Telecom battleground – Is ‘Superior Customer Experience’ your weapon of choice?

By Aditya Kapoor

How superior customer experience can help telecom operators differentiate themselves in the age of commoditized products and services

It’s a jolly time to be a telecom consumer! You’ve seen the plethora of advertisements, right? Free calls, cheaper data, lower rentals, innumerable plans to choose from and what not. Look closely. Is that all a customer wants? And, is that all a telecom player can offer? In wanting to outdo each other to gain more customers, major telecom players are turning a blind eye to another critical aspect that can get them ahead in this race to win users – Customer Experience.

Where are we right now

Improving customer experience is no longer a feel-good advantage provided by telecom organizations, but a major business priority. Many digital and communication service (henceforth referred to as DCS) providers offer similar services and products. But differentiation based on product and pricing alone can take them only so far ahead. Also, with stiff competition from OTT players, telecom majors are losing sleep over unmatched revenue expectations and decreasing customer acquisition rate.

Digital technologies and innovations in the telecom domain have changed the way users consume products and services. This has heightened the expectation level of the consumer on the user experience front. Users expect quality experiences, and telcos should duly oblige, sooner rather than later. The interesting fact is that the value on offer will still include product features and services on offer, but will also include the customer experience aspect. It is this trifecta that will decide the leaders and followers in the telecom domain in the times ahead.

The telecommunication industry has been lagging behind

A KPMG Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Report leaves the telecom sector positioned second from the bottom among all major industries in customer experience ranking. Backing this fact is an IBM executive report on telecommunication, which states that “Only 30 percent of telecommunications executives believe they have a high level of customer understanding”. In the same report, more than 50% of consumers considered their providers average to poor in a host of basic areas.

But, not all is so dull and gloomy. Tesco Mobile, only one of two telecom companies in the top 100 in the KPMG Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Report, has been particularly successful in implementing customer satisfaction and keeping the customer at the focal point. Its message is in sync with what the customers want and is in line with the actual experience being delivered. With a well thought out social media strategy and knowing how the needs of their customers differ with different channels, Tesco Mobile is well-known in providing customer experience orchestration.

Legacy systems hurt

The IBM executive report on telecommunication captures a telecommunications chief marketing officer from Spain: “Being at or above par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. A distinctive customer experience wins the game.” There is a major hurdle that needs to be navigated first though.

As usual, legacy systems are top of the pile. Vinod Kamat, VP at Vodafone Essar says: “However, there is need to address a few challenges such as flawless data migration from legacy systems and ensuring information security and data privacy to have wide adoption of cloud platforms”. This thought is echoed by a telecommunications chief marketing officer from USA (in the IBM executive report on telecommunication), who says: “The omnichannel experience is where we can reconnect with customers, provided we can transform our multilayered and siloed organization into a harmonic ecosystem.”

The first step

DCS providers need to ensure that their differentiated services deliver the optimum user experience. But, many executives simply have no idea where to start. The ideal first step would be to map the customer experience journey with the brand. Doing this will help uncover not only the interactions that consumers have with the brand but also their pain points that will need addressing. This can help build a better product and a point of differentiation.

The ultimate result will be seen in the value delivered to the customer. McKinsey & Company states that:

The early the companies get into this, the easier will it be for them to have a foothold.

But, this is only the start

In the ultra-competitive and complex DCS industry, customers are looking for a provider that will help them achieve their day to day goals and solve their problems more effectively than others. Customer experience rules in this era defined by digitization. Thus, providing a seamless user experience across multiple touch points must be the ultimate goal of a winning value proposition.

This can be achieved by analyzing and continuously spotting consumer behaviors in real time and providing innovative and contextual products and offers. Telecom companies, simply not known to offer decent customer service, need to start putting the customer as their focal point of everything they develop and eventually offer. Doing so can help them rebuild their reputation and reboot the telecom customer experience, improving brand loyalty along the way.

All this, channelized with proper strategy, will position the DCS providers perfectly to win this war. After all, the customer deserves a fruitful experience, not just freebies, right?

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Aditya Kapoor