The next time you call your communications service provider to complain about an issue with a broadband or cellular phone service, spare a thought for the customer service representative on the other end of the line. Depending on their size, CSPs can hire hundreds or even thousands of CSRs every year, but churn rates are high among these employees – up to 20% in fact.

It’s no wonder when you consider what CSRs typically have to contend with on a daily basis: angry customers, complex systems and often a lack of the kind of oversight that would enable them to help the customer on a real-time basis. CSRs are also generally young, badly paid and not trained in every application they need to support. For example, a CSR may have to answer queries on between 25 and 50 applications – quite a handful for what is effectively an entry-level job. It’s not an easy place to be.

From the perspective of the CSPs, the situation is unfortunate. They need a lot of people for front-line support and they ha

ve to train these people quickly. At the same time, it’s impossible to train every CSR on every application and service that is available to the client. What’s more, CSPs are constantly adding new servi

ces and apps to their portfolios. For CSPs, this is a terrible solution as they end up with a large, unqualified and non-technical workforce dealing with their most important assets: their customers.

It’s a huge challenge for CSPs, and ultimately has serious consequences for the quality of service they are able to offer in what is one of their key channels for front-line customer support.

So what is the solution to this situation? The short answer is that we really need to apply technology to simplify the front line.

Consider the issues that frustrate you most when you call your CSP. For example, your broadband service has stopped working, you have tried all the usual tricks such as rebooting the modem and your computer, and you decide you have no option but to call your provider to find out what can be done to reinstate your service. What you don’t want is a CSR who immediately tells you to do the things you have already done by proceeding to read from a grocery list of instructions that bear little resemblance to your actual situation.

In order to be able to help you properly, the CSR requires a holistic view of the customer that enables him or her to determine what steps have already been taken in an effort to resolve the service outage. The CSR should be able to see what the customer did yesterday and earlier today – not only what they did six months ago.

In fact, there is a great deal of technology we can apply to the front line. Ultimately, a CSP requires systems that are very flexible and able to adapt to their changing technology and service environment. This also removes the need to train a CSR in every single app, which in reality is not a viable option. Instead, the CSR is given access to a flexible system that enables them to find the correct information quickly and easily, allowing them to either resolve a situation or escalate it to a higher technical service level.

The added bonus is that if a CSR is able to help customers on a more consistent basis, he or she might actually start to get some job satisfaction and stay a little longer than a few months! That in turn benefits the CSP, which acquires a more settled, motivated and ultimately qualified workforce.

In conclusion, the CSP has to recognise that customer satisfaction is extremely important and needs much more investment than they probably realise. CSRs also only form one of several channels that are used for front-line support: the ultimate goal must be to have a seamless and holistic customer support network that incorporates not only CSRs but also high-street retailers and online service support.