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Financial Impact of Premium Rate Customer Service Calls Ban

By Lucy Holloway | Small Business

We’ve all experienced the frustration of being kept on hold whilst contacting a company for after-sales service, often being sent through a series of IVR loops only to find out we are still number 15 in the queue or to hear a recorded message telling us, “we are experiencing a high level of calls at this time.”

To add insult to injury, many consumers are forced to call premium phone lines to register their complaint or resolve a customer service issue, often being charged high call rates – hardly a reward for their custom! This week’s announcement by the government that they are to ban the use of premium rate 084 and 087 numbers by next summer, therefore came as welcome news.

Under the new legislation, companies will be prevented from charging more than the basic rate for a call to a mobile or local landline number, and whilst this signals a move in the right direction for consumers, these changes will not affect all companies, with government departments’ helplines and the transport and financial services sectors not being covered by the proposal.

With Ofcom estimating that about 30,000 companies use the premium-rate numbers, these new plans will have major financial implications for many businesses. Estimates show that consumers spend nearly £2 billion a year on calls to premium rate numbers. In 2009, they accounted for around 12% of the total call traffic volume in the UK, and generated 10% of the total revenue.

In a tough market, where customer service is increasingly the key competitive differentiator, businesses have never been under more pressure to improve the customer experience and with the loss of the premium line revenue, reducing customer interaction costs will be imperative.

Calling a company may be the first option for many consumers seeking support on pre or post sales but it’s just one of many different channels available, with web self-service rapidly becoming the main channel of choice.

In a multi-channel world, customers expect companies to provide a quick and consistent service across whichever touch-point they chose to contact them over and companies that deploy a multi-channel customer service offering can dramatically reduce the volume of in-bound calls and e-mails to their contact centre, significantly reducing costs.

We’ve put together 5 key tips for improving service and reducing customer interaction costs:

  • Web self-service: Make sure you allow customers to find information on your products and services quickly and easily by offering FAQ self-service on your web and mobile channels, deploying a regularly up-dated and centralized knowledge-base. This will significantly reduce the need for customers to escalate to phone or e-mail contact.
  • Live chat: Offering a live chat facility will allow those customers that have a more detailed query to be seamlessly escalated to live contact centre agents via pro-active or re-active chat from the website, without having to change channels. Identifying the nature of their enquiry before they are connected means that they can be intelligently routed to the best agent for them, based on criteria such as area of expertise and product knowledge. Understanding your customers needs and matching them with the right person to talk to, saves not just the customer’s time, but the company’s, as well – improving resolution rates. Contact agents are also able to handle a number of chats simultaneously, further reducing costs.
  • Paid for live chat: Alternatively paid for live chat can be deployed, where customers simply buy a web chat pin for a flat rate free and can ask as many questions as they like at a time of their choosing. This new service allows the customer to know up-front exactly what they are paying for the chat service, with no wait times.
  • Email management: Offer customer’s comprehensive answers to their questions directly onto your e-mail contact forms, based on the nature of their query. This will help to answer common questions and deflect customers who may have missed other self-service options before they submit an email.
  • Social customer service: Extend your web self-service to your social channels, adding intelligent FAQ search to your Facebook page. This will ensure customers find the same answers to their questions quickly and easily across all channels.

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