Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center
The CEM in Telecoms Global Summit was held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center, London. PHOTO: Kaya Ismail

LONDON — Delivering high quality customer experiences has never been more important — particularly in the fiercely competitive telecommunications industry.  

As new channels and devices emerge, customers are demanding easier access to a wider range of support options, higher levels of customer service, and of course, reasonable prices.

But as many telecoms companies are discovering, delivering on all those fronts is no mean feat.

The CEM in Telecoms Global Summit is an annual event that seeks to unite the best customer experience strategies from across the industry. 

Ideas are floated, results are presented, trends are discussed, and coffee is drunk.

So, when I was presented with the opportunity to attend this year’s summit, I jumped at the chance.

After making my way to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in the heart of a bitterly cold London, I grabbed a seat to begin live tweeting the two-day event.

More than 200 people attended the event.
More than 200 people attended the event.PHOTO: Kaya Ismail

Big Brands, Succinct Strategies

The agenda was full of telecom's big names, including the likes of Three, O2, Orange and Comcast.  

The experts weren’t just locally sourced, either. We enjoyed the presentations of telecoms veterans hailing from the US, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This diversity alone gave attendees a look at how customer experience management differs from region to region.

For instance, Stephen Essien, director of the busines unit of Tigo— a developer and operator of cellular telephone services primarily in emerging markets across Latin America and Africa — gave us insights into the African market. He discussed the negative attitudes towards telesales in the region, and gave examples of how Tigo works around that obstacle.

We also got to see and hear about how Orange sends out senior executives to work with their technicians on frontlines.

Ashley Cook, director of customer care at Three, Ireland’s second largest mobile operator, was particularly interesting. He walked us through Three’s journey towards understanding Generation Y — otherwise known as Millennials. As a Millennial myself, I was intrigued by their findings.

According to Cook, “Generation Y does not like voice.”

He was referencing to the fact that Millennials prefer texting, social media and chat-based support options over traditional call centers. Based on this alone, Three revamped its dated mobile app to better serve that youthful yet vital segment of their audience.

Neil Baucutt, head of customer experience and mobile services at O2, a digital communications company, also left his mark on the event by introducing the “Six Levels of Service” concept. He claimed that by simplifying the language surrounding customer service, a brand could be sure that its workforce is aiming to deliver a standard of service that is clearly defined.

The levels range from criminal to basic, and each one is accompanied by an amusing animation — which Baucutt, along with the audience, enacted.

02’s Neil Baucutt had the crowd moving throughout his presentation
O2’s Neil Baucutt had the crowd moving throughout his presentation.PHOTO: Kaya Ismail

Baucutt also dropped some alarming statistics. According to O2’s research, 96 percent of unhappy customers don't complain to their telecommunications provider.

Yet, 72 percent of those customers who do complain, and have their issue resolved as a result, feel a heightened sense of loyalty to the company in question.

The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful View

I have attended my fair share of professional events — and although I enjoyed most of the presentations at this one — I couldn’t help but notice some flaws.

Most glaringly, it quickly became apparent that the event was not sticking to its agenda. It seemed as though speakers were dropping out at the last minute, forcing organizers to shift the agenda around in order to fill the gaps.

Furthermore, a number of attendees (including myself) were forced to hang around at the front desk upon arrival because some ID cards had been printed. I was also surprised that a dedicated Twitter hashtag wasn’t being showcased anywhere at the event, although I was able to hunt it down on the app itself.

Oh, and there was a serious lack of freebies, too.

Thankfully though, the good far outweighed the bad. In fact, I can’t remember seeing a more engaged set of conference delegates. Not only were the discussion groups lively, but also each presentation was followed by a flurry of insightful questions.

The view from the venue wasn’t bad, either.

View from CEM in Telecoms Global Summit

All in all, the CEM in Telecoms Global Summit 2017 delivered in terms of content. It may not have run smoothly, but with some of the biggest brands in the telecoms industry showcasing their successes — as well as the strategies behind them — I doubt anybody really cared.