4 reasons why Flow’s customer service needed revamping

Caribbean telecoms firm, Flow, is changing revamping its customer care. Here are four problems customers experienced with the current arrangement.


Though there had been rumours for several months, last week, regional telecoms giant, Flow, signed a contract with Advantage Communications to provide its contact centre services from the latter’s Jamaica location (Source: Jamaica Observer). Currently, those most of services are being delivered from El Salvador, a continuation of  LIME’s pre-merger operations, which will be relocated to Jamaica. It is unclear whether the call centre services delivered from Trinidad and Tobago, which had been attached to Columbus Communications (which operated the Flow brand, pre merger) will be affected. However, it is expected that a more cohesive framework covering all services, and regardless of the initial provider, will eventuate,

Nevertheless, and as it currently stands, the customer service from Flow (both the LIME and Columbus Communications components ) has been roundly criticised in many quarters. Below are four challenges customers had with those operations.

1.  Language proficiency is non-negotiable

Most of the countries in which Flow (and LIME) have a presence are native English-speaking. Hence customers expect to be able to freely expressed themselves, be understood and in turn understand whomever they are engaging to assist them with a difficulty they are experiencing. Hence although El Salvador, as a country, may boast of having bilingual (Spanish and English) proficiency, in practice communication between a customer and an agent frequently was a challenge. Both parties struggled to be understood, with the customer – who called because to have an issue resolved or to seek clarification on a matter – becoming increasingly frustrated in the process.

2.  Long waiting times extremely discouraging

Matters related to the waiting times to speak with a customer care agent might not be as acute for services traditionally operated by LIME, but for those operated by Flow, it is not uncommon to have to be on hold in excess of 30 minutes. While the agents at the Trinidad and Tobago site might be attentive and eager to have a customer’s issue resolved, being on hold for such long periods, without a sense of how long the wait might be, can be extremely frustrating in already trying circumstances.

Further, it is worth mentioning that generally, the situation is no better by email or social media, where it can take several business days – if at all – to get a reply.

3.  Feedback of issues to in-country office was nebulous

Depending on the issue, and having contacted the call centre, it may be necessary for part of the matter to be handled locally, that is in-country. However, the link between the call centre and the local office is not always well established to facilitate coordination or feedback. Hence, an issue may be communicated to the call centre, but  there was no guarantee that the local office can access the record of the earlier engagement and/or intervention that had occurred to determine next steps.

4.  Disconnect between channels

Finally, although the Flow might boast of offering customers several channels to secure support, such as via telephone, email, online chat (instant messaging) , and social media (Facebook and Twitter), in practice, there are issues or types of complaints that some of the channels are not equipped to handle. For example, the online chat does not appear to be equipped to address technical-related issues; instead the customer is asked to contact technical support. Similarly, if a query about status of service is made via Twitter, directed at the firm, it can goes unanswered.

 

In summary, whilst some of the criticism levelled at Flow has been around that fact that it has consolidated its customer care operations and outsourced it to a third party, when it works well that bugbear can be overlooked. In fact, the quality of in-house customer care can be much worse, if inadequate resources are committed.

In the Caribbean, there is still a sense that customer care is a necessary evil which businesses grudgingly provide. Too often, they skimp on the resources they allocate. However, it is a critical client-facing medium that should be part of a holistic system through which to improve their operations and ensure greater customer satisfaction.

 

Image credit:   Mighty Travels (Flickr)

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4 Comments

    • Supremeservices, thanks for sharing.

      The current model may indeed be configured around call management (and cost containment) rather than customer satisfaction. However, hopefully as the CEO of the Jamaica operations intimated – that the company has been listening to its customers and it putting its money where its mouth is – the changes being made will improve the standard of care considerably.

  • Hi Michelle, one of the issues that also need to be addressed is the dialect of the different call centers, it is sometimes difficult to understand the persons from the call center even from the English speaking Caribbean. However careful staff selection and training should assist in this.

    • Chris, you are absolutely right regarding the dialects, and probably more so the accents. The need to access customer care can be quite stressful in and of itself without struggling to understand and be understood…

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