On December 17, 2014 a major US wireless carrier was sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for allowing unauthorized third-party charges to consumers. The complaint, which can be seen here, addressed four major issues:
- Allowing third-parties to illegally charge consumers
- Automatically billing consumers for illegitimate charges without their consent
- Disregarding red flags about third parties
- Ignoring consumers’ complaints about unauthorized charges
The CFPB was established to protect consumers from bad business practices. If this service provider is found guilty of these charges, it means that not only did they allow unauthorized charges to their customers, also known as “cramming,” but also failed to listen and respond to customers’ complaints about the inappropriate charges. (Two other major US carriers recently had to pay refunds and fines as a result of similar activities.)
It’s a really tough business environment, and some companies have outsourced customer billing in order to reduce operating costs and increase revenue. Too many companies believe that when they outsource a component of their business they are no longer responsible for the associated service issues. This couldn’t be further from reality. In fact, when a company outsources an activity, they need to listen more carefully to customers’ complaints than if they managed the task themselves.
In a rush to greater profitability, companies must be sure not to risk their brand by ignoring the service experience. It’s acceptable for a wireless provider to use their network to deliver third-party paid services, as long as customers agree to the fees. In the most recent CFBP case, it was fine when the wireless provider took responsibility for the entire customer experience. The issues allegedly arose when they outsourced a portion of the customer experience. Companies must remain attentive to their customers, and understand that it is their obligation to oversee and maintain the quality and integrity of all aspects of that relationship.
The Customer Experience Matters
We are in the era of the customer experience. Many companies finally appreciate the importance of managing and enhancing all aspects of the customer journey. This process is enabled by an assortment of relatively new analytics solutions that allow companies to capture and analyze most aspects of the customer relationship. We now have speech analytics, which captures, structures and finds insights in customer conversations; text analytics solutions that do the same thing for emails, social media interactions and other written communications; survey tools that actively solicit customer feedback; and a whole lot more. It would be wonderful if companies listened to their customers simply because it was the right thing to do. However, given the outstanding tools that are available to capture, track and analyze the voice of the customer, it’s inexcusable when a company doesn’t listen and in some cases, may also lead to fines.
Donna Fluss (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center, analytics and back-office market research and consulting.