Analyzing the Customer Relationship in Network Services: Hypotheses Based on a Three-Level Framework

Changes in Public Services
By François-Mathieu Poupeau

Among the most frequent criticisms of network operators is the quality of the service relationship. Disconnections, breakdowns, decreasing supply quality, billing complaints, difficulties in obtaining personalised advice or help...: customer problems have not necessarily decreased with liberalisation. They lead to sometimes numerous exchanges with operators, for better (a free, quick and personalised solution) or for worse (long call times, additional costs, standardised replies, endless administrative procedures...). Using a threefold analytical framework, the author argues that, in these situations, the capacity of customers to make themselves heard is highly variable and depends on: the strategy of service quality pursued by the operator, the degree of organizational complexity between back and front offices created by the reforms, and the inclination for operators to rationalise tasks and processes in their customer services. Based on recent research, this analytical framework leads the author to posit an increasing ‘rigidification’ of the chain processing customer problems, as operators seem less capable than before to deal with individual and complex requests.

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