Meeting User Needs – Why Service is about more than Features

Customer experience is a hugely important topic for operators that deliver hosted services and it needs to be considered as integral to any service offer. It’s not enough simply to provide basic or advanced services – voice connectivity, hunting, conferencing, etc. Of course, these features are critical, but over the lifetime of a service, other factors will become important too: the needs of the end customer and usability have to be considered right from the outset of any Centrex project, because they are going to live with the system, hopefully for a long time to come.

As we have seen with the news that one of our customers has leapt to the top of a recent, independent customer satisfaction survey, it is really inseparable from the service itself. The bottom line seems to be that, if you want your service to be successful, then you need to factor in the ways in which you will delight your customers and how they in turn can use the service profitably.

The thing is, the person buying the service isn’t necessarily the one who will use it most. Everything about the offer needs to be orientated to the different needs of all the users, with particular attention being paid to those who use it most and not just the selective group that is making the purchasing decision. Of course, the purchaser is important, as they will be first in the chain, but all of the other users are essential to the success of the service.

This means that things like the switchboard, configuration interface and user control assume tremendous importance, in addition to the features that are offered. The switchboard console, whether web-based or installed as a client locally, must be intuitive and allow all staff who have to work with it to easily adopt the new platform and use it successfully.

If a user is unable to set preferences or to configure their personal services, then they will not take advantage of the full feature set available to them. Similarly, if the administrator cannot easily configure groups and other important parameters, the full benefits of the hosted solution will be lost.

As part of the proposition to prospective customers, then, operators need to build in messaging about ease of use, simplicity and other attributes which speak to the needs of the individual users. These are much less tangible benefits than issues such as CAPEX, OPEX and specific feature sets and capabilities. But the reputation of the operator and the success of the service can ultimately come down to such issues. Building a reputation and brand is essential and rests on such intangible assets. If you are considering launching a Centrex service, then consideration of intangibles needs to be part of the process, because these are issues that, ultimately, become essential to the users of the service: which is what customer satisfaction surveys reflect. They are not measuring the cost and feature set, which may have been original decision making factors, but the intangible benefits which accrue to a properly thought out service which addresses the individual needs of the users.

This is an area in which Gintel has considerable expertise. Our solutions are designed, not just to provide rich features and capabilities, or to resolve complex network integration issues, but are also built to support usability goals and to consider the perspective of every user – from the administrator, to the switchboard attendant and the rest of the team.

And this is why it matters – building a long term customer relationship will depend, not just on the features and capabilities offered, but on how the operator’s brand is perceived. The intangible side of the Centrex service will contribute to overall customer satisfaction, which will in turn support and enhance the operator’s brand. This becomes critical for sustaining both existing relationship and future growth.

Tore Saeter, May 2010

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