Customer service is the future of telecoms

The future of internet services lies not in new technology or faster speeds, but in better customer service, according to senior executives at Easynet.

The managed hosting provider, which was bought by BSkyB last year for 211 million, believes the industry's reputation is marred by bad service.

"Whether we like it or not, telecoms are renowned for a poor level of service," said Martin Molloy, Easynet's European customer service director.

Molloy said there are two reasons for this reputation: telcos don't try to understand their customers, and the firms are so large that delivery and service are often fragmented.

To try and battle these issues, Easynet plans to meet with customers more regularly, is introducing a third-party survey and conducting monthly reviews, which are reported at board level.

"Anyone can provide an internet connection," chief executive David Rowe said. "We need to think and engage with customers properly."

But it's not just down to the supplying company, he said. Customers need to understand what they really need and pick a supplier which suits them, rather than picking the quickest or the cheapest. "There's a huge number of immature buyers who buy unsuitably and complain that suppliers are at fault," said Rowe.

And given the importance of networks to business, it's an important decision. Justin Fielder, director of Sky network services, noted that with some retailers, if their network goes down, there is no backup and therefore no manual way of running the register or making sales.

It's a problem Easynet - and its customers - has faced. Last month, the firm had 10 consecutive days of outages.

"Things are going to go wrong," Fiedler said. "People dig up roads, power plants blow up."

But such a laissez-faire attitude shouldn't apply to customer services, Fiedler said. When such things do go wrong, telecoms providers need to understand what customers want. According to Fielder, customers want to know the supplying company cares, that they're doing everything they can to fix it and to know - with certainty - when it's going to be fixed. "Do you care about your customers? - then you've got to fix it," he said.