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Customer authentication telecommunications

Customer Authentication – Efficiency Is Important to Ensuring a Good Experience

A Negative Personal Experience Provides Reminder of All That Goes into Positive CX

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One of the key issues that still plagues customer-facing organizations is the account authentication process; essentially, making sure that the person contacting customer support with an issue is either the account owner, or an authorized user. This step is extremely important for organizations of all types, as inadvertently allowing a non-authorized user to gain access to sensitive information (personal healthcare or financial information) can lead to significant headaches for both the organization and the rightful account holder.

While the stakes are not quite as high for telecommunications companies, an authentication process that is tedious and time-consuming can lead to customer frustration and churn. On October 13, I experienced a frustrating authentication process while contacting my telecom provider to deal with a non-working username/password for a streaming service.

Related Article: Incorporating Technology to Improve Contact Center Agent Performance

My frustration began when I was trying to log into a streaming service that was carrying an NHL game that was not available on any telecom provider’s traditional channel lineup. The game was available on a major sports network’s streaming platform, which is owned by a large media conglomerate. When I had changed my wireless phone plan to an unlimited account, I was provided with an add-on bundle of three channels from this conglomerate, and had successfully logged into two of the channels offered with the bundle.

However, this third service required me to log into the account using a single sign-on username, and because my wife had subscribed to (and cancelled) this service previously, it appeared there was some sort of hang-up with the login.

So, I decided to use the telecom provider’s Facebook Messenger chat option, as my experience with calling customer support usually resulted in a 30-40 minute wait (at least) to even speak with a rep.

I initially contacted my provider at 7:15 pm, and it took at least 1-2 minutes for the service to respond. It took until 7:25 pm for the company to send me a link that sent me to the login page I had previously tried to use without success. At 7:30 pm, a live agent appeared in the chat (I could tell by the typos and misspellings), and it was not until 7:42 pm that the agent sent me a link to switch me to the company’s own chat/messaging app. At this point, I had not yet been verified as a customer.

At 7:43 pm, I confirmed I was active on the chat, and it took until 7:45 pm for the agent to begin the verification process (again, I ascertained it was not a bot, because the agent addressed me by an incorrect name). The agent asked me for my cell phone number at 7:46 pm to verify my account, and it took another two minutes for the agent to then ask me for my name.

In the interest of speeding things along, I provided both the cell phone and home phone numbers attached to the account, as well as me and my wife’s names, since the account is listed in her name. At 7:50 pm, the agent asked me permission to text my wife’s cell phone number to verify my identity, to then allow the agent to access my account details. It took another four minutes for the agent to acknowledge and receive the verification.

Another two minutes later, at 7:58 pm, the agent asked to send a link again, and said “please check it and follow the steps this ask you.” I never received it, and sent another message asking for it to be sent again. The agent confirmed he sent it, but then sent the link in the chat itself, at 8:01 pm. After opening the link, I realized it was the same page I had originally encountered when trying to log it. At 8:03 pm, I let the agent know this, and a minute later, his response was to “please contact [redacted] so they can help you further with this situation, because in this case it’s not possible to us help you further with this situation.”

All told, it took nearly 50 minutes for the agent to tell me I needed to contact the streaming service for assistance with a login. Much of the time was spent waiting for the agent to respond to me, and when he did, much of the interaction was spent on verifying me and my account details.

This brings up several issues that telecommunications providers need to deal with to improve CX, though other companies should also review their own processes.

  1. It appears that the agent may be handling multiple customers at once, through several channels. While this increases the number of customers served, pulling the attention of agents away from a customer can introduce errors, and is clearly not customer-centric. Organizations may want to evaluate strategies for limiting the number of concurrent users that are served by any single agent to ensure that each customer’s needs are met, and feel valued.
  2. It also appears that the agent did not have an efficient way of authenticating me as an authorized user. The fact that it took nearly 12 minutes to verify my identity, after previously interacting with me via the chat function for 27 minutes, would generally be considered unacceptable in most scenarios. Organizations should deploy automated authentication tools at the beginning of every interaction, to ensure agents can provide personalized service, and eliminate wasted time.
  3. It is also interesting that the agent was not provided with a guide or script to ask me about what solutions I have tried thus far to solve the problem on my own. This could have eliminated much of the back-and-forth, and the agent could have quickly ascertained it was a problem he was not able to handle. Previous agent interactions should be analyzed by AI to identify common problems, solutions, and suggested questions that can be used to probe the user to ascertain the details of the problem. Agents should also be trained to ask what steps have been taken by the user, so users are not stuck attempting solutions that they have already tried.
  4. A lack of training also appears to be at work. Several of the directions the agent provided to me were somewhat incomprehensible, due to the lack of written language skills, and slow responsiveness. For example, when using the Messenger chat function, the agent sent me the following message: “Keith, please follow the next, so we can access to our secure channel and help you further with this problem.” The problem is that this message was sent at 7:37 pm, and until I prompted him, he did not respond until 7:42 pm with “Sorry please follow the next link: [redacted].” Agents should be provided with basic language-skill training, and should be aware of the impact delays in responding can have on customer experience and satisfaction.

Ultimately, I did not contact the streaming service provider (as I was so frustrated at wasting time (and I plan to do so when I have more time on my hands). I received a Facebook Messenger follow-up at 11:11 pm asking if I needed to continue the conversation with a social media rep. I responded no, and the system simply send me a rating form, where I provided my negative feedback. I have not received any other communication yet. This is a clear example of not closing the loop, although in fairness, it has not been 48 hours since the interaction has occurred. Nonetheless, it is interesting that the provider was able to see that the interaction shifted to the chat function, and I have yet to see any follow-up via that channel.

Related Article: Providing Real-Time Feedback to Improve CX

It is also worth noting that I exhibited far more patience with this process than I normally would have, simply to see what solution(s) would be offered by the provider. Many customers may have gotten frustrated, and simply hopped off the interaction.

The key takeaways from this interaction appear to be what industry experts and analysts (such as Dash Research’s own team) have been preaching for the past several years: It takes a combination of training, process analysis and review, and technology to create a great customer experience.

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