you are doing the opposite. Intent is not enough.
  10. As part of your culture, also develop a people focus– don’t neglect your teams,  develop your employee experience,  and employed continues trainings. This is the best way to develop better services, empathy, loyal customers and talent.
  11. Give your teams administrating your omni channels support and please give them a simple phone to talk, as a solution to solve customers’ issues or at least ensure that can call customer to take care of their serious afflictions, as most professional companies do these days.
  12. Create a Customer Experience for O2 that will become another  “brand differentiators”  ensuring  customers will memorize very positively the interaction.
  13. Teach your people  WHY they are working… to serve customers—NOT themselves. The same applies to your C-suite. Ensure your services and experience is frictionless, and that is easy to make business with you.
  14. Teach your employees to solve issues in an efficient and timely fashion and respect customer’s time.
  15. Make your intercommunication more fluid and accessible. Your company has several silos that are not communicating with each other due to a lack of customer centricity, bad understanding of customer experience, the need for collaboration and bad management.
  16. Your business’ reason for existence is to serve the customers FIRST. You are disrespecting your customer every day if you do not enhance your customer service, and eventually you will pay the price they will leave. Consumers are observing you and read articles in the news about your terrible service. If your competitors reduce their prices you will have a massive exodus.
  17. Be very careful with your strategy of cheap offerings, this is not enough. Ensure your services and your experience are great and show your customers and the market that you are improving.
  18. Create a position reporting to Telefonica O2 CEO leading the services and experiences at least in VP level if not Chief of Customer Officer.
  19. Give customers flexible offerings even for old customers to move with their numbers portability to new offerings, make their lives easier, since they can leave you after two years.
  20. Create a frictionless experience, not one full of frictions and bad experiences. Create great memories for your customers and they will return or stay.
  21. Has your company used journey mapping  basic methodologies to analyze how bad and negative your customer services and customer experience really are? If not, it is never too late.
  22. Teach your customer-facing employees to apologize, and act proactively  and not reactively when helping customers.
  23. Manage complaints well, and make sure you have a team to solve customers’ issues fast for their satisfaction. Inaction to solve all those issues will cost O2 millions, so better act.
  24. Reward your employees based in the right KPI’s, measures and metrics results of their services not by time of resolution. They need to solve customer afflictions well, with quality.
  25. Reward your customers when they assist you, teach your people to say thanks always. This are the basics!
  26. Last and not least, stop so much control, strict rules and processes. Make easier for customers and employees or pay the price of losing both.

I know Telefonica O2 is trying to fix the mess generated by the lately E-plus acquisition and integrations. However Intent is not enough. I can see the mess you have inside the company based on different communication channels, solutions, people information and disinformation.
Different systems not yet integrated, lack of flexibility by your core team and lack of focus can’t really help your customer and growing churn and dissatisfaction. Telefonica O2’s future failure or success is in O2 leadership team hands.
My questions for you:

What do you think about Telefonica O2 case and what would you suggest they improve??

● What have I missed in this article? Please let me know.


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About the Author:

Ricardo Saltz Gulko is a global strategist, thought leader, practitioner and speaker in the areas of customer experience, experience design, customer success, and global professional services. Ricardo has worked at numerous global technology companies, such as Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, Redknee, Inttra, Samsung among others as a global executive, focusing on enterprise software, services, design thinking and customer experience. He currently works with companies of varying sizes to transform themselves around CX, customer success pathways, and professional services. He holds a MBA at J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Evanston, IL USA and Undergraduate studies in Information Systems and Industrial Engineering. Ricardo is also a global citizen fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew and German. He is on the international advisory committee of the Customer Experience Professionals Association and currently resides in Munich, Germany with his family.

A diabetic who wants to wipe diabetes from the Earth for all of us, the proceeds from his forthcoming book will be going to the Faustman Lab. The Lab is working to eradicate it, based out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. You can also support and donate to The Lab. It would mean a lot to me, and millions of others struggling with diabetes.

You can learn more about him, his passions, and his charitable causes at his LinkedIn or Eglobalis or Facebook or Twitter.

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