Believe it or not, we've actually come to sometimes sympathize with the plight of many of the carrier account teams.  More and more we are hearing account reps complain about the lack of resources and support from within their own organizations.  Headcount reductions, removal of field service roles and centralization of billing, ordering and implementation functions have all contributed to making it harder for the account reps to get things done and get issues resolved.

So, the reps are between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" because they either spend a lot of extra time resolving customer problems and chasing down answers internally or they get complaints from customers about lack of responsiveness.  Meanwhile their management wants them spending their time growing accounts and getting new business - which they could do if they didn't have to spend so much time putting out fires!

Unfortunately, this will not change unless or until the carriers start losing significant customers due to service and support issues.  As long as the carriers are growing and recording record profits there's really no reason for them to change.

What does this mean for customers?  It does not mean that you should accept or resign yourself to the situation. It means that it is more critical than ever to pay attention to your contract terms and conditions and to negotiate specific performance clauses around things like billing, implementation, account team support and other SLA's.  The key to addressing these issues is to make sure there are specific parameters in place and specific remedies with "teeth". Even if you are in the middle of a current contract it is still possible to amend and add terms to help address these issues. 

Also, we frequently find that communication channels have been pushed down to the lowest level and customers don't really know who to talk to beyond their direct account team.  We recommend, as a best practice, that clients establish (or re-establish) and maintain direct lines of communication with the Regional and Area carrier executives that oversee their account team.  Talk to them on a regular basis - not just when there's a problem.

So, next time you have an issue, do be a little sypathetic to your account rep - it's not always all their fault but don't fail to the address the underlying contractual and communication causes of the problem.