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March 29, 2016

Using Technology To Tame Telecom's Complexities

Posted by Peter D'Amato (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:22 AM

Using Technology To Tame Telecom's Complexities

We live in a world of noteworthy extremes. For instance, there are more wireless connections than there are human beings on the planet. Yet, half the population still doesn't own a mobile phone. In this world of extremes, there's a lot to consider when it comes to improving the consumer experience in the communications sector, which is struggling to serve its customers in a deregulated and competitive global market.

In the world of communications, you face a combination of such complex issues that it's hard to know just where to begin. Whether it's signal quality, internet speed, data roaming charges, or a mobility plan with bundled discounts thrown in, you're just scratching the surface. What happens, for example, when a customer wakes up one morning and discovers his cell phone can't get a signal or his internet speed is too slow? He will likely call his service provider and have an unsatisfying customer experience, and may even switch to another service provider. Issues like these are why the communications sector has a lot of customer churn. People are always looking around and jumping ship for better plans and better service.

Can you blame them? The American Customer Satisfaction Institute consistently ranks wireline, wireless, cable companies, and internet service providers at or near the bottom of the 43 industries it measures. The good news is that communications service providers around the globe not only recognize the problem, they are determined to do something about these consistently low rankings. As with most business problems, there are three dimensions to solving the customer's problem: people, process, and technology

To start with, let's take a look at the people. There is a high attrition rate among call center agents across industries, and many care agents do not have the training or tools they need to successfully do their job. To address these issues, communications service providers are starting to improve agent training programs and deploy gamification techniques that improve employee satisfaction, make the job more fun, and encourage people to develop customer problem-solving skills. They are also working hard to get trouble calls to the right agents so problems can be quickly resolved on the first call without multiple hand-offs and long wait times. Lastly, by giving care agents online help aids, agent chat capabilities, integrated desktop platforms, and other tools, service providers are arming their agents with all they need to be effective. Finally, companies are looking at organizational change management techniques to drive a service-oriented culture among all of their customer facing employees and management.

On the process side, it's all about simplification. Customer care processes are complicated because of bundled products with numerous promotion options, as well as all of the mergers and acquisitions that have occurred in the industry. There is still much work to be done, but companies have begun to simplify their product portfolios and re-engineer their processes around newly-defined user journeys, based on customer inputs.

When it comes to improved service, technology is a key enabler. Customers want to order service and pay bills online or via their mobile device. An effective digital experience increases satisfaction on the part of the customer and reduces call center volumes (Note: an one percent reduction in call center volumes can generate up to US$ 7 million in annual savings). In addition to digital and mobility tools, companies are deploying improved CRM, big data analytics and social media listening tools to learn more about their customers, predict problems, and be more proactive. Technology is also helping organizations learn all about their customers so they can better meet their digital expectations and demands.

Customer experience is critical, and service providers know that they need to meet customer expectations quickly. New competitors with disruptive business models are emerging every day. To cope with this challenge, communications service providers are looking beyond their current operating models and are creating new organizational groups and partnerships (think: Tesltra's investment in Ooyala, a leading innovator in video streaming, analytics, and monetization). These new partnerships are about empowerment. The innovative models are helping enterprises expand into new product segments, services areas, and even continents.

The telecommunications industry is in the midst of a profound digital transformation with a focus on customer experience. With enhanced people, process and technology solutions, this complex sector can attract loyal customers rather than losing angry ones from shoddy customer service practices that are holdovers from a bygone era.

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