While many Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are making great strides in the area of Customer Experience, most still suffer from a lack of focus on the individual end customer and an inability to adopt a more agile approach to change and incremental improvement. Poor alignment of online and offline channels still proliferates, as does the gulf between CSP brand promises expressed in marketing and acquisition materials, and the brand reality delivered in in-life customer communications. This all adds up to an often ‘bumpy’ customer experience, with service providers stuck in their traditional thinking in terms of channels, organizational structure, divisions and silos. Consumers are only too aware of the effects of this when they interact with their provider, and they wish they weren’t.

Meeting the expectations of today’s “always on” customer:

Customers want to be treated in the same consistent way no matter where or how they interact with their service providers. They are channel-agnostic and expect brands to deliver upon their promises, be it online, in-store, on social media, on their website or mobile app, or when they call support. Consumers seek providers that can facilitate an ‘always on’ approach where they’re free to access relevant information or support from virtually any location at any time. Increasingly they interact with products and services whilst conducting their everyday lives and going about their usual business. This convenience has stretched their expectations still further. Inconsistent, disconnected and fragmented experiences negatively impact the overall brand experience and perception. This erodes trust, customer satisfaction and loyalty. Many now try to self-serve in the first instance when faced with an issue; trawling through FAQs on a website and struggling to find the information they seek quickly and easily, if at all. More often than not they hit a barrier where they must pick up the phone or start a live chat to continue their quest for issue resolution. Even when they do this they’re then forced to navigate a frustrating and alienating list of irrelevant interactive voice response (IVR) options, often leading to a complete deadend. Or they endlessly watch the blinking cursor as the minutes tick by only to find out the live chat rep we are connected to is not specialized or empowered to solve our particular issue and our quest begins all over again.

Rising to the CEM challenge

Digital First’ consumers pose a particular challenge for operators with demands for 24/7 access when they need information or help. However, the rapidity with which the expectation of good service means they are quick to “opt-out” and therefore it’s important not to frustrate customers with content that seems irrelevant. Now that brands have a place in more personal channels, they must engage with customers on a more personal level. In reality, automated IVRs and non-optimized live chat journeys directly contradict the rich personalized content consumers now expect from service providers and the intelligent and quick nature of interactions they now demand. Time, rather than money, is fast becoming a key resource and motivating factor, and technology continues to shorten a customer’s expectation of the distance between a question and an answer. No one likes calling customer care lines and being passed from agent to agent before finally finding someone who can actually resolve the issue. It’s vital that the CSP has a joined-up approach to dealing with customers and that they know who the customer is when they engage through any touchpoint, be it face-to-face, online, on the phone. CSPs need to assure that each customer interaction is relevant and engaging across each and every channel.

Where do CSPs go from here?

To achieve digital transformation and respond to the new demands of the ‘Digital Lifestyle’, operators must learn that there is a fundamental difference between marketing at people in new channels and learning about their behavior, values and expectations to optimize their digital experiences and provide mutually beneficial outcomes. The common concept of digital transformation itself doesn’t help, suggesting as it does a whole scale end-to-end linear process of change. Optimization and improvement is not a one-off activity nor is it restricted to any kind of marketing strategy or business processes. The concept of ‘continuous improvement’ is one of incremental changes to the customer experience, and an ongoing process that never ends. CSPs need a new level of agility and flexibility to respond to this and make gradual and prioritized improvements to customer service by turning insights, data and feedback into action. ‘Agile’ is a methodology but also a mindset. Operators need to learn to make smaller changes quickly and evaluate the success or failure of these initiatives equally quickly, applying the learnings to the next piece of work. This new level of agility is certainly needed from a technology perspective but also from a business and organizational viewpoint where providers must become more able to react nimbly to the ever changing market and evolving customer expectations – all the way from the boardroom level right down to the customer facing front line.

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