Four Customer-Centric Actions Telecom Companies Must Take

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When was the last time you heard someone complain about an experience he had with his Internet, television, or mobile phone service providers? Going by numerous sentiment-measuring reports, the likelihood is that we don’t have to think far to remember about a poor experience that we’ve heard or read about.

Telecom companies get a bad rap when it comes to customer experience. All too often, clients feel that service falls short of their expectations, and that complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears. Yet despite poor customer sentiment, few telecom companies have made customer centricity a priority, a shortcoming that is evident by the low scores that even leaders in the industry have achieved in Satmetrix’s recently released 2014 Net Promoter Industry Benchmarks. Further, television and Internet service providers were among the companies receiving “poor” average ratings in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings.

While telecom business leaders often talk about the importance of being customer centric, it seems that this hasn’t translated into concrete action. The reluctance to invest in improving the customer experience might be due to the fact that most telecom organizations are in the same boat, with the best-in-class companies not faring much better than those who are ranked at the worst positions.

Traditionally, telecom providers have looked at cost and coverage as two of the main areas of investment. In fact, even marketing messages seem to target these two factors as main differentiators. Verizon, for example, uses maps of the United States to compare its 4G LTE coverage with those of other providers.

But in an intensely competitive market, where companies are constantly trying to one-up their competitors, lack of investment in customer-centric measures is leading to churn. While cost and coverage are important factors for customers, on their own, they are not enough to avoid churn.

Further, even though many customers are tied down by contracts, a negative customer experience could very well drive them to a competitor once their contract is up, if not before. T-Mobile, for example, is even offering to pay the much-dreaded early termination fees for customers who want to switch carriers for their postpaid plans. If other companies follow suit, customers will have the option to break their contract anytime their current provider fails to deliver on their expectations, or they come across a better offer. Here are four actions that telecom companies should take to attract new customers and retain existing ones:
  1. Use data to get a complete picture of the entire customer relationship: Organizations across all industries suffer from departmental silos. Especially when customers buy more than one service from a company, it’s imperative that the organization makes the necessary investments to create a 360-degree profile of its customers. Some telecom companies are trying to consolidate their CRM systems to have a more holistic view of their customer and enable the delivery of better customer service. Further, improved customer visibility will allow telecom providers to reiterate what other industries have been doing for some time—offer services and products that best fit an individual or a household’s needs.
  2. Invest in first-contact resolution: Customers want their problems addressed and rectified immediately. However, many telecom providers rate poorly when it comes to first-contact resolution, reflecting negatively on their customer satisfaction scores. There are a number of steps that companies can take to resolve issues immediately, including investing in training for contact center associates and providing associates with access to the information they need to give customers the answers they are looking for.
  3. Focus on an omnichannel experience: With customers communicating with brands over multiple channels, organizations need to make sure that they can connect these different touchpoints and provide a seamless experience at each customer interaction throughout their lifecycle. While brands are trying to provide new ways for their customers to get in touch with them, the different channels are often siloed. For example, a customer who starts off engaging in chat support might realize the issue is complicated and he would rather get on the phone with an associate. But, many times there is no direct way to connect to the associate, and when the customer gets through, it’s often someone new who doesn’t have visibility into the chat conversation. In order to improve the experience, telecom companies need to consider investing in technologies to connect the disparate channels and provide seamless transitions for customers.
  4. Identify high-value and high-risk customers: While all customers are important, there are certain segments that are more valuable than others. Telecom companies need to first determine the attributes of their high-value customers and then identify these clients through a robust CRM system. The next step is to determine who, among this group, is most likely to churn, for example those clients who are approaching the end of their contract. Not only can organizations make sure these segments are routed to more knowledgeable associates who can provide a better experience, but they should put structures into place to proactively reach out to these customers with relevant offers and information. For example, a cable company which knows that a particular household enjoys watching movies might offer that account a month of free movie channels or credit to use towards the purchase of on-demand movies.

Acquiring new customers is neither easy nor inexpensive. This is why organizations need to make sure those new customers are satisfied with their experience and want to continue doing business with the brand rather than being willing to jump ship at the first opportunity.