Embracing omni-digital customer service in the telco sector
Customer service is becoming the differentiator amongst telco providers – with a digital arms race taking place to provide the best experience. A study found that customer service will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in 2020. This is especially true in the telecommunications industry. As prices and offers are similar between competitors, the experience is already the main criteria of choice.
Telcos are of course digital innovators, with many at the heart of innovations such as 5G and the use of messaging apps, yet not all of them embraced the omni-digital trend for customer service, says Julien Rio, marketing director at RingCentral.
Making the leap to omni-digital customer service is essential, but is not as straightforward as simply making a new digital channel available to customers and customer service agents. There are three challenges that telecoms should address to engage with omni-digital customers and make those interactions effective.
1. Prepare for the shift to a majority of digital interactions
Telecoms customers contact their providers for a range of reasons. While they were mostly relying on phone interactions in the past, customer interactions are now moving to digital. A study by Gartner outlines this shift, with a forecast of phone interactions dropping from 41% in 2017 to 12% in 2022.
This transition is encouraged by customers’ new habits: 72% of them now expect to use their channel of choice to engage with companies. These channels include the ones used in their daily lives, such as messaging (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple Messages), social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), live-chat, email.
One of the notable benefits of digital channels for customers is the ability to contact companies whenever they want. Rather than being constrained by opening hours and wait on the phone, they can send their request at any time. Enriched features such as media sharing can also help to solve issues more efficiently.
This shift brings new challenges for companies. When managing interactions from multiple digital channels, it is necessary to adopt new processes and tools, different from the ones used for the phone.
Processing large volumes of digital interactions requires to route messages with the right approach. By using AI, it is possible to classify and allocate incoming messages automatically. For telecoms, this means that a request is assigned to the right team immediately after being received: technical team, billing team, sales team.
With the ability to process all messages from a unified interface, agents’ productivity is improved, meaning that more channels can be handled with the same number of agents. AI can also be used in certain circumstances to automate responses, giving customers instant assistance any time of day.
2. The right channels and the right experience
With 5.1 billion unique mobile subscribers in 2018, equivalent to 67% of the world’s population, telecoms customers have a wide range of profiles and demographics to serve. How those customers want to be engaged varies wildly by age, location, gender and a range of other factors. For example, younger generations favor the use of channels such as messaging, which are used daily by 91% of teens.
Adopting the right channels is one step, and the next one is being able to provide a consistent experience across them. A customer should be able to use any channel for his enquiry and get the same service quality without being redirected.
It requires companies to move away from organising themselves by channel (one team for live chat, one team for email, and so on) to have an approach based on agents’ skills. By using a customer engagement platform, agents can process all digital interactions from a unified interface. Technological silos fall, and messages are allocated automatically to the most relevant agent based on the skills required to respond to the enquiry.
3. Drive up satisfaction and loyalty with a 360 view
In the US in 2018, the satisfaction index for telecoms services was standing at 67/100, one of the lowest across sectors. It translates to a churn rate at 22%, meaning 95 million customers switching providers.
To improve customer satisfaction and reduce churn, one of the keys at the disposal of telecoms is data. In the era of Big Data, the challenge is to centralise all the information available, analyse it, and make it usable.
Telco providers should use customer service platforms that give agents access to data when processing enquiries – a 360° customer view. By integrating the customer engagement platform with the CRM platform, agents can solve problems more efficiently, reduce waiting times, and identify signs of churn.
Adapting to customers’ omni-digital habits is now essential for telecoms. Most of them are already offering digital customer service, but the next step would be to adopt the right channels and provide a consistent experience across them. To do so, it is necessary to break silos and rethink the customer care team organisation.
Investing in omni-digital customer service will not only improve satisfaction and loyalty but also have an impact on sales. It such a competitive and innovative marketplace, keeping the customer front and centre remains critically important.
The author is Julien Rio, marketing director at RingCentral Engage Digital
About the author
Julien Rio, marketing director at RingCentral Engage Digital, outlines the three challenges telecoms providers must address to make the move to omni-digital customer service successful.