The Customer Experience Imperative – How Can Telecom Operators Serve and Engage Better
The battle for customer acquisition and retention has become cutthroat in the telecom industry. With more consumers’ choices than ever, tremendously low switching costs, and universal access to new services, the telecom industry is undergoing rapid change and growing competition.
As the revenues from traditional voice and messaging avenues continue to shrink, and over-the-top media services like Skype, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and others eat away at the principal offerings, telecom operators must prioritize their investments in customer engagement and experience strategies.
This is imperative to drive customer stickiness and advocacy.
Data from an Ericsson survey reveals:
- An average smartphone customer requires 4.1 days, and 2.2 attempts to complete an interaction with a telco.
- A one-day delay in achieving an action turns into a 30% decrease in customer satisfaction
- Only a third of customers think that their telecom operator understands their needs as a customer
- 46% of customers believe that their provider is hiding behind ‘bad’ technology, such as canned responses, impersonal contact forms, and do-not-reply emails.
As telecom operators continue to battle for customer loyalty, a key strategy to help them differentiate is offering subscribers consistent experiences across different touchpoints and interaction channels.
While operators need to have the right people and processes to help shape customers’ experiences, it’s also necessary to have the right technologies in place. Together, the people, processes, and tools will deliver a foundation for providing consistent experiences to customers across various channels cost-effectively.
It also needs to be said that while focusing on measures that reduce customer effort seems the right thing to do, this alone will not take telecom operators to the next level of customer experience. There are two reasons:
- They get caught up in fixing existing business models to solve the issues of today’s customers. This restricts them from structurally reinventing themselves to meet the future expectations of customers.
- They are tackling only one driver (that is, customer effort) of customer experience.
Why is Customer Engagement Crucial to Telecom Operators?
Customer engagement is the procedure of improving customer interactions with a business at different touchpoints – research, pre-sales, onboarding, usage, support, and so forth.
Unfortunately, numerous telecom operators heavily invest in enhancing all the customer management life cycle stages only until the purchase point. Once the contract is signed and the service is purchased, fewer businesses actively focus on customer engagement or invest in augmenting it.
This results in:
- Poor customer satisfaction ratings, damaging brand equity
- The dwindling impact of referral marketing programs
- Higher customer support costs due to rising volumes of complaints
- Underperforming cross-sells/up-sells
- High customer churn
- Low customer lifetime value (CLV)
All of the above, in due course, turns to lost revenues.
The lack of suitable customer engagement solutions makes established operators more susceptible to revolutionary competitors like OTT players and digital-first market entrants who are better armed to engage with customers across numerous touchpoints/channels.
Consequently, the legacy operators’ ability to bring their old tactics of customer engagement to a new digital maturity level becomes crucial.
8 Ways Telecom Operators Ensure Customer Experience
1. Introducing Ease and Usability at Each Step
What more can be done to reduce consumer effort? Operators looking to offer ease and usability have dramatically diminished the number of tariffs and options and eliminated one-off fees. They have also addressed shorter-term options, keeping in mind that unhappy customers locked into long contracts can become social media critics.
But few operators have reduced their small print, rewriting them in plain language. Fewer have achieved a simple, combined fixed-mobile bill displaying a single total (monthly charges, plus VAT, minus discounts).
Several customers don’t understand billing, random credits, loyalty schemes, and unclear terms. This eventually results in more calls to customer service centers and long queues in retail outlets – which do not add value.
While most of these efforts help to achieve a better experience, there are some delight opportunities. For instance, customers can still be surprised by a zero-configuration experience.
2. Proactively Resolving Customers’ Hassles
Being proactive helps both sides. For instance, informing customers about planned maintenance means reduced effort for business (lesser calls to helplines) and less disappointment for customers (less time spent in call queues or troubleshooting the problem themselves).
Extending that philosophy could mean providing automatic migration to the latest tariffs, eradicating customer hassle (switching) while also lessening operator effort (maintaining legacy portfolios).
3. Enhancing Accessibility via Seamless Interactions Across Preferred Channels
Accessibility is an opportunity to provide advanced and personalized customer experiences based on seamless omnichannel customer interaction and engagement. Operators who want to delight today’s customers need to start by making swapping between channels hassle-free. The whole interaction history must be available at every touchpoint. For instance, an in-store sales rep can see what a call center agent has promised. Interaction continuity is mandatory. For instance, enabling a customer to talk to the same agent after a dropped call to a hotline. An enhanced omnichannel experience means seamless swapping and smart channel integration. For instance, leveraging interactive voice response (IVR) in a mobile app when customers are incapable of resolving issues and proactive follow-up when promised response times are exceeded. The information must flow seamlessly, between the physical and digital world, for instance, by enabling customers to scan a QR code on a device or printed communication.
4. Emphasizing on Quality and Performance Over Technical Specifications
Prominent operators are already emphasizing on customer service performance and quality. They meticulously monitor and address the possible deterioration in customer experience (such as dropped calls and low video or audio quality) by leveraging Quality of Experience (QoE) features in the network, Operational and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS), and devices.
However, most operators need to put in extra efforts to express they care about customers’ perceptions. One instance would be a system to inevitably compensate customers for poor experiences before they complain, turning potential dissatisfaction into a delight. Operators could also innovate their business model to sell a customer-specific QoE instead of data volume and bandwidth.
5. Providing Flexible Services that do not Confine Customers
Customers expect to adjust the services they purchase in a flexible and personalized manner. Enabling customers to align their product or service should come without standard tariffs or increased out-of-bundle costs. By linking unit prices per service for all (not just new) customers, operators could minimize customers’ reconnections, saving on Subscriber Acquisition Cost (SAC). To limit the Average base Revenue Per Unit (ARPU) dilution in this situation, operators require an upsell strategy as a countervailing measure. An example would be to modify all sliders for present customers to keep them on the same ARPU, then let them pick “pay less” or “get more.”
6. Fairness and Consistency are Significant Hygiene Factors
Customers who think they have been mistreated are prone to quitting. Taking care of such “hygiene” factors reduces customer churn. Things like making equal offers for existing and new customers, eradicating small print, and sticking by the service promises are a given. Advanced experiences might include cash-back warranties or a one-click “try before you buy” offers.
7. Transparency Gratifies the Primary Requirement for Safety and Builds Trust
Customer service divisions of prominent telecom operators must provide complete transparency about the present state and expected processing time of service cases. For example, operator mobile apps can display a customer’s inquiry status, significantly curtailing inbound calls. Where an offer or service is highly customized, customers need to see their CLV-based status, expected service level, and features or services they might have to pay for.
8. Customer appreciation is the fundamental customer experience emotion
Operators need to connect with and learn about their customers. For example, by connecting with their customers on social media, an operator could augment their CRM data and empower agents to relate to a customer’s personal life (where appropriate) more precisely (with knowledge about hobbies and interests, a reference to latest holiday photos, and so forth).
There are two distinct aspects to administering the customer experience—one reactive, the other proactive.
The reactive aspect requires getting the basics right. Negative customer experiences stem most commonly from incomplete network coverage, uncompetitive tariffs, and bad customer support. Essentially, these three variables are the fundamental pillars of the customer experience.
The proactive aspect focuses on how operators position themselves in the broader value chain —multiple networks, numerous devices, and several service providers. Collectively, these three aspects represent a multi-tiered opportunity: not only more users (and SIM cards) but also more uses (spanning multiple devices) and more recurrent usage (of OTT and other services). This proactive aspect of the equation is about embracing complexity.
Operators must embrace the new open, dynamic, and multi-dimensional ecosystem. Making the most of these opportunities demands operators must comprehend customers’ behaviors and preferences and build strategies that reflect them to optimize the customer experience. By embracing complexity, operators can not only reaffirm their significance but also magnify the breadth and depth of their revenue-generating activities.