By Orla Power, Head of Marketing & Alan Coleman, CEO of Brite: Bill, An Amdocs company

Based on key takeaways from a recent telecoms consumer survey, here’s a look at the technologies/trends that will make an impact in 2018.

Automation via artificial intelligence and machine learning gives service providers the ability to be proactive (address a customer issue before it’s an issue) and provide the right response to a customer based on learned preferences.
Being able to reach out to customers in near real-time, or according to their context, and advise them as to what options they have based on their usage, circumstances or behaviour, service providers can enhance their customer experience and increase retention. In fact, our survey showed that while 75 per cent of customers aren’t currently interested in the information provided by the bill, more than half (56 per cent) of customers would be more interested in the bill if it highlighted how they could save money.
Personalised, tailored communications are moving to the forefront because now we’re living in a multi-channel world and the challenge for organisations will be to communicate across all these channels in a consistent way according to their customers’ preferences. Customers want to be addressed in the manner they have chosen and for offers to be customised just for them.
Each customer has a preferred style of communication – something that service providers need to take account of in their billing communications strategy. For example, Generation Z (ages 16-24) consumers are demonstrating noticeably different usage patterns of applications and social media than other generations, but the real shift is in the way they communicate. As digital natives, Generation Z is known for its highly visual communication style using emoticons, memes, photos and videos. They typically “see” rather than “read” to communicate. Survey respondents from younger age groups were particularly interested in more visual presentation of data: 33 per cent of Generation Z customers (ages 16-24) and 36 per cent of Generation Y customers (ages 25-34) expressed an interest in personalised, interactive graphs and icons.
For service providers displaying information in a more accessible and appealing way in their billing communications – preferably using interactive graphics and videos to explain and enhance the information provided—will go a long way toward building strong relationships with customers. I also believe that when customers see how taking this approach to bills improves clarity and usability, an even greater proportion of them will be interested in it.
Our survey also found that 68 per cent of customers agreed that their bills are hard to understand. In 2018, this is set to become even more glaring as expanded digital service provisions expose old weaknesses in bills and the billing process.
Expect billing issues to continue to drive enquiries, complaints and churn in 2018. Our research revealed 30 per cent of customer complaints are due to billing, with 15 per cent about contract issues. And the impact Generation Z (16-24 year olds) is having on the marketplace is clearly becoming significant as they join the workforce and their digital consumption continues to increase.
This indicates both an opportunity and a challenge for service providers. The technology is there for them to offer customers an experience they have come to expect, but legacy systems and traditional processes still stand in the way of service providers fully embracing what could be a significant opportunity for them to retain and grow customer relationships.
Customer Experience (CX) designed to engage and interact enables companies to converse with customers, giving the impression they know and care about them and understand what each customer likes to see, providing them with relevant content framed in the right tone of voice.
The CX has traditionally been led and controlled by systems and processes, but as increased personalisation becomes a customer preference, the limitations of customer communications are being highlighted.
And customers want more interactivity so it’s in the service providers’ best interests to garner feedback and suggestions, and to drive up loyalty. Generation Z customers, in particular, will tell you what they value, what’s good, what’s bad and what’s not working for them. Billing will therefore need to transform from a broadcast medium into an integrated customer interaction, which customers will either choose to participate in or not. When they participate, service providers benefit from being able to engage customers, which is the first step to building a strong, long-term relationship with them.
Self-service options for support and customer care are the way forward. Most service providers have self-service options for customers, but they now need to pay more attention to the evolution of self-service. Generation Z customers are independent learners and explorers and would like to try new things and discover the answers to their questions on their own. From a billing perspective this means that more information should be navigable, drillable and discoverable.
Chatbots will also become more prevalent in 2018. Our research reveals that they will be welcomed as customers demand more easily accessible ways to have questions answered. 39 per cent of customers said they would like access to a chatbot for bill enquiries and almost a third (29 per cent) of all respondents think chatbots are a good alternative to a customer care line.
Interested in learning more? I invite you to read the full report and survey findings here.