By Victor Donselaar, Vice President of Business Development at Accanto Systems
What defines a good customer experience? When Amazon can achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of around 70, the below 20 typically achieved by Communications Service Providers (CSP) paints a sorry picture. Especially when, in theory, CSPs should have the edge, with vast amounts of customer information to hand, as well as the powerful combination of long contracts and high volumes of daily activity.
Yet in a rush to react to customers’ increasingly experienced-based decision making, CSPs are losing focus. It is not possible to transform every aspect of the customer experience at once – there is no one Customer Experience Management (CEM) system that can manage network optimisation, customer services, marketing and the retail experience. Instead, CSPs need to embrace a framework approach that builds on real-time data collection to identify priority areas for improvement and then put in place the processes to deliver operational excellence.
With the right CEM framework to align business processes with customer experience, CSPs can begin to incrementally transform customer perception and gain competitive advantage.
Measure of Success
The way in which consumers evaluate Communications Service Providers (CSPs) has changed radically over recent years. The emphasis is no longer on coverage and price but the quality of the experience. Despite recognising the change, few CSPs are yet to align business processes with the customer experience. When a storm takes out several base stations, for example, repair teams are still allocated on the basis of location and accessibility rather than the impact on customers. If repairing the most distant base station would bring more high value customers back online sooner, surely that should be the priority action, not fixing the closest?
Right now, Customer Experience Management (CEM) may be at the top of the agenda but too many CSPs lack the focus required to deliver a truly effective, joined up experience. With different objectives across marketing, network operations and customer service, not to mention multiple budget holders, companies are being pulled from pillar to post and failing to deliver any coherent strategy. Why invest in optimising the layout of the retail store, for example, when essential services are not being optimised for high value customers? Why prioritise call centre training when network investment fails to reflect customer expectation?
CSPs need a mind-set change. Yes CEM is clearly essential but no company is going to realise the vision of excellence by adopting a catch all approach – or embarking on a single RFP for a CEM system. There are any number of issues that can affect the customer experience and rather than attempting to address every aspect of this experience at once, or hoping that one CEM system can solve all the experience issues that affect the business, CSPs need to take a far more measured approach – and look to deliver incremental benefits along the way.
CSPs have huge advantages when compared to other organisations looking to improve customer experience – not least vast amounts of customer data. Networks already provide various metrics and KPIs on their performance, but often these are vendor specific With a typical CSP having multiple vendors, it is virtually impossible to follow the quality of experience of a single subscriber while he is using voice and 2G/3G/4G data services. Nonetheless, in order to truly optimise the customer experience, especially for high value customers, CSPs need to find a way to leverage this scattered and independent information.
What is required is a means of consolidating the multiple network tools that monitor 2G, 3G and 4G networks as well as billing information and customer service calls. Once CSPs have aggregated these diverse information sources, correlations between customer experience and long term value will become clear. What is the impact of network outage on customer churn? Are specific handsets causing problems? What prompted a drop in expenditure by high level customers during a specific timeframe?
It is this information that can support the refinement of the CEM strategy. Armed with this insight it is far easier for a CSP to prioritise activity and, critically, embark upon improving one aspect of the customer experience, rather than trying to change it all at once. For example, integrating network monitoring information with billing data will enable the CSP to identify which customers are affected by network outages or problems, enabling optimisation activity to be realigned towards improving the experience of top value customers. This not only reduces churn in this key segment but also minimises any downtime that could reduce call volume or data usage and hence revenue.
Extending the Experience
Getting one aspect of the service aligned with the customer experience will deliver immediate and quantifiable ROI and, critically, then provide a platform for expanding the CEM model into other areas. For example, providing customer services agents with up to date information on a customer’s experience is incredibly powerful. Firstly, when a customer calls, the agent can see immediately if the problem is related to the network or the handset, for example, and respond quickly and appropriately.
Secondly, CSPs can begin to embrace a more proactive model. For example, tracking the quality of service being delivered to corporate customers in real time, using dashboards in service operating centres to monitor performance, and proactively contacting customers to flag that an issue is being addressed. This approach not only improves the customer experience but also reduces the burden on customer services by driving down call volumes and improving resolution time.
After years of investment in improving network quality and competing on price, CSPs are beginning to refocus. As a result, the difference between good and bad customer experience is becoming stark – and with customers increasingly making CSP decisions based on the quality of experience, those companies that get it right are gaining significant commercial advantage.
CSPs have a huge opportunity, with detailed customer and already existing, although scattered, network information – including real time activity – and long term relationships that organisations in other markets can never hope to achieve. Rather than attempt to achieve the impossible with a single CEM, CSPs need to leverage this information to gain insight into priority areas and begin to make incremental change. It is by using this real time insight and following a clear CEM framework that CSPs can successfully evolve towards business processes effectively aligned with the customer experience – and drive up that Net Promoter Score and customer perception to far more acceptable levels.