Seeking differentiation in a connected world
Demand for broadband connectivity is exploding. It’s fueled by customers seeking faster connections and richer service experiences. In fact, connectivity is now seen as an essential part of human existence, so much so that major outages disrupt lives and make waves in traditional and social media.
Delivering a fast, reliable connection is no longer a way to differentiate. It’s now considered table stakes. And as new brands compete for mind-, market- and wallet-share, service providers are learning that they cannot differentiate with devices, services or pricing. Savvy service providers recognize new differentiators will be required to remain competitive.
Making devices, applications and services easy to purchase, own and use will help service providers stand out and succeed. It is this improved customer experience that offers service providers a path toward differentiation.
Making things easy is about meeting customer expectations. And when it comes to connected devices and services, customers have fairly straightforward expectations. They expect that:
- Everything will be simple. No one wants to spend hours configuring a smartphone or programming a DVR.
- The network will always be there when they need it.
- Devices and applications will work as they’re supposed to.
- Problems will be identified and resolved quickly.
Service providers are poised to address these expectations. They have become the caretakers of the customer experience; customers turn to them when they want something new or when something goes wrong. But with responsibility comes pressure. Service providers must consistently deliver a good quality of experience (QoE) or customers will find someone who does it better. The outcome of a bad experience can be substantial: Lost customers mean lost revenue, lower customer lifetime value (CLV) and an inability to monetize service portfolios.
Caring about customer experience
Service providers can use QoE to differentiate and prove their relevance to customers. Providers that make things easy for customers have the best chance to win their loyalty. This can be difficult with fixed and mobile broadband services, which are not always intuitive for customers. Customer problems mean help desk calls, truck rolls and retail store visits, all of which can create frustration and shake the foundations of customer loyalty.
By delivering a quality customer experience service providers can limit the effect of customer problems and improve the bottom line. For example, it can take 9 to 12 months to recover from support costs incurred during the first 30 days of a customer relationship. Service providers that make it easy for customers to solve problems and enjoy their services can reduce acquisition and support costs and reach profitability faster.
Service providers’ unique assets bring a superior customer experience within reach. Service providers control a wealth of information about customers, devices and services. They own robust, secure and scalable networks that can support an array of services. They have access to innovative devices with open platforms that support application innovation. In short, they have all the components required to deliver a market-leading customer experience. The challenge is to make it easy for customers to get what they want, when they want it. This calls for new thinking, new strategies and new priorities.
Plot a path to transformation
The customer experience touches every part of a service provider’s business. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or set procedure for transforming the customer experience. Service providers can succeed with an approach that addresses the needs of all organizational stakeholders while helping executives carry out their business objectives.
Every service provider plots its own path to transformation, often starting with a desire to address a specific pain point or opportunity. For example, some providers are realizing early success with investments in customer support. Others are making progress with technologies that help them understand how customers use their services. Many could benefit from a second opinion. Consultation from a trusted advisor can help providers determine what’s working well, what needs improvement and how to get started.
Embrace new strategies
The right starting point and goals are essential. A customer experience transformation vision needs innovative direction to succeed. Service providers can drive their business forward with new strategies that focus on:
- Multi-channel customer care: Today’s customers seek support through diverse channels, including phones, the Web, e-mail, social networking and instant messaging. Service providers must ensure they provide the same quality of information and experience through every channel.
- Analytics: Service providers value metrics such as social media indexes, customer satisfaction ratings and Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures the likelihood that customers will recommend their offerings to others. To deliver on customer experience, service providers need analytics that help them anticipate, understand and react to what’s happening in the network and at every customer touchpoint.
- Maximizing yield: Like airlines, service providers want to operate at peak capacity. But in the network, peak capacity only happens twice a day. Service providers can benefit from strategies that shift usage patterns and reward customers for using the network in off-peak periods.
New transformation strategies need strong support to succeed. Fortunately, service providers have valued assets that can act as building blocks for customer experience transformation. These assets include:
- Detailed customer knowledge, an immense asset that merits constant focus and attention. More effective use of customer data can foster more relevant support and a more consistent customer experience.
- Hardware and software that can efficiently manage networks, devices, applications and services. Service providers need to connect and unify these diverse systems to deliver standout experiences.
- Unique trust earned through reliable service delivery, careful treatment of sensitive data and respected business practices. Customers are used to approaching service providers when they need information or have problems. Trust can be a key element in building a better overall customer experience.
Although these assets are vital, service providers have to realize that they are not alone. Creative partnerships can help service providers extend their reach and relevance. Services are no longer strictly telco services. Service providers with robust infrastructures, networks, billing systems and help desks can essentially become service providers to application and content providers (ACPs). Collaboration with ACPs can drive innovation in the application space, generate new revenue and influence the customer experience.
A holistic approach addresses the challenge ahead
Ultimately, the aim of customer experience transformation is to create a reliable and consistent QoE, one that makes customers want to keep doing business with the service provider. It’s not enough for service providers to improve one organization, customer touchpoint or area of service delivery. Service providers need a holistic approach that extends a customer experience focus across their entire business.
A truly holistic approach to customer experience management reaches beyond customer touchpoints and into the service provider environment. In a holistic environment, all call center agents would have access to the same tools, regardless of what services they support. All customers would have access to the same self-service tools on laptops, smartphones, TVs and PCs. A holistic approach means extending consistency, universality and intuitiveness across every customer contact channel including call centers, web portals, IVRs and retail stores.
Today’s service provider executives recognize the importance of the customer experience, but are challenged by the complexity of implementing change across their organization. Executive buy-in and leadership are the cornerstones of a successful customer experience transformation. To compete in the long term, executives must find ways to align departments and ensure that every person in the service provider organization is focused on delivering the best possible customer experience.
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