4 ways operators can improve their customer experience

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For CSPs (Communications Service Providers), the issue of customer complaints is an obstacle that isn’t disappearing any time soon. In fact, Ofcom’s recent figures show that the number of telecoms and paid TV complaints they received in Q4 2017 is in line with previous levels.

Many customers find the process of resolving problems is unnecessarily frustrating, impersonal & time consuming. With one top UK operator saying that 6,000 customers escalated their complaint to the regulator, CSPs are evidently not providing the premium service many consumers have come to expect. 

Agents at the first line of support, who may lack technical skills to handle complex troubleshooting tasks and lack visibility on customer care process, still face many challenges during a call with a customer as they may ask themselves: “Which element has caused the problem? What is the root cause? How to solve it during the call? Where do I start?” 

This points to a wider problem. Because of the exponential growth of telecoms infrastructure and the multiple systems that CSPs have, a systems engineer needs to be a real expert in multiple access technologies. And this is really hindering the customer care experience because what you have is multiple systems which are disconnected and no sort of backbone to connect them all.

This is a key issue to address. With most operators offering very similar services and products to consumers, the customer experience (CX) is one area where they can stand out from the crowd.

In reality though, providing a premium CX is anything but simple. And if a telco waits until the customer approaches them with a problem, they’ve already failed that experience. Let’s take a closer look at a few key pointers which will help telcos take their CX to the next level:

1. Take stock of what you’ve already got

As a starting point, operators should monitor and measure all segments of customer journey, and find the specific pain points that their customers come across most often. They should ask themselves, “What are we doing that actually punishes our customers?” 

Automated diagnostics and troubleshooting tools implemented through multiple channels (mobile apps, chatbots, web, IVR etc.) enable agents to solve customers’ issues quickly and efficiently by gathering useful data and get 360 degree visibility on networks, service and customers to identify and troubleshoot problems, via a step by step guide. Automating these processes across all channels enable organisations to streamline complex and long running processes, increase the number of proactively solved issues, reduce costs and unnecessary field services and reduce overall customer churn.

2. Analytics shines a light on the hidden depths of legacy systems

Imagine you are the head of customer experience at a CSP. You've got thousands of complaints coming in and the service is not working. You are sending out engineers on site, partly because you don't fully know what's going on in the network, and partly because the customer agents don't have the knowledge either.

This is all compounded by the fact that, as a large operator, you are held back by a huge and complicated legacy infrastructure, which is a long way away from being simplified. So you’ve got your network managers on the case with analytics tools looking for trends to prevent this happening again. 

However, with so many OTT services and disconnected silos, it’s all too easy for them to be overwhelmed in a deluge of data. 

What is needed is a case of filtering the elements which may provide some useful information and then figuring out how to expand the client applications to get some additional insights. It’s useful to have a platform that can sit on top of existing infrastructure elements, collect information from the network, and provide automated processing of diagnostics and troubleshooting. This is not machine learning, a term very much on top of the hype cycle at present, but simply automation of processes using comparatively simple algorithms.

By implementing this approach, you are reducing the amount of calls that are coming in and the amount of technician call outs. And you are increasing the level of customer satisfaction because you're solving a problem, in most cases, before it gets to the customer care agents.

Which leads us to the next tip…

3. It’s time to stop being reactive

As mentioned earlier, if a customer is calling you to say that something's gone wrong, it's already too late. Put that into the context of technology - how can it help CSPs be more proactive?

Customers give off signals when they have a problem, so operators need a system that will proactively detect such problems and generate actionable insight. They need a system that will efficiently resolve their problems before the impact is too big, such that they earn the right to expand their relationship with the customer and generate new revenue. 

Automation is the answer. In order to fully automate processes, a scalable big data solution that constantly processes data from customer devices, network elements, service delivery platforms and OSS/BSS systems will generate the insights for driving of technical operations, customer care and marketing actions.

By focusing on the service levels and technology, CSPs can automate healing the networks as much as possible before they become problems for the customer.

4. Treat the customer as an individual, not a number

To retain customers, CSPs must see them for what they are — unique and important individuals with specific needs, problems and preferences. Long-term value from personalised service builds lasting relationships, out of which new revenue can be generated. 

Many operators are already successfully adopting customer analytics today and continually fine-tuning every aspect of the marketing mix for every customer audience or persona in real-time. The best of them have developed AI that learns when and how to offer upsell and product recommendations, adjust pricing based on demand and competitive pricing strategies.

It’s also important to map that personalisation journey to what's happening on the service side. Customer care teams can be notified to contact a customer before they have even noticed an issue and tailored, contextual upsell campaigns and promotions can be developed for automated delivery through any channel. 

For example, if the end user is experiencing some Wi-Fi problems, the operator should try to fix this using automated processes. If it's not able to be fixed, that is when it should be escalated to the customer care representative, who will call the end user proactively, acknowledge their problem and, as an example, send them Wi-Fi extender to resolve the issue.

Managing CX is hard, and it’s only going to get more complex with the increasingly omnichannel nature of the customer journey. But by streamlining complex processes enabled by analytics, driving revenues through automated and personalised upsell campaigns and increasing overall efficiency and productivity through process automation, telecoms operators will see a marked improvement in their standing against their competitors.

Vedran Rezar, CEO of Bulb Technologies
Image Credit: Shutter_M / Shutterstock