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Contact Centers Help Telecoms Prioritize “Customer-First” Initiatives

Competition for wireless, internet and cable TV customers is fierce. Markets are saturated, margins are shrinking and commoditization is the order of the day. In an attempt to capture opportunities for sustainability and growth, many telecoms have turned their focus to customers, but are finding that initiatives aimed at “putting the customer first” are often harder than they appear.

Adjacent online industry leaders, such as Google, Apple, and eBay, have set the bar high and it’s not easy to duplicate the customer relationships these companies have managed to establish. Making it even more difficult, these industry leaders have done such an exemplary job leveraging customer data and proving they understand their customers that telecoms are finding themselves hard pressed to meet new levels of customer expectations.

Consequently, wireless, internet and cable providers find themselves lagging in the delivery of customer experience—by as much as 20 points, according to the latest customer experience research by Temkin Group. Wireless providers ranked 59.9% on the Temkin Experience Ratings in 2013, in comparison to Grocery chains that came in with a strong ranking of 78.4%, for example.

Making the Right Connections with Customers

Telecoms intent on capitalizing on “customer-first” initiatives must find out what their customers want and deliver it. The biggest opportunity is to provide the right product offerings, massively ramp value with each customer interaction and turn customers into fans. The choice is about as simple as “do so or risk losing them.”

The shift in philosophy required to rethink products, bundled services, and cross and up sell offers must be based on what customers value, need and will consume. Achieving this reality will mean a shift in customer service processes based on a true understanding of customers. The change is not small, but, once in place, the increase in customer satisfaction will reflect rising customer profitability to ease the strain on shrinking margins.

Temkin Group has established three indicators to evaluate customer experience:

  • Functional – how completely were you able to accomplish what you wanted to do?
  • Accessible – how easy was it to interact with the company?
  • Emotional – how did you feel about your interactions with the company?

Testing Telecom Assumptions

With those three measurements in mind, telecoms can start to explore how to improve customer interactions, reactions and experiences by assessing customer responses. The most expedient way to do this is to use the near-real time information that can be generated through your contact center.

An example could be a new data services bundle. Work with your contact center provider to design a customer interaction that will help to assess the business model, gauge customer response, refine to improve outcomes and measure happiness and adoption.

The insights will come swiftly. Research from Deloitte finds that 11 percent of wireless customers, on average, will call during the first 10 days of service to request information about the activation process, device settings and product features. The insights that can be gleaned from these calls provides ample opportunities to validate the efficacy of the new product offering and to establish real rapport with customers by capitalizing on the emotional excitement that accompanies their adoption of a new product. Telecoms will also be able to test the assumptions they relied upon when making the product or service available.

By incorporating the expertise of your contact center vendor, the interactions designed in response to related product calls can be developed around assuring that all three of the experience indicators are addressed appropriately to increase the value the customer receives during the call. The insights gained from customer service agent conversations with new product customers can help telecoms to construct more relevant FAQs and interactions based on customer sentiment and initial frustrations or confusion.

This information can be used to create additional self-service information for new customers, reducing initial call numbers in response to new product or services deployment. It can also reveal gaps in service delivery or customer orientation and be used to predict which customers are likely to defect and when, based on customer history, situation, and behavior. Per Deloitte, implementing an improved onboarding process to address frequent customer questions during that first week and a half can reduce call handle times by 10 to 15 percent, greatly reducing associated costs.

Telecoms Put Customers First

The telecom customer mindset can be summed up in one word: choice. With customer unrest about hidden fees and unexplained costs, defection is only one dial away. Consumers have admitted they’re totally addicted to their mobile phones and have no intention of giving up the features, functions or programs they’ve come to rely upon. But they are concerned about costs. Considering that the top activities on a smartphone beyond phone calls are texting, taking photos and accessing the internet, they have a right to be concerned.
It should be a wake-up call to telecoms that aren’t putting the customer experience front and center that the CMO Council found 12 percent of customers switched providers solely because they didn’t believe their carrier had any way to acknowledge or reward their loyalty. This is an emotional factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Gauging the success of the most recent interaction based on the Temkin Group’s three indicators of customer experience is good practice. Taking the approach to measure the three indicators over the course of the customer relationship moves your “customer first” initiative to a level of strategic importance—for telecoms, and for their customers.