How telecoms companies are leveraging customer engagement to save their industry
Today’s digital environment has influenced the overhaul of many industries, but the telecommunications industry in particular is one that has had to completely reassess the way they achieve profits. Companies have had to transform themselves since their traditional services like voice and messaging have moved towards obsolescence. The advent of new technologies and phone applications (apps) replaced those services. Apps like WhatsApp and Skype for example, have been forecasted by London based research firm, Ovum, to contribute a $386 Billion combined loss for the telecoms industry from 2012-2018. That’s a considerable figure representing an unfortunate loss.
Telecoms have access to some of the richest data in the world, an asset that other industries envy and wish they could utilize. There is no reason our industry can’t be pioneers; leading and paving the way for all industries as the digital environment changes the way we do business. It is first-class customer service embedded in strategic marketing that has allowed telecoms to push forward in the competitive dynamic digital climate. Quality customer engagement has maintained profits in fierce and unforgiving markets. With rich data resources, you have been able to engage with customers in a unique way that others cannot, simply because your data has been able to provide valuable insight into customer’s needs.
The customer service strategies that have turned our industry around have gone far beyond simply using data; they have had to address how the new insights will be incorporated, and what actions should be taken to improve. Telecom companies have leveraged customer service to adapt to the new realities of today’s digital world by catering to each individual customer’s service needs, opening direct lines of communication to strengthen the customer-provider relationship, and then engaging them in a way that is valuable to the customer.
One to One Marketing
Marketing approaches used to be such that large groups of customers were put in the same segments and considered similar, for marketing purposes. In the digital era, the days of large customer segmentation have had their day. Technology exists today that allows marketers to provide ultra-personalized service and tailor their service to each individual customer’s needs, therefore eliminating traditional methods of market segmentation. Customers also expect this from their service provider.
Telecoms adoption of this type of marketing technology should be the first step in harnessing data. But the most successful companies are the ones who have used their data to identify customer needs and have taken action to satisfy their customers based on that information. A customer’s satisfaction level is constantly changing, and service providers have the ability to understand what it is at any given moment. Each point in time a customer is having a different service experience than they had in the past, and each person is most likely using a variety of service combinations. This means that opportunities to give customers what they want and improve their satisfaction are abundant and frequent. These golden opportunities must be seized.
A great deal of different types of users makeup telecom customers. Many have purchased a range of services from their operators and they cannot all be put in the same category or segment. For example, mothers between 30 and 50 used to be grouped together, and a sample of customers would be surveyed and extrapolated within the market segment. The individuals in this category have very different levels of usage and purchase a range of services. These customers would probably be unhappy to know that they were put together for purposes of measuring their satisfaction. Furthermore, a 30 year-old suburban mother of three young children will have a different usage profile and have purchased different services compared to a 49 year old mother of college aged children living in an urban center. They should not be put in the same large group if meaningful and relevant communication is to be achieved.
Opening Direct Lines of Communication
Highly personalized service and engagement is accomplished by opening direct lines of communication between the service provider and customer. Direct lines of communication are critical to the customer engagement process because they not only enable valuable collection of customer feedback, but they give companies a clearer picture of who they are providing service for, and their specific needs. When a customer truly believes their service provider has considered them an individual and not another millionth customer, trust becomes established. Having the ability to continuously meet customer needs is essential and can only be fulfilled if communication is a timely, two-way street.
Open communication gives providers the opportunity to be proactive about serving their customers, and also keeping patrons updated about the latest services they have to offer. Its technology solutions that allow providers to capitalize on direct communication, which has proven an ultra-targeted method offering measureable results compared to more traditional marketing forms. Communicating with customers is also more effective when you are targeting a place that is constantly absorbing customer attention; users phones located in the palm of their hand.
Tech empowers telecom providers to succeed in understanding satisfaction in real-time and adjust service accordingly – before the customer has already made the decision to change providers. Time plays a crucial role; both in registering the customer’s progressing needs and how fast you, as a service provider are able to respond. Communicating with customers directly cannot wait until the customer has called the provider’s service hotline. Provider methods simply should not be passive until customers initiate connection.
We know technology can give us insight into what customers want right now, but even more valuable, it can empower the identification of general patterns that help predict what future customer needs will require. This puts telecoms in an offensive position rather than using defensive systems. This will allow them to push forward and maintain customer loyalty; not losing customers to competitors. Engaging with customers is the best churn management solution a telecom company can have, and should be thought of as an infinite process. Some current approaches only engage with customers in accordance to billing cycles or upon the customer’s reach of various minute or data allowances. Customers should be consistently engaged throughout their entire customer lifecycle.
A solution should be used that engages with customers in a meaningful way. Context, and again, timing are key in order to make the communication valuable to the customer. For example, if I am a customer nearing my allotted data usage levels towards the end of the month, and directed by text message to the service store to purchase more minutes; the interaction seems mechanical. I will not feel like I have any type of relationship with my current provider because they have not engaged me in a substantial way. Most of all, there may have been a better point in time to send communication, rather than a predetermined, generally scheduled time as I near my allotment at the end of every month. The provider could even have the chance to “upsell” me if they send me the right offer at the right time. The key to success if engaging customers 365 days a year with a 360 degree outlook must be understanding their wants and needs, and registering changes in order to provide a fuller and more relevant experience.
Moreover, giving the customer an offer that they will care about and can actually use will only succeed and provide value if given at the right time. This underscores the importance of a personalized continuous and contextual solution, one that is able to reassess the customer’s various dimensions of service. This includes the separate service packages they have purchased, without being invasive. Many different aspects of each customer’s service requirements are in play, with each customer having distinct needs from the next.
Being able to move quickly is the cornerstone for success. If you as a telecom company are able to identify a problem with customer service, but unable to fix it in an accelerated manner, the effort is lost, and so too may customers have moved on. When customer engagement solutions are embedded into telecom tech management, and are unified closely with marketing activities, telecoms can deliver beneficial engagement immediately and stay ahead of the curve.
Today’s digital environment has presented revenue obstacles for telecom companies. They have been able to leverage customer engagements methods to tap into new streams of revenues. Eliminating large market segmentation will facilitate a clearer understanding of each and every customer’s service needs. When those individual needs can be identified, the appropriate and tailored offer of service can be generated. Communicating directly with each customer with a tailored offer makes the dialogue relevant and establishes a stronger customer-provider relationship, fostering loyalty and working to mitigate churn. Finally, using technology solutions will help effective engagement, which puts the provider’s marketing strategies on the offensive, instead of acting as a reactive force controlled by outside influences.
Rita Tochner is Head of Corporate Marketing at Pontis, joining the company in 2013. Prior to Pontis, Rita served as VP of Marketing at Alvarion. She has held several senior positions with Amdocs and brings 20 years of experience in telecommunications marketing and IP technologies.