woman sitting in front of an outdoor sculpture speaking on the phone
PHOTO: Priscilla Du Preez

In a 1976 Saturday Night Live skit, Lily Tomlin played a phone operator who said: “We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the phone company.”

The skit predates the breakup of the old AT&T, the birth of many new competitors, and the evolution of the industry into not only traditional telecom, but also data and other related services. Many of those early competitors to the old AT&T (the company that currently holds that name is an entirely different entity) have either failed or have been swallowed up by competitors. 

The survivors know they have to care about customers and about customer experience (CX) or their profits and revenues will suffer, as customers bolt for competitors. In fact, customer churn is included in telecom provider’s income statements.

“The bar is pretty low for customer experience in telecom. With decades of digital transformation have come many situations won by trial and error. Dropped calls, bad signals, delay, choppy audio; All of these things have become commonplace,” said Anthony Minessale, founder and CEO of Signalwire, a communications platform as a service provider. “That’s just on the infrastructure side. Most large-scale organizations suffer from out-of-sync phone menus, discontinuous information trail. An example is, 'Please enter your account number followed by the pound again.' Smaller organizations cannot even afford or find a solution that covers their needs.”

Telecom providers can provide better CX by being willing to engage your customers and understand what they like and don’t like and what they want. Engaging and understanding customer needs helps keep them happy even when the provider makes a mistake, Minessale added. “Since the goal is to improve the customer experience, it's important to understand those little things that make a difference. The most common mistake made when trying to create good customer experience, is to try to guess what customers think is important rather than learn about it from them.”

Speed the Time Between Recognition and Resolution of Problems 

“One of the key conclusions from a 2018-19 Digital Customer Experience (DCX) research study by market research firm Nemertes, is that savvy companies with the right mix of DCX technologies can craft a compelling experience that results in happier customers, reduced costs and increased revenue,” said Patrick Joggerst, executive vice president of Ribbon Communications, provider of secure real-time communications solutions. “The study also found that the DCX projects with the biggest return on investment included customer-facing digital channels, automated customer-facing workflows and mobile-enabled customer interactions.”

In addition to more satisfied customers, the increased focus on DCX can also enhance the brand and streamline the contextual interactions process, Joggerst added. “Enterprises can leverage the data collected during the engagement to conduct pattern analysis. By understanding the reasons behind particular or common problems, it allows for faster responses to these issues and provides companies the ability to identify areas in which design changes or instruction changes need to be implemented to lessen or eliminate the issue.”

Related Article: How the Competitive Telecom Industry Is Improving CX

Keep it Simple for Customers

“Customer are buying solutions, not individual products, and your customer lifecycle needs to reflect that,” said Rick Hausman, executive vice president of customer operations at Windstream Enterprise, a provider of unified communications, networking, connectivity and related solutions. “The product (or solution) complexity is exponential and requires CX to be built into the product itself, minimizing the complexity for customers as they use them.”

To maintain simplicity and excellent CX, Hausman said telecom companies need to:

  • Segment target customers and the customer base as well as an intentional customer lifecycle that recognizes the key wants and desires while rationalizing the need to scale the experiences.
  • Invest in simplifying the support infrastructure in order to ensure more consistent and predictable outcomes. 
  • Create a single plan of digital experience, including mobility, so that customers can define how they want to interact with you … pull info, get info pushed to them, chat, etc. Too may telecom companies still ignore the importance of a digital experience, which is of prime importance to today’s customers.

Another common mistake among telecom companies that results in poor CX, according to Hausman, is creating product-centric experiences that make sense in a product vacuum but don’t when they get combined to create a solution for customers. Product-centric experiences result in multiple paths to learning, buying, using and getting support, which isn’t acceptable when trying to provide excellent CX.

Related Article: How to Get the Customer Experience Right in Voice Interactions

Incorporate Changes Quickly

When Comcast Cable was entering its digital transformation it recognized the long time it took between identifying an issue and resolution, said Barbara Lehman, former executive director of digital transformation, during a panel at DX Summit 2018. The company noted 10 month execution lags on minor changes, which if allowed to continue would mean "our competitors would leave us in the dust." 

The company responded by creating a cross-functional digital transformation team and giving them the autonomy to make decisions without the need to go through the corporate hierarchy. Lehman warned of the dangers of having too many people involved in making these decisions, as it can result in taking a "great idea and making it something much less impactful for our customers."

Related Article: Comcast (Yes, That Comcast) Knows a Thing or Two About Customer Experience