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Improving customer experience is key differentiator for telcos

(Image credit: Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock)

Given the current climate and the Covid-19 pandemic, challenges for telecom operators in terms of maintaining profitability and retaining customers as well as the need for acquiring new customers and rolling out new products & services faster has increased monumentally. With the strain that networks are being placed under this could be the time for the telecom industry to innovate and set the pace for other industries to follow.

Most importantly, a focus on customer experience will determine whether or not Communication Service Providers (CSPs) remain competitive and succeed in the future. CSPs need to transform in order to thrive and the first place to start is by developing more personalized and holistic experiences with data-led technology that will help in realizing their vision. Providers who are able to build new services around the customer, unlocking data to provide seamless and personalized experiences will find themselves best positioned for success while also increasing their revenues.

It is often assumed that CSPs are leaders in digitalization and personalization of the customer experience as they are the key players enabling the digital customer-driven revolution across their networks. However, the truth is CSPs are often lagging behind other sectors when it comes to customer engagement.  Nonetheless, the current business landscape provides CSPs ample opportunities to turn the table.

Slow growth, stagnant or declining revenue from traditional sources and increasing competition from digital disrupters are all adding to the urgency for CSPs to focus on personalization, omnichannel engagement and leveraging the vast amount of customer data for competitive advantage. Hence, it has become imperative for operators to deliver relevant and personalized experiences to their customers across all channels.

Why are CSPs not able to leverage their key competitive asset: data

The telecommunications industry as a whole is finding it difficult to compete with data-driven businesses. Digital-native competitors, such as Over-The-Top (OTT) players and content providers have customer-centric business models with an increased focus on data to provide  a seamless and personalized customer experience.

The challenges for CSPs are further compounded by siloed business units and legacy IT systems that make it difficult, if not impossible, to centralize customer information and interactions across operations. So, how can CSPs effectively utilize their data assets to provide the experiences that customers now expect?

By employing business support systems (BSS) and offering seamless billing and self-care apps, operators can identify the communication services that matter most and improve customer experience with positive business impact.

Understanding your customer

Better decisions will result in campaigns or strategies becoming more effective and efficient resulting in increased profitability.

BSS is a key component in helping CSPs gain customer insight, compile real-time subscriptions and introduce new revenue-generating services. By utilizing BSS data to better understand customer behavior, operators will be able to improve decision making about how, when and what to sell – developing closer and more profitable customer relationships.

Streamlining the billing process for your customers

Billing and payments can become substantially seamless for subscribers when operators start treating pre-paid and post-paid as payment types instead of customer types. Billing systems have typically been designed to generate invoices for customers at the end of the billing cycle., This includes accumulation of amounts such as one-time charges, subscription fees, deposits, usage fee, allowances, discounts, debit and credit adjustments.

By providing complete visibility of all generated transactions on a daily basis, customers are able to make advance payments, if necessary to ensure that certain services remain continuously active without any disruption and take appropriate measures to manage their account balances. 

Any specific accumulation of allowances or discounts provided at the end of bill cycle based on billing and invoicing rules can be provided as a direct debit or credit to the customer account making the whole bill cycle process a validation exercise rather than becoming the primary source of information and payment for customers.

Carebots not Chatbots

Digital transformation without personalized digital care does not add value. Simplicity in operations with agility is where the digital self-care apps have to evolve to make digital support more valuable. 

Consumers have traditionally been resistant to chatbots, but there is an increasing openness from customers to this technology in recent times provided it enhances the overall experience. Today, consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on various mobile apps and therefore naturally seek in-app support and purchases instead of reaching out to call centers. So, for true customer acceptance, chatbots must collaborate seamlessly between people and technology and evolve as a central channel for all customer engagements and interactions - replacing the need to call a contact center by almost 90 percent.

But for this to work, self-help apps must become more intuitive and include all the lifestyle applications that the customer is looking for. Such apps need to integrate personalized features and offer recommendations along with proactive notifications using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities to address any potential issues or escalation requirements that the customer may have.

Using ‘carebots’, operators can ensure 24/7 support to their customers, while continuously collecting data and building intelligence using Machine Learning models. This means operators retain important customer information such as birthdays, bill cycle dates, bill due dates, purchase date, etc. to proactively notify or engage with the customer.

The telcos of the future will need to be data-and-experience driven

Only when this fundamental issue is addressed and operators ensure that they remain competitive in the short-term, can they begin to plan for a future where they will be able to take advantage of the next generation of telecom technologies such as 5G networks and IoT devices.

Such a transformation encompasses both the digitizing of core customer journeys and internal processes, as well as using data to drive real-time insights. Making the most of the assets that operators already have combined with more agile ways of working will result in a marked improvement of data-driven customer experiences and greater personalization for CSPs customers.

Sajan Joy Thomas, Vice President – Product Office, Tecnotree