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Customer Experience is the End Game for Telecoms

As the communications landscape has shifted, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can no longer rely on being “good enough” to drive business. Telecoms are not generally considered as value-added services providers, but rather bit-pipe providers punished for service disruptions by consumers. This lack of differentiation has allowed “Over-the-Top” service providers, including Amazon, Google and Apple, to make inroads with CSP customers for value-added services. It’s time for CSPs to up their game for the delivery of customer experience if they want to regain competitive advantage.

Creating the business case for initiatives that impact the customer experience must shift from an internal focus to a customer-centric focus. Unfortunately, most CSPs apply an internal focus to defining Initiatives based on increasing revenues or reducing costs. However, when the impact to customer experience is assessed, your defined priority initiatives may have to take a back seat, if improving the experience is paramount.

Take the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, for example. Improving it requires an investment that will result in lower costs, but not necessarily produce related revenues. However, when the customer experience is taken into account, the impact can be quite high, pushing the initiative to a top priority. The same is true with contact center agent training as their proficiency impacts the quality of customer interactions.

As a level set, TM Forum defines the customer experiences as, “the result of the sum of observations, perceptions, thoughts and feelings arising from the interactions and relationships between customers and their service providers.”

Every customer-facing touch point must become an area of focus for customer experience improvement programs. Making the case for the claim that a customer-centric view must be applied to priorities, it is important to realize that the impact to customer experience may be intangible when compared to a typical business case that relies on financial metrics or cost-benefit analysis. This being said, overlooking the impact of the customer experience on business objectives is not productive.

Gaining Ground with Customers

The contact center can provide a vast amount of data, patterns and interpretations that serve to help the organization understand the customer experience to make it more relatable. Customer service agents and the IVR are two such frontline interactions that should be prioritized over requirements that do not have a direct customer experience impact, for example.

Customers consider price, network coverage and customer service to be table stakes. To gain a competitive advantage, telecom operators must seek to exceed expectations in certain areas of the customer experience. Determining which elements to improve for the most reward is critical and should be based on what truly matters to your customers. Because these sources of differentiation are likely to vary by segment, stacking the deck with insights to customer trends, patterns, likes and dislikes is critical.

To gain a better understanding of the current customer experience in preparation for improvement initiatives, insights derived from your contact center can be instrumental in getting closer to customers.

Below are several dimensions that contribute to the customer experience along with examples of how contact center insights can guide improvements:

  • A value proposition designed around what a customer segment finds exciting

Although the contact center is a magnet for customer problems, it’s also a source of interactions that solve problems and delight customers—or it should be. By isolating what it takes to satisfy customers and re-align the vendor to meet their expectations, customer experience professionals can determine causes of customer excitement and enthusiasm. This insight, combined with social media conversations can prove the premise to ensure you’re on the right track to aligning value with customer needs, wants and preferences.

  • Enthusiastic education of customers coupled with smooth and simple activation and installation

The right level of education is critical to customer adoption and satisfaction with the service they buy from your company. Based on the issues and problems the contact center handles for new customers, you’ll be able to compile a precise list of educational opportunities and account activation obstacles that will smooth the process and put customers in control of their experience. Both will help to move the needle on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Provide bills that are clear and accurate to mitigate issues, confusion and complaints

Your contact center can provide insight to concerns that arise for customers related to billing. Armed with this information, a CSP can modify billing presentation to capitalize on clarity. Bills for CSP services are a source of discontent for customers, many of whom state the perception of hidden charges and surprises. The first company representative to become aware of this source of dissatisfaction is usually the contact center as customers reach for their phones in frustration.

  • Resolve issues gracefully and as proactively as possible

By uncovering why issues must be escalated or those that are not resolved satisfactorily during the first call, new processes can be developed to improve agent effectiveness, as well as opportunities to correct the root cause of issues before they escalate, increasing satisfaction and reducing call volume for customer service.

  • Ensure that upgrading, adding services, renewing and relocation is as pleasant as possible by designing effective processes focused on what’s important to the customer

Your call center maintains call recordings and logs for every interaction. Quality assurance reviews and analytics can reveal patterns where account management processes are not meeting customer needs. Take a look at the special requests that require agents to seek management permission or escalate service modification requests and you’ll be on track for identifying areas for improvement whether the interactions were initiated online or in the contact center.

It should be obvious that insights available from the contact center are not just about the transaction between the customer and the agent, but are indicative of customer attitudes, behaviors, drivers, and the quality of relationships. Contact centers provide a volume of data that’s accessible from one area of operations which is not often true for other operational areas of the organization.

By using contact center intelligence as a foundation, CSPs will find they are on track for building a picture of how customers view the organization, as well as what they expect from their interactions with it. Making customer experience a priority is critical to regaining competitive advantage and staying ahead of market transitions.