According to Forrester, “a laser-like focus on Customer Experience (CX) is the best path to business success”. Telcos need to up their game if they are to keep pace with the expectations of their customers. The key to this is the development of a more meaningful and relevant personalised experience.
Over the last 20 years, there’s no piece of technology that has revolutionised the way we live and work more than the mobile phone. It has transformed from a clunky curiosity to a powerful pocket computer that is all things to all people.
During that time, we have grown accustomed to the benefits of personalised products, services and messages. We receive traffic updates during our daily commute, listen to automatically generated playlists and travel with an umbrella because Alexa warned that rain was likely. No matter where we are, we expect our technology to cater to our individual needs.
Personalisation is not just a great selling feature, but fundamental expectation customers have towards any provider. However, it is time to expand our thinking beyond features powered by personalisation and start a discourse on how we can make this the next big differentiator in the telecommunications market.
The fine line between convenient features and personalisation has not always been this clear. We remember a time where phones started offering T9, a method to predict text input, to make typing text messages faster, followed by the ability to send two texts, exceeding the character limit without having to press ‘send’ twice. While these features were milestones of the mobile generation, customers still did not expect their mobile phone provider to consider them as an individual.
Continuingly growing expectations represent a challenge that the FANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) have met. They never see customers merely as users of their technology. Instead, they aspired to make their products part of their customers’ lives. This required them not just to know whether John had trouble finding the right product online or the next series to watch, but rather knowing that John has two sons, the name of his favourite football team and the fact that he believes ski vacations are just too expensive for the whole family.
To achieve this, they need data and the ability to predict choices, spending patterns and future behaviour. They certainly didn’t get it right the first time, and every time, but customers initially accepted the existence of unrelated junk mail or sales calls for products that were irrelevant to their needs. As their marketing reach grew more powerful, we came to rely on things like Facebook birthday reminders, targeted shopping advice from Amazon and the fact that Google really does know where we live.
FANG companies base their success on three key building blocks:
- Access to unfiltered, day-to-day life action data
- The ability to extract insights from this data that creates a concept of individuality but respects the customer’s privacy, and
- Rewarding customers’ trust by providing actual value.
Since the introduction of GDPR and international laws to follow, data sensitivity and a transparent correlation between data provided and the returned value is fundamental to successful customer relations. Judging by these building blocks, Telcos have the same, if not greater opportunities to create personal customer experiences.
Next-generation Customer Service And The Path To Successful Business
Successful companies have created truly loyal followers, not just through the superiority of their products and services but by building highly personal relationships with their customers right from their first interactions. Companies such as Apple, Nike and Instagram have created loyal followers, guarding the business against bad publicity and supportive of the idea that not every new product release will be superior to the competition. Marketing and Customer Service lead a crucial role in establishing not just professional but highly personal relationships with their customers. That said, customers are – of course – fully aware of the fact that a company with millions of users is not able to create a one-on-one personal connection. They do, however, expect an engine of intelligence smart enough to respect the customer as an individual with complex needs and unique circumstances.
If automated intelligence in marketing and support is paired with an informed customer service agent, customer interaction can create highly personalised experiences. The customer journey can be narrowed down to a few key experiences. We can all recall situations of calling customer service because we cancelled a service too late, we thought we were billed incorrectly, or we finally picked up the phone after receiving 13 unrelated marketing communications. What customers remember, is not necessarily the problem, but how it was handled by the business they engaged with. If these crucial situations are not only handled poorly but also impersonally, most positive experiences throughout the customer’s journey will be tainted and will put your business with this customer at risk. Lastly, in times of digitally shared knowledge, negative as well as positive experiences with customer service can be spread rapidly and at large, potentially risking your relationship with the rest of your customer base.
A Transformation To “Customer First”
Telcos are facing an opportunity impossible to ignore – the market is demanding personalisation, and most telecommunication providers are using little to no technology to address this need. We consider three ways in which telcos can transform their operations and improve their performance. Tackling these issues will enable Telcos to compete in the market going forward.
- They must stop storing data as a random asset without returning visible, significant value to their customers. Most users are aware that their data is being stored by their mobile providers, but it is questionable whether the value and reasoning is obvious.
- Telcos need to lower their reliance on raw, plain data. Instead, they should apply methods of intelligence and machine learning to their datasets. Imagine how your customer service could change if you understood that a customer was paying for a phone used by his daughter? For example, would you offer him a better plan, knowing his wife lives abroad and streaming via FaceTime is a crucial element of his daily life?
- They should evolve their internal processes. They must train their customer service and marketing staff to understand when an exception is appropriate to the rule. They need to be able to provide safe management of data and allow service agents to understand customers as individuals.
The challenge is significant and impossible to ignore. Let’s work towards a more customer-first approach to help boost our personalisation efforts.