Fresh from attending Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event in Chicago, IL, Brite:Bill Creative Director, David Brown shares his thoughts following his participation in the panel discussion around ‘Tackling Customer Experience for the Digital Lifestyle’.

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is gaining ground in CSP organizations

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is gaining ground in CSP organizations

Heavy Reading Mobile Network Service Quality and NPS survey, 59 respondents

It’s clear that the importance of Customer Experience Management has been on operators’ agenda and gaining ground for some time now. It’s also apparent that as CSPs have actively increased their engagement with CEM, customer expectations for a ‘Digital Lifestyle’ have continued to evolve at a rapid rate. For many providers this places the prize of delivering a first class customer experience for ‘Digital First’ consumers (and the business benefits this brings) tantalizingly just beyond their reach.

These days, consumers find little differentiation between providers’ network speed and quality, and are more concerned with getting what they want from their digital services than getting the lowest possible price. Operators must now more than ever distinguish themselves based on the standard of customer experience they can deliver.

While many CSPs are making great strides in this area, 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 operators 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.

What do we want?

Customers want to be treated in the same consistent way no matter where or how we interact. We’re 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 we call support. We seek providers that can facilitate us adopting an ‘always on’ approach where we’re free to access relevant information or support from virtually any location at any time. Increasingly we interact with products and services whilst conducting our everyday life and going about our usual business. This convenience has stretched our expectations still further.

What do we get?

Inconsistent, disconnected and fragmented experiences negatively impact our overall brand experience and perception. This erodes our trust, satisfaction and loyalty. Many of us 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 we seek quickly and easily, if at all. More often than not we hit a barrier where we must pick up the phone or start a live chat to continue our quest for issue resolution. Even when we do this we’re then forced to navigate a frustrating and alienating list of irrelevant interactive voice response (IVR) options, often leading to a complete dead-end. Or we 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 again.

What’s the challenge?

Ultimately operators are still trying to say how things should happen, rather than making sure they can happen as we, the customer, wants them to. Solving this is easier said than done of course. Faced with a general scarcity of digital capabilities in terms of people, skills and resources, combined with vastly complex business portfolios, business rules, legal and regulatory requirements, processes and legacy IT systems, it’s no surprise that many operators remain predominantly rooted in an analog rather than digital culture, with a ‘digital last’ way of doing things.

As ‘Digital First’ consumers we pose a particular challenge for operators with our demands for 24/7 access when we need information or help. However the rapidity with which we expect good service means we are quick to “opt-out” and we’re easily annoyed by content that seems irrelevant. Now that brands have a place in more personal channels, they must engage with us on a more personal level. In reality, automated IVRs and non-optimized live chat journeys directly contradict the rich personalized content we now expect from service providers and the intelligent and quick nature of interactions we now demand. Time, rather than money, is fast becoming our key resource and motivating factor, and technology continues to shorten our expectation of the distance between a question and an answer.

Where do we 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 cetainly 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.

Here are 5 top tips for providers:

  • Break down silos and assemble the right teams to achieve fast changes. Multi-disciplinary teams mean that smaller changes don’t require lengthy interaction with numerous different parts of the business.
  • Don’t focus only on the digital front end but consider the backend technology improvement required to support transformation (CRM systems, staff training (CSR), effective analytics to monitor performance and impact, etc.).
  • Personalization and relevance is key; seek solutions to adapt the content of customer communications depending on non-demographic subscriber parameters such as previous interactions, expressed preferences, measured preferences and behavior on other channels.
  • Harness the power of digital channels making it much easier to measure feedback and get greater detail than you could before, to monitor and investigate why a customer may not be reaching their goal.
  • Be proactive in providing care. For example, don’t wait for a customer to contact you with bill shock but reach out to them mid-cycle to provide context and explain the increase in cost. Delight your customer by dealing with a problem before they even know it’s a problem.

 

David Brown Bio:

David is an award winning information designer with over 10 years experience improving customer communications for tier 1 organizations across the utility, financial, telco, automotive and public sectors. He specializes in best practice information design, UX and clear language. He has a proven track-record of transforming customer communications to bring about a change in customer behavior and deliver measurable business benefits. Before joining Brite:Bill David worked for renowned information design experts BoagMcCann, overseeing the agency’s design and creative output nationally and internationally.

For more information on Customer Experience Management, contact David.