Exploring the Digital Customer Experience in the Future of Telecom

July 12, 2018 Jerry Kinnick

As communications service providers (CSPs) gear up to deliver the next generation of wireless telecommunications, expectations for digital customer experience have never been higher. Subscribers logging-in to access services and account information expect personalized, consistent, and cohesive experiences — no matter if the interaction takes place via smartphone, tablet, or desktop through email, chat or on social media.

Digital customer experience is usually viewed through two different lenses – omnichannel and multichannel. You've likely seen these terms many times, and it seems logical to assume they mean the same thing. Let me define these two perspectives in simple terms, and the subtle differences.

Multichannel customer service

Multi is Latin for many. Companies offering their clients this sort of contact center support may provide support over the phone, live agent chats, email and self-service. But multichannel support channels tend to be isolated from each other.

Left unchecked, companies interacting with their customers this way may provide inconsistent information, and different sets of data on customers stored in multiple departments. Throughout my career, I've worked with teams of experts to address the sort of chaos that siloed customer engagement channels can create cause for CSPs.

Omnichannel customer service

Omni is Latin for all. Consequently, omnichannel refers to all the integrated digital channels CSPs offer their clients for sales and support. That includes voice, live chat, social media, video chat, web self-service, online bill presentment, smart AI agent bots, emails and community support forums.

Omnichannel customer service is differentiated from multichannel because the information and services available through each channel is consistent, personalized, and provided in the context of each customer's unique needs and holistic relationship with the provider.

CSPs are struggling to meet customer expectations

The 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Survey Index (ACSI) surveyed approximately 250,000 telecommunications customers about their overall satisfaction with their experiences as CSP subscribers.

The results: many telecommunications industry sectors saw their index scores remain flat, or fall from previous years, in 2018. Noteworthy results, scored on a 0–100 basis, include:

  • Subscription TV services (cable, satellite TV) – 62, a drop of 3.1 percent
  • Internet service providers – 62, a decline of 3.1 percent
  • Cell phones – 79, the same result as 2017
  • Wireless phone service 74, an increase of 1.4 percent

Interestingly, according to the ACSI survey, customers rank traditional subscription TV providers lower than video-on-demand service providers, like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, which rated a 75 on the ACSI survey. This is one of the reasons some analysts predict that, in the next 10 or 15 years, legacy subscription TV companies will lose their subscriber base to video-on-demand providers.

That's one of the major reasons it's critical for cable and satellite television CSPs to find ways to outperform their virtual rivals when it comes to omnichannel support — otherwise, "cord cutting" will only accelerate.

Telecommunications CSPs already experience significant revenue losses in long-distance voice services to digital services like Skype, Facebook Messenger and Viber despite providing the network infrastructure to support these services. Now they are repeating the cycle, with video-on-demand streaming content over their fibre optic cables and syphoning away legacy TV subscribers.

Personalized services, tailored to utilization and generation

The digital era creates opportunities and challenges for CSPs to offer a broad spectrum of customized services. CSPs are increasingly seeking direct customer feedback to retain their existing subscriber base and minimize churn to competitors. However, it's not enough to collect customer input; telecommunications leaders need to be able to process the data, make decisions based on it and adjust their products and services accordingly.

Businesses running cloud applications and gathering data from billions of smart devices on the Internet of Things will require data transmission services which are faster and more reliable. They will also need encryption which is secure enough to meet increased regulatory compliance requirements and to defend against evolving security threats.

In the home, gaming and movie enthusiasts will prioritize download speeds and content as far as their relationship with an ISP, but may not be as interested in voice services or support. Millennials and young people in Generation Z tend to prefer self-support, accessing help through chat, social media platforms or other forums, instead of calling a support hotline. In response, CSPs are increasing their mobile and social support offerings and expanding their online communities. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are also increasingly looking to serve themselves, though ease of use and one-contact resolution is a higher priority when they reach out to their service providers.

In the months and years to come, CSPs must continue to focus on empowering customers through digital self-service and provide complementary support options through live agents and chatbots. By integrating applications for functions like billing, customer retention, technical support and sales, telecommunications service providers can differentiate themselves from market disruptors. Digital customer experience channels offer CSPs the flexibility and scalability to meet customer expectations in ways that leave even the most sophisticated multichannel contact centers in the dust.

Digital customer experience will continue to be a top priority for telecommunication CEOs and C-level executives for the foreseeable future, If you are a CSP executive and need help charting your course to a more digital customer experience, contact the Conduent consulting team today.

About the Author

Vice President and General Manager, Telecom

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