Topic Report: The Telecom Industry

Telecom companies have millions of customers who cannot imagine life without their services. But these companies, many of them household names, face real challenges that impact customer experiences and could see their customer base shift to competitors at potentially unsustainable levels if left unaddressed.

With high competition and ever-evolving technologies, those in the telecom sector are under constant pressure to keep and retain their customers. When people have a problem, they expect it to be fixed fast and with minimal fuss. If dissatisfied, they are more likely to leave and go elsewhere. According to Forrester, acquiring a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining one.

One of the challenges faced by most industries but specifically telecommunications organisations, is improving their customer experience (CX) across all channels and devices and delivering it when service complaints arise.

And, as we shall explore, the Telecom sector is a way off in some aspects of delivering a seamless customer service experience. Few people want to visit a branch to buy a new device, query their bill, handle handset issues, or talk about ending their contract. Both customers and telecom providers want this all to happen digitally or over the phone.

Legacy infrastructure

2G became 3G, then 4G and now 5G. With mobile devices becoming ever more technical and their high spec allowing for increased speed and data usage, the expectation from customers is that a providers’ CX has evolved too. Well in fact gaps have formed in CX capabilities when dealing with customer’s needs, upgrades, and complaints.

The problem here is that organisations have invested heavily in their product offering and thrown money at keeping legacy customer journey infrastructure running. Often these cannot keep pace with digital transformation. New technologies are layered on old, with full consideration for its impact on a customer’s ability to engage and interact with a provider should they need support.

Silo mentality

Telecom businesses are also notorious for operating in silos. They often offer several key products, in this case: devices, accessories, broadband, landlines and streaming TV services. And some customers may just have one service, some, or all of them.

But because of the compartmentalised structure, each business unit often has its own way of dealing with customers, managing the CRM, handling complaints, and overseeing all communications. A customer simply views them as one entity, and in a worst-case scenario, is shunted around from one place to another when attempting to engage support or services.

Rising demand

More people are using more telecom services. The pandemic has shifted our way of working, with more of the population doing so from home, applying increased load on broadband networks and mobile device usage.

While that is not bad for the sector, without adequate customer service processes, enhanced customer experiences and intuitive customer journeys, it might soon be.

Getting customer service right

Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulator, issued their annual report on how customer service levels compare across the telecoms industry.

While acknowledging that overall customer satisfaction levels were high, particularly for mobile users. It did highlight that customer satisfaction levels regarding complaint handling were just over 50%. Stating,

“This is disappointing, and it is vital that providers do more to improve customer service and put treating customers fairly at the heart of their business”.

The report also went on to highlight that average call waiting times in 2021 remained higher than the pre-pandemic level. Both large aspects of a customer’s experience that could lead to churn.

With numerous customer journey solutions open to the telecoms industry from increasing First Call Resolutions (FCR) and improving Average Call Handling Times (ACHT) per success to enhanced self-service, it would appear many are the authors of their own shortcomings.

What telecom companies must do

According to Temkin Group, the CX research and consulting firm, a good customer experience is extremely valuable to any business. Give someone an exceptional customer experience, and that person is:

  • 5 x more likely to rebuy from you
  • 5 x more likely to forgive an error you make
  • 7 x more likely to try a new offering from you
  • 4 x more likely to refer a friend to you

What makes a good telecom customer experience?

Temkin goes on to outline the key customer experience expectations of telecom companies. All of these, therefore, should be adopted to provide a truly customer-facing platform.

Clarity of information. From the initial contact to the completion of the interaction, customers should be afforded full transparency and given all opportunities to seek clarity. Whether that is additional information in a self-serve environment or via agent assistance.

Personal. Customers expect to be a personal service, and any communications must be applicable. If they took out the broadband offering last year, they do not expect it be receiving offers for broadband installation from their provider.

Easy to use. Customers expect a platform that is simple to use or intuitive, if it is not, it will impact the experience. Overly complicated or fractured journeys have no place here. Customers should be able to find and act on what they want with ease.

Resolution. If there is a service failure or the customer has a complaint, customer service must be addressed quickly. The customer should be able to find where to complain, lodge a complaint via web, chat or phone, and expect it to be dealt with.

Device management. A good customer experience will make it simple to manage all devices and accessories a customer holds with their provider, from accessing bills to organising upgrades and sorting out faults.

A strategic approach

With these customer expectations in mind, telecom companies need to look at customer experience as a competitive advantage, something to differentiate themselves from others.

One approach is to enhance current platforms to ensure customers can engage via any channel on any device, covering all services offered by the provider. Employees, too, should have the tools that help them better communicate with customers and deliver a great experience.

Add in real-time data usage and the ability to identify upcoming issues with customers’ accounts and services, heading off problems before they arise. Hopefully preventing sudden increases in call traffic due to bill shock, service interruption or account changes.

Another potential approach is to adopt a customer journey platform that integrates with legacy systems and can incorporate new products and services when they launch. A platform that is streamlined and can be rolled out at speed and does not require Internal IT department customisation, so that it is easier to maintain and faster to stand up.

Other benefits a customer journey platform can impart include:

  • Including customer journey mapping as part of the process to identify where customers go on their digital journey, allows for discovery of any inefficiencies and whether they are easily fixed.
  • A fully auditable customer journey not only means that there is 100% compliance but also allows for continuous optimisation so that customer experiences improve alongside achieving Key Performance indicators (KPIs). A balance between meeting regulatory demands and improving Net Promoter Score (NPS) among customers and staff can be struck.
  • Organisations can realise their goals of delivering more complex self-serve customer experiences, increasing FCR, reducing the need for assistance, and increasing average revenue per user (ARPU).

Conclusion

Organisations may have a huge customer base, but with strong competition and customer willingness to switch providers, they must do more to improve customer experiences to retain them.

Challenges are plentiful, including legacy tech, complaints, and silos causing drops in loyalty and stagnation in satisfaction. But the case for putting the customer experience first and differentiating oneself based on that is clear.


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