Brave New World: Customer Experience the key to longevity in Telecommunications


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TelcoTelco Competition is fierce in the telecoms industry, with core voice and SMS revenues under threat from free services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp – not to mention Google Talk & Facebook Chat getting in on the game! Fresh from two years in the HQ of China’s biggest telecoms company, Colin Smith identifies how some traditional operators are turning their expensive networks into tools that provide an unmatchable customer experience.

The telecoms industry worldwide is forecast to enter a period of intense acquisition over the next two years, as weaker operators are swallowed up by their larger competitors. To be on the right side of this, telcos need to focus on where they can add to the customer experience and how they can drive customers back to them.

A toolkit called Customer Experience Management (CEM) is giving operators the opportunities to use their costly, high maintenance networks to their advantage. Used correctly, CEM is combination of platform and software which brings together a telco’s network performance and customer behaviour to produce a holistic view of their existing customer experience. This can be leveraged to create innovative solutions for customers, such as solving customer complaints, identifying new market segments, developing new products and services and tailor marketing campaigns to target audiences.

However all this is only possible if CEM data can be interpreted, communicated and applied to the relevant parts of the operator’s business. Without a structure or framework, it is just data. Consequently, operators have been reluctant to make the multi-million dollar investment required to implement CEM. There is also a growing concern among operators that the entire customer experience agenda is being hijacked by vendors to sell CEM products and services.

So how do operators achieve the benefits of CEM without losing sight of customer experience or being overwhelmed by Big Data? Key to success is striking the right balance between Customer Experience Management and traditional customer experience design. CEM provides the data and evidence; customer experience design brings the framework. Together these tools can provide customers with an experience that the OTTs (YouTube, Spotify and the like) and handset providers can’t, such as one touch problem resolution, guaranteed levels of service and location based marketing propositions.

Some key players have already demonstrated the power of CEM, to an extent, although I’m not aware of any which have leveraged these benefits extensively. Some notable small successes to learn from include:

• China Mobile segments its customer base and forecasts the impact of marketing campaigns will have on its revenue and overall network performance.
• Saudi Telecom is providing VVIP customers with ‘real-time’ fault resolution. By monitoring every element of the network performance for this wealthy group of users, the operator can fix most problems before the customer even notices.
• Citibank is demanding guaranteed service levels from its global telco partners, for critical transactions such as authorization codes. CEM operators are happy to provide this, because they can fix problems before the SLA is breached.

While it’s clear that the big telcos are beginning to utilise their network capabilities with varying degrees of success and savings, there are still enormous opportunities for companies that use these tools across the breadth of their business. Currently the biggest buzz is around China Mobile’s solution, but their work on marketing campaign planning only realises a fragment of CEM’s possibilities. Until they use CEM to identify new customer segments, build products around them and then direct network investment to create the optimal experience for that group, then they are missing an opportunity.

The development of this technology and it’s application in innovative and exciting ways will be a space to watch in the years to come.

Colin Smith
Colin Smith is a Manager at the Customer Experience Company in Sydney, Australia. He has 15 years experience working throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. Most recently Colin worked as a Principal Strategy Consultant for Huawei, China's biggest telecoms company based in their South China Head Office.


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