The advent of native digital players is changing the rules of business.
Starting from a blank page, these companies have redefined and integrated the customer journey into their business model. A new standard for customer experience has now been created as the customer’s expectations evolved, forever.
If the term “uberization” now sheds light on this phenomenon, digitalization is not new.
Indeed, the first industry to be shaken up by the emergence of new digital entrants was telecoms. The major shift in the telco industry occurred with the democratization of smartphones and over-the-top services. While for a limited timeframe the industry could benefit from a revenue boost from data consumption, its bread and butter (voice and messaging revenues) were threatened. The massive success of over-the-top services and the ongoing commoditization considerably boosted competition in the industry. Many carriers adopted a strategy focused on lowering prices. This strategy may pay off in the short-term in markets with room for service adoption. Otherwise, in saturated markets this strategy creates prohibitive customer acquisition costs, which threatens margins and potentially destroys value. To ensure the industry’s financial sustainability, a strong differentiator that is beneficial for both the service provider and the end customer is urgently required.
Building a personalized experience
The emergence of mobile and digital with the tremendous success of both the smartphone and wireless broadband, dramatically changed customer behavior: subscribers expect immediacy and simplicity no matter how complex the service delivery may be. For decades, carriers have been doing what they do best: managing an overly complex network infrastructure to ingest massive amounts of data, while providing a seamless and reliable wireless service to the end-customer.
seamless and reliable wireless service by mobile operators
The collection and analysis of this ocean of data that flows through the pipes, is the main ingredient for an outstanding customer experience. Of course, this is no easy task as it requires technology, experience, and reshaping of processes and models.
While carriers are investing in sophisticated big data tools and driving efforts to break silos, customer experience and marketing professionals are still relying on technical experts to extract appropriate customer data or to launch a promotional campaign. This lack of autonomy bridles the proactivity required to launch relevant interactions. Some technical platforms on the network side do provide real-time capability marketing dreams of, however, they lack personalization. As a result, in many instances the message content is the same for all customers: who never received this very same SMS listing local service tariffs when roaming? Ideally, these roaming messages would take into consideration customer’s current offer, preferences, and past behavior to suggest the right offer during the stay.
One of the reasons for this dilemma is that technical platforms associated with service delivery have been developed for the sole purpose of delivering real-time capabilities. These platforms are located at the end of the chain: other steps (e.g. data collection, analysis, recommendation…) rely on other solutions.
A technological gap still exists in the heterogeneous operator environment, as service delivery platforms are not integrated in this data value chain. These are simply incompatible with the marketing logic of homogenizing customer experience.
A common example highlights a carrier’s CEM limitations: the customer who every month consumes his or her entire data allowance (fair use) before the end of the month. To avoid a bill shock, platforms with real-time triggers are pre-configured to send the customer a notification whenever a predefined data consumption threshold is reached. Therefore, a data extension will be pushed so the customer can keep enjoying from the service until the end of the month. The limitation here is that marketing professionals face a black box: not able to know if this overconsumption has been an exception or the rule.
By integrating siloed customer data with real-time analytics, it is possible to go a step further into service personalization: have a quick access to customer’s historical usage and detect a better-suited plan. As a result, the carrier can understand the context and differentiate between a punctual over-consumption from an unsuited data plan. This allows Marketing to push a relevant plan upgrade based on the identified customer’s need, in a proactive manner. By doing so, the carrier avoids the customer taking the initiative to look after alternatives for this overconsumption on his or her own.
From personal to contextual: enriching experience with additional dimensions
For the last couple of years, leading carriers launched contextual services as a mean to create new revenue streams and boost customer loyalty. Such services highlight the need of synergy between personalization, real-time, and additional data that are mandatory for their effectiveness. How many times did prospects receive offers that were not relevant? Or if they were, shops were out of reach?
Customer Experience : From personal to contextual
The success of proximity-based marketing - service of exclusive offers based on shared preferences that are pushed instantly whenever an opt-in subscriber enters a predefined area - relies on the consumer receiving the right message, at the right place, and the right time. In this case, the objective is to understand the context to trigger an unplanned but convenient buying. For example, restaurants pushing a free drink coupon at food courts, or retailers providing a discount near duty free shops at airports.
The operation of such highly contextual service relies on technical prowess. As it requires bridging OSS and BSS platforms to correlate network and usage data, in addition to compiling all customer metrics and enrich them with data from external sources (e.g. social media). Receiving a relevant offer at the right time is very powerful as it enables the carrier to not only differentiate with an optimal customer experience, but also meet commercial objectives. As such, timing is key: no manual intervention and turnaround is possible if the service requires industrial capabilities, to reach a large pool of customers.
Adapting and automating interactions all along the customer lifecycle
Customer experience management is a continuous effort. While carriers have a well-defined welcome journey with a number of pre-defined interactions, this is seldom the case for the entire customer lifecycle. Often, after a couple of weeks the customer is “left” on his or her own. Then, a few weeks before the end of contract, an extension offer resurfaces. In reality, this common practice may be counterproductive. As for many customers, it focuses the attention on this commercial imperative rather than the uninterrupted service reliance and quality.
To create a true bond, it is necessary to establish a continuous dialogue with the customer. Considering the number of subscribers, listening to “the voice of the customer” and acting accordingly is truly a difficult task. While the concept is not new, so far it has not been fully operational. Today, the service provider monopolizes the dialogue with outbound (one way) communication campaigns.
The carrier’s embedded mobile application and self-care portals are touchpoints that should not be undermined for direct communication and contextual analysis. Today, these constitute the two primary channels native digital customers want to interact through. By providing exclusive content and promotional offers via these interfaces, the carrier is able to enrich customer intelligence by identifying preferences and interests. For instance, by communicating the availability of next-generation smartphones via the application, marketing can analyze in-app browsing data to fine-tune targeting criteria: so to push a personalized upgrade offer via a pop-up notification.
To capture the customer’s expectations and preferences, carriers must identify and interpret every customer’s interaction, independently of the channel used, and along the entire lifecycle.
Example of best practices:
1. Product/service information gathering: Web browsing (cookies) analysis notify to push a dialogue via email or telemarketing.
2. Purchase or subscription and associated product/service delivery: Clarify the delivery process and provide updates through different steps via the preferred channel.
3. Billing: Avoid bill shock with notifications before surcharging and push relevant upgrade offers based on past consumption patterns.
4. Technical or commercial assistance: Consolidate data and make information available across different channels (customer care, point of sales, marketing….).
5. Complaint: Correlate events to understand the context (e.g. drop calls), identify the reason of bad experience, proactively inform about actions (before customer’s incoming call).
6. Termination: Send a personalized offer through the preferred channel based on consumption patterns. Provide a competitive discount and if not accepted, ask for feedback to understand the reason of churn.
Whether the interaction is related to marketing or customer care, a sustainable differentiator for the carrier is to be able to proactively recommend an adapted service or solution prior to the customer’s own initiative. In the era of social media, individual customer complaints can generate an unprecedented negative impact to brand value. Therefore, acting before a dissatisfaction arises or reacting fast with an adapted response is key.
The industry’s ongoing consolidation wave is a consequence of an increasingly competitive market, where margins are under threat. A sustainable alternative to price wars is a differentiation based on personalization and quality of experience. Leading communication service providers are investing in the right technologies, solutions and skills that will enable them to efficiently drive this transformational effort.
Operationally, this is translated by marketing teams being able to detect evolving customer needs independently of the touchpoint, and personalizing interactions with always relevant arguments. With business-oriented solutions, non-technical users can benefit from machine learning and automation capabilities to engage with all subscribers, in a seamless dialogue.
Recently, innovative players announced ambitious strategies to further enrich their portfolio with quad-play bundles and content. This disruptive positioning creates an unprecedented opportunity to drive new revenue streams, but also adds complexity to customer intelligence. It is by breaking silos and supporting marketing teams in their continuous effort to provide an omni-channel experience that leading telcos will create a truly sustainable competitive advantage.