Learn how digital transformation in the ICT industry is separating the leaders from the laggers.
Posted February 13, 2019
It’s hard to name an industry that’s more competitive, and more challenging, than telecommunications.
A study by McKinsey, A Future For Mobile Operators: The Keys To Successful Reinvention, highlights the key difficulties facing U.S. telecom companies, whose revenues and cash flow have dropped an average of six percent per year since 2010. Data consumption shot up during that time, and companies invested in their wireless networks to stay competitive — even as subscriber growth slowed.
With stubbornly low margins and low provider-switching costs, the need to embrace all aspects of digital transformation in order to delight telecom customers has never been more urgent.
Customer experience is the difference
The constant influx of next-generation technology continues to increasingly drive demand for more and more mobile data. And, with large install bases — the top four U.S. telecom players have between 50 and 150 million subscribers each — companies have a huge business opportunity ahead of them to drive the average revenue per user (ARPU). That opportunity rests squarely on the shoulders of stellar customer service.
Like in most industries, a key mode of differentiation in today’s complex environment is great customer experience, which are heavily shaped by interactions with customer service teams. In August 2018, U.S. carrier T-Mobile launched TEX, promising customers a “Team of experts dedicated just to you. No bots. No bouncing. No BS.” The initial program results have been impressive, with Net Promoter Score up 60 percent compared to before TEX went live — an all-time NPS high according to the company.
Still, anyone working in the telecom industry knows there’s no shortcut to customer service nirvana. It’s a long game requiring dedication and commitment — not only to providing great one-to-one service when it’s called for, but implementing the technology to do it at a sometimes unimaginable scale. Here are three keys to driving improved customer service in the telecommunications industry.
1. Recognize the opportunity — and risk — of technology
The telecommunications sector is rife with legacy infrastructure that is struggling to meet the growing need for video streaming and mobile internet usage. New technology promises to meet, and even exceed, those demands. As McKinsey points out, “With the newest software and hardware, along with digital-age management practices, mobile operators can achieve breakthrough cost savings and capital intensity while maintaining or even increasing their scale.”
Industry watchers agree that digital transformation will separate the winners from the losers. There are more telecom competitors than ever, and potential consequences of not utilizing technology-based solutions are much greater than ever before.
Dedication to implementing game-changing innovation requires a true commitment, because in telecom, the threats to business are fierce. “Technology can help a company improve the customer experience. That’s the good news,” says Jeff Kagan, a telecom industry analyst. That includes everything from implementing Conversational Bots to upgrading a CRM system, and beyond.
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Kagan goes on to say that companies not incorporating these next-gen technologies will face a much tougher road ahead. “This is something that has to come from the company itself. They must understand the threat of losing market share and not winning more,” he says.
2. Personalize the experience, by demographic and use case
Currently, smartphone penetration in the U.S. sits at 85 percent, according to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey (GMCS). That number will grow even higher with the introduction of better and faster chips — and a lot of that growth will be driven by people over the age of 45. The same survey reports that over the last three years, the compound annual growth rate for smartphones among those age 45 and older was more than five times that of those aged 18 to 24 years.
Though the opportunity starts with the over-45 set, smart telecom companies are personalizing user-centric design (e.g. bigger buttons, larger text, etc.), as well as service packages specifically for mature demographics. For example, Sprint and T-Mobile both offer two lines and unlimited talk, text and data — only for customers over 55, according to Consumer Reports.
Smaller companies like Ting and US Mobile offer even better deals, with tiered, pay-as-you-go options designed to reward minimal usage. Meanwhile, GreatCall offers service plans and phones specifically designed for seniors. The Jitterbug phone has bigger than average buttons, along with other senior-friendly features, like easy-to-add health services and quick access to 911 emergency support.
U.S. telecom companies have clearly embraced their highest growth sectors and are experimenting with how to effectively serve more mature customers.
3. Embrace a culture of employee empowerment
There’s no doubt that technology can make a big impact when it comes to the improvement and personalization of customer support among telecoms. But for many, culture trumps tech. “My job isn’t necessarily creating a great culture, but reinforcing the one that’s already here,” says Ross Rader, head of customer support at Ting, a small U.S. mobile provider. “My day is spent giving our staff more leeway, more power, more training. I’m looking for opportunities for them to improve their game.”
Similarly, TELUS International and its telecom parent company TELUS, subscribe to the notion of the Culture Value Chain, where a strong corporate culture leads to greater team member engagement, better customer support, higher CSAT, and sustained top-line revenue growth. This framework has proven itself across industries, but there’s perhaps no ground more fertile than in the Information and Communication Technology industry.
There is no doubt that the adoption of next-generation technologies has a huge role to play in creating ongoing, scalable and efficient customer support mechanisms. But in order for the positive effects of technology to reach your customers, you must also have committed, engaged and empowered team members. They are the ultimate key to leveraging your company’s digital transformation efforts in order to deliver exceptional and differentiated customer experiences.