Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Harsha Gowda, Vice President of Service Transformation and Strategy at Colt Technology Services, looks at some of the ways telcos can improve customer experience.
It is widely acknowledged that the telecoms industry needs to become more customer-oriented. Indeed, earlier this year regulator Ofcom even published a tool to help customers find out just how bad their operator’s performance was compared to other service providers.
With Ofcom’s tool, you can find out how many complaints your service provider receives per 100,000 customers, how well they are handled, and how long you typically have to wait before you can speak to someone about the problem. And you can compare all that against your other possible choices of supplier. As a method for a regulator to push suppliers to improve their service it’s certainly transparent.
But this shortfall in Customer Experience (CX) and indeed in Customer Experience Management (CEM), is by no means restricted to the consumer or domestic market. The latest UKCSI report states that customer satisfaction within the telecoms sector has improved, yet it still remains the lowest ranked sector. Meanwhile, with Procera Networks research finding that 38% of consumers believe telecoms has the worst customer service capability, ranking only slightly higher than the government, it’s pretty clear that the telecoms industry, as a whole, is failing when it comes to CEM and CX. There’s plenty of room for improvement in the way service providers treat their customers, and that should also be considered for their biggest Enterprise customers as well.
But it’s not as if the industry hasn’t been told this before – in fact awareness of its shortcomings run high. For starters, there has been a deluge of research and reports from companies like Oracle, Amdocs and even Huawei on the future requirement of CX and CEM systems. But, in our view, addressing the here and now is just as important. In the words of Elvis, we think it’s a case of ‘a little less conversation and a little more action, please.’
Of course, creating a new standard in customer experience is a core challenge in any industry. But in order to retain existing – and attract new – customers, then it’s an area that telecoms providers will need to invest in now.
Bluntly speaking, enterprises undergoing digital transformation and looking for new ways of doing business that maximise the benefits of digital communications, will expect more and better CX and CEM from their telco service providers – not dated and cumbersome support and services. The ability to transform its own business and customer support services will be the key differentiator for telecoms operators looking to become the truly trusted partner and supplier on their customers’ own digital transformation journeys.
No enterprise business really wants to chop and change its service provider – there’s less propensity to churn because it’s commercially disruptive, and financial gains are often marginal and lost in the upheaval. But, the one thing that will force change is poor service delivery and customer experience. Businesses want a network provider who will be with them for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean that they will be easily satisfied. Indeed, they are likely to become even more demanding of their supplier because that is where the savings and competitive advantages can be realised.
Which means that when those businesses are on their buying journey, they will be looking for providers who can differentiate themselves by offering the best in CX and CEM. And the fact is, that some of the CX techniques that have become normal and expected in the consumer world have been largely ignored in the B2B enterprise space – even something as simple as consumer style order-tracking.
There’s no reason why more consumer CX practices can’t be applied to enterprise CEM – from improved service delivery dashboards to app-style ordering, tracking and digital interaction. Those operators that get to really know their customers’ requirements, and get the right contracts in place, can then start to virtually automate improvements in customer service.
For example, a contract can be established that says if an enterprise link hits its capacity twice in the same week, the operator will automatically increase the bandwidth even before the customer has asked for it – possibly even before the customer’s IT team has noticed it. What’s more, if those peaks of demand subside – maybe there were special circumstances that created the surge – the bandwidth will automatically be dialled back down to the previous level.
This is modern, enterprise CEM. On-demand services that put some of the tools of commissioning and configuration in the hands of the customer. Indeed, by removing some of the complexities of contract negotiation and by enabling connections to multiple vendor-neutral facilities around the world, it becomes possible to put the customer firmly in control of their network resources through a real-time self-service portal.
This doesn’t just make for improved CEM enabled by digital transformation. Analysts such as IDC predict that by adopting a ‘network-on-demand’ approach, organisations will also be able to reduce the total cost of their network operations by an average of between 10 and 28 per cent.
This is a prime example of where the digital business transformation being experienced by an enterprise customer needs to be monitored, enabled and matched by its network supplier. For instance, businesses in the Fintech market are facing new regulations in Europe called PSD2 which will effectively require them to open up their networks to more third party vendors and partners. A network services provider that can help facilitate that transformation, and make it easy for an enterprise to bring on new partners or expand into territories will be a valuable partner with a competitive market advantage.
And this style of proactive CEM is not a vision of tomorrow. It is available today underpinned by a software-driven network that enables dynamic provision of services according to real-time business demands. At Colt, we understand and recognise this new reality and even have a Chief Customer Experience Officer who targets service improvements across every part of the business from technology to marketing, and from new customer provision to existing customer support.
For the telecoms industry, vast improvements to CX and CEM can be made now. But there’s also scope for continued improvement and innovation through new technology such as Artificial Intelligence and greater use of automation. Software is making the network and its services more flexible and the digital revolution is transforming service provision today. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now. Because only those operators that modernise their CEM to match the transformation being experienced by their customers, will fully reap the benefits of the digital era and the networks they are building.
Harsha Gowda is Vice President of Service Transformation and Strategy at Colt Technology Services. Harsha is currently responsible for delivering world class Customer Experience for Colt customers, leading its customer first programme that will transform the way Colt interacts with its customers and service.
Harsha has over 19 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, specialising in transforming customer experience by providing next generation solutions by integrating Service, Portfolio and Systems offerings in large telcos. Harsha has also designed, developed and led large scale telco enterprise solutions in both Retail and Enterprise sectors, as well as transformed business in both sectors specialising in providing high bandwidth solutions to both Consumers and B2B. Prior to Colt, Harsha held roles at GTE, Verizon, SCOM and BT, spanning Dallas, London, Hong Kong, and India.