Effective communication & engagement are the keys to unlocking customer value in telecoms


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The global telecoms market – or the digital service provider (DSP) market, as we now like to be known – is giddy with excitement about its new innovations. 2021 will see the launch of commercial 5G across the globe, as well as increasing penetration of superfast fibre-based broadband networks.

In fact, we’ve spent billions of dollars and 10 years of effort on 5G alone. We’ve also engaged with the most innovative, powerful marketers to develop slick advertising that depicts an aspirational 5G lifestyle.

We’re poised to see huge (and desperately needed) new revenue streams pour into our coffers. Or are we?

The fly in the ointment is that, yet again, the telecoms industry has proven how brilliant it is at innovating technically, while demonstrating how bad it is at innovating experience. The result is that not only have we failed to grab the attention and imagination of our customers, but in fact we’ve alienated them to the point they are now making up stories about our technology that baffle the industry and which we will have to combat before we get down to selling. We’ve also educated customers that we don’t deliver on our promises and created an ever-widening gap between customer expectations of telecoms innovation and what we actually deliver.

The reasons for suboptimal 5G commercialisation are well known

The reasons for the situation we find ourselves in once again are blindingly obvious and certainly not new – we did the exact same thing with 3G and 4G:

• we’re obsessed with technology and think as long as we’re technologically innovative that’s all that matters
• we fail to deliver against our customers’ needs and expectations
• we still don’t seem to understand that innovation has to feel tangible to customers, and that means innovating experience as well as technology.

The consequences of suboptimal 5G commercialisation are dire…but there is a solution

In fact, the entire 5G proposition is now at risk because the industry is delivering a 5G network but a 2G experience. Without urgent action, we will struggle to pull this back from turning into a huge disappointment. A disappointment we simply can’t afford.

Is this just me being negative? Is history doomed to repeat itself with long time-to-revenue cycles for 5G and a big pause while we wait for revenue to appear from our investments? The scary thing is that it could be even worse than previously. South Korea launched the first 5G network, ahead of the US even, and since it launched 600,000 customers that subscribed to 5G have gone back to 4G. Yes you heard right: they desubscribed because it didn’t meet their expectations.

If we’d just stopped and put ourselves in our customers’ shoes we could have avoided these sort of outcomes. We would have realised that customers can’t get excited about a faster network when they’re still waiting in frustratingly long queues to speak to a customer service rep when things go wrong or when they don’t understand what we’re trying to communicate to them. The majority of calls to our contact centres are still due to faults and billing enquiries. And most billing enquiries are not because the charge is wrong, but because the customer didn’t understand it or expect it.

Will 5G feel innovative to our customers when they still have to repeat information to different service reps? Will it feel better than 4G when we’re still forcing them out of channel due to lack of integration, or when they receive confusing, boring bills that look more or less exactly the same as they did 20 years ago? Will network innovation and flexibility be supported by more personalised and relevant offers and price plans? Or will the entire experience seem like more of the same?

In fact innovation is the easy bit. Anyone can innovate. But successful innovators are also great communicators of innovation.

DCES is about making communication & engagement more effective

The telecoms industry not only needs to do better, it has no choice but to do better if it wants to unleash the full commercial potential of 5G and its other network investments.

Improving the way we communicate with our customers is critical, but most especially when we bring innovation to market because it’s a time of change and potential confusion. Making communication and engagement more effective is therefore not a nice-to-have that can be put off, but a huge commercial issue that impacts both our top and bottom lines, and plays an essential role in building healthy, long-lasting and profitable customer relationships.

Making 5G successful and meeting our customers’ expectations requires digital service providers (DSPs) to focus on how they communicate 5G to their customers, support customers in adopting it and, even more immediately, navigate the complexities of buying it. More effective communication and engagement helps address four key sets of risks DSPs now face:

the commercial risk of sales and onboarding process becoming barriers to adoption, as well as the challenge of getting better at supporting mid-lifecycle upsell and cross-sell opportunities
the operational risk of massively increasing the cost of supporting frustrated, confused and unhappy customers who inevitably call our contact centres to get answers
the competitive risk of our customers churning to rival DSPs that offer a better experience
the reputational risk and brand damage of being perceived as a low-quality company that lacks innovation.

Not only is all of this a huge customer and operational challenge, but it’s also a big issue for our employee experience. It’s pretty horrible working in a telecoms call centre. Your life is little more than being yelled at by angry customers while being pressurised to reduce call handling times and stick to scripts. The result is huge turnover rates, staff burnout and higher costs because the business has to hire replacement staff and train them. If only there was a way to free up our agents’ time so they could positively and proactively engage customers, making everyone happier in the process…

The good news is that we can break out of negative cycles of poor communication & engagement by adopting what Omnisperience calls DCES (digital communication & engagement solutions). DCES increase communication effectiveness, support communication innovation and unleash business value by breaking down communication silos and delivering a purposefully-designed communication and engagement experience.

DCES: five centres of communication excellence

DCES solve a big problem we have in telecoms – highly fragmented customer communications that contradict one another, overload the customer, don’t address the customer’s needs and deliver sub-optimal outcomes for customer, DSP and staff.

DCES combine all the technologies DSPs utilise to communicate with their customers into five centres of communications excellence that are integrated to deliver coherent, resonant and contextual experiences that drive up value and customer loyalty at a lower operational cost.

Omnisperience does not advocate wholesale replacement of technology (a major transformation project), but rather an incremental redesign and integration to create a more effective communications strategy. We advise DSPs to begin by assessing legacy solutions and identifying:

• what can be reused
• what needs to be replaced
• gaps where new technology needs to be added
• points of integration that will drive a more effective communications experience
• areas of risk
• what resources are needed.

The assessment should start with the customers’ perspective: analysing how legacy DCES contribute to the customers’ experience, engagement & satisfaction. Next, the DSP should assess how its legacy DCES impact against its commercial goals and strategic objectives. Finally, the review should consider how cost-effective legacy DCES are and identify where savings can be made. Once the DSP has a good picture of what it has and how it’s doing, it can fill any gaps and upgrade solutions that are not performing.

You can find out more about DCES and how to adopt this approach in our new paper ‘DCES – Building Value Through Effective Communication & Engagement’ which is available to download from our website

Teresa Cottam
Teresa Cottam leads research & analysis at communications industry analysts Omnisperience. She is a renowned expert on customer experience, employee experience, customer communications & engagement, pricing, packaging & bundling, billing & charging. Teresa is a judge of the GSMA’s Global Mobile Awards (GloMo’s) for customer experience and enterprise innovation, the UK Cloud Awards, and for Tech Trailblazers. She previously held senior positions at Telesperience, Analysys Mason, Chorleywood Consulting, Informa and Ovum. Teresa helps TMT companies gain value from experience.


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