As mobile devices proliferate – 91 percent of Americans currently own a mobile phone, according to Pew Research (1) – consumer expectations for their service provider experience have also skyrocketed. Customers now expect their mobile phones, tablets, and other mobile devices to provide them with instant access to media, information, and entertainment, anywhere at any time. Further, new entrants to the communications market – application developers, social networks, and over-the-top (OTT) content providers – have raised the bar when it comes to the customer experience, which has helped drive customer expectations even higher.
This market shift means that communications service providers (CSPs) must now deliver a seamless, integrated, multi-channel approach for customer interactions, from order management to service delivery, while also troubleshooting day-to-day customer usage issues, such as data download speeds or glitches in phone functionality. CSPs must adopt new strategies to meet heightened customer demands and keep up with the competition. Customers want more from their communications network – more games, faster downloads, instant connectivity with social media – and with the ever-expanding variety of rich video content, social networks, and applications, customers can afford to be more demanding and less patient.
There is also a significant revenue opportunity in the new mobile marketplace. Oracle recently conducted research on how businesses are managing customer experience in a global study, “Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era.” As part of the research, Oracle surveyed communications executives from 18 countries in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America to assess their customer experience programs, and found that CSPs are unable to capitalize on an additional 20 percent of revenue, on average, by not offering a positive, consistent, and engaging customer experience.
Further complicating the competitive landscape, however, is social media. It is now much easier for customers to learn about competitors that may have higher customer satisfaction rates or offer a more sophisticated end-to-end user experience. To maintain a strong market presence, CSPs must also identify ways to bridge the gap between customer expectations and experiences across front and back-office systems. This may require CSPs to step outside their comfort zone and use new channels and technologies to adapt to new trends with their target consumers.
The Execution Chasm
It’s clear, for competitive organizations focused on growth, a sophisticated customer experience platform is a key differentiator that can provide a significant return on investment and position CSPs to compete against new over-the-top (OTT) content providers on customer satisfaction and grow market share. But CSPs not currently offering an integrated, seamless, multi-channel customer experience are not alone. Oracle’s recent survey also found 40 percent of CSPs say they have implemented some formalized customer experience program, while only an additional 14 percent say their program is advanced. Further, 44 percent of those surveyed were still assessing solutions and had no active customer experience program implementation, while the remaining two percent were not actively reviewing customer experience solutions.
Many CSPs feel they must make improvements to offer customers the experience they have come to expect from other OTT content providers. According to the survey, communications executives say the top obstacles to implementing an advanced customer experience program include limitations of inflexible technology and infrastructure (29 percent), followed closely by difficulty tracking performance and customer feedback (28 percent), and siloed organizations and conflicting key performance indicators (26 percent).
In short, older back-office systems are not equipped to handle newer OTT and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services, and CSPs are not yet effective at capturing and analyzing structured and unstructured data from various customer touch points. These hurdles are by no means insurmountable, and CSPs that work to strategically evolve their front and back office to tackle these challenges stand to see impressive gains.
Creating the Cross-Channel Experience
To achieve revenue gains, CSPs must connect retail, Web, mobile, and call-center channels, as well as social networks to ensure that customer interactions are delivered in a coordinated manner. Nurturing brand consistency across a variety of channels is essential for operators to build lasting relationships with customers, avoid churn, and grow the bottom line.
Responding to customers using their preferred communication channels, and ensuring that information is accessible across all other contact points, is key. CSPs must embrace change and go beyond providing excellent service via just one channel – which, for some, is still the norm. A seamless multi-channel approach to sales, service creation, and customer service helps build the customer base, generates trust among existing customers, and fosters deeper customer loyalty.
Further, to ensure CSPs are reaching their customers where it counts, they must examine the entire customer lifecycle – from service creation, to order delivery, to product usage – from the customer’s perspective, and work to deliver a positive customer experience during each interaction. CSPs must recognize that the sum of all interactions constitutes the holistic customer experience – and impacts the entire business. As such, they must address the technology disconnect between these touch points and the back office systems – converging systems and platforms to create a seamless and efficient customer experience. By excelling at every point from Twitter @ replies to the call center, CSPs can increase revenue.
CSPs should also look at the data collected across these channels as an opportunity to increase analytical capabilities and position themselves one step ahead of the competition. Using collected data to anticipate customer needs and wants and developing targeted, personalized promotions, offers, and communications can help reduce churn and improve the customer experience proactively, rather than reactively.
By taking these steps, CSPs can develop a consistent brand experience and grow overall customer satisfaction. By leveraging information technology to improve service delivery and create a unified brand experience, CSPs can better serve customers at the touch points that matter most to them. In short, exceeding customer expectations can enable growth – and that’s good for any company’s bottom line.