David Brown, Creative Director & CX Lead at BriteBill shares his key takeaways from last week’s event.

The Customer Experience Management in Telecoms Global Summit took place last week with communication service providers (CSPs) gathering for four days to discuss the state of the market. Conversations focused on customer-centricity, AI, data analytics, customer measurement and organizational culture, all recognized as key parts of success in an on-demand, 24/7 customer-driven environment.

The lasting impact of poor customer experience (CX) for providers is well documented. Research from Zendesk, a global customer service company, shows just how vital offering and delivering a good experience can be in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace. Consumers now have more tools at their disposal than ever before to make informed decisions about their service providers, exercise their opinions and influence their peers. So, what were the key themes coming out of the discussions?

Automation and AI
Naturally there is tremendous excitement in the industry at the potential efficiencies and benefits of automating customer interactions with Artificial Intelligence (AI). The promise of machine learned predictive and autonomous customer care, with continual improvement at the heart of the concept, is undoubtedly a tantalizing proposition for providers. More surprising were discussions around how AI embodied the intrinsic philosophy of being more personal and more empathetic with consumers, in effect more human, despite being based on automation and machine learning. It feels though that we are still largely in the early concept phase for AI driven customer interaction, and so far related endeavors are not impacting on actual customers much as yet. No doubt in several years’ time at the global summit we’ll be seeing the evidence and outcomes of AI projects being conceived right now.

More and more data
Just as AI is attracting all the hype at the moment, ‘Big Data’ was taking center stage a few years ago. We’re continuing to see the impact in the explosion of the amount of data and associated infrastructure we are now using, transferring, maintaining and crucially protecting and safeguarding. While this presents significant new challenges, there is a shared optimism that providers will soon reap more benefit from the investment they’ve made to make their data more available and usable over recent years. The hope is that the big data movement leading into machine learning initiatives and now to artificial intelligence, will enable new predictive models for providing better customer experience.

The continued impact of disruption
With customers no longer comparing CSPs with other CSPs, but instead judging customer experience standards for long established telcos against the likes of Amazon, Netflix et al., there is still a shared challenge for providers to transform their brand and customer experience to match new and evolved consumer expectations. At the same time as consumers using and wanting more services than ever before, they are concurrently demanding more flexibility, simplicity and transparency in interactions, and becoming less tolerant of experiences that don’t live up to their expectations.

The bill continues to be a problem
While the bill could be a powerful tool for customer communication for telecoms service providers, our recent Consumer Perceptions of Telecoms Billing 2017 survey, which includes responses from 3,200 mobile phone users, shows that consumers remain frustrated by current billing processes. Bill related issues are still prompting significant customer calls, complaints and churn, with the confusing nature of bills continuing to frustrate and alienate consumers.

The rise of the chat-bot to become increasingly a consumer channel of choice for service support or management is the focus of many near-term initiatives around automated care and customer communication. But telco’s still have a way to go to get consumers to emotionally link the importance of digital services to their lives with the service provider’s brand. The drive toward personalized and predictive automation is seeking to address these challenges, but as yet large numbers of consumers remain unconvinced and still demand human interactions to resolve issues when things go wrong or they need to make changes. The future is coming… we just aren’t quite there yet.