Wireless Users Want Live, Not Automated, Help, Study Says

While wireless operators are trying to save money by automating customer service, a new study says that the happiest wireless customers are those who can contact live service reps.
Subscribers strongly prefer wireless operators that use live humans to resolve problems to those that use non-human methods of interaction, according to a study released Wednesday by J.D. Power and Associates.

The study examined customer care via telephone with a live service representative, automated response systems, walk-in help in retail stories and online assistance. It assigned index scores to each type of interaction.

The study found that customers that speak with a service rep over the phone had an average satisfaction index score of 109. The average index score for in-store help was 102. The average index score was 85 for automated response systems and 75 for those who sought help online, the company said.

The results pose a serious challenge for wireless operators, according to J.D. Power.

"As more companies encourage customers to contact Internet and computer-based customer service programs to save operating costs, they run the risk of increasing churn (when a customer switches carriers) as the number of contacts needed to resolve a customer complaint or issue rises," Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a statement.

The study ranked T-Mobile highest among U.S. carriers for its customer service and assistance. T-Mobile received a satisfaction index score of 108. Verizon Wireless, Nextel and ALLTEL also ranked above the average score of 100, the company said.

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