The word “customer” seems to be missing from most of strategies of the worldwide communications service providers, except Telefonica Group, according to a recent report from Comptel, a Helsinki, Finland-based company that provides technology to help communications providers manage their networks.
The lack of addressing customers directly in strategic plans is in contrast to the results of a poll taken at the recent annual Comptel User Group conference. The survey revealed that the vast majority of telecommunications industry executives consider the ability to anticipate subscribers’ needs and proactively and personally interact with users is critical for effectively managing the customer experience.
The survey found that two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents believe a lack of consistent quality, such as dropped calls, low bandwidth and the slow loading of files, and poor customer service are the biggest contributors to customer churn. Nearly half (46 percent), however, believe more targeted offerings based around individual usage patterns, in combination with personalized apologies, discounted upgrade opportunities or other special offers following a service issue, will help mitigate turnover.
Almost all survey participants noted that, when it comes to effective customer engagement, real-time capabilities to predict subscriber behaviors and understand the context of each customer interaction are essential.
But such sentiments are lacking in the published strategies of these firms.
“If the customer experience is high in the agenda of the senior leaders of the CSPs it would also be visible in their strategy, wouldn’t it?,” Comptel told Loyalty360. “The focus for these firms instead is focused on improving efficiency, sustainable CAPEX, best in class networks, boost smartphone penetration, drive revenue from digital services and become multinational business and so forth. To to become a real customer experience focused company might also need some revised priorities in the strategic themes. “
Customer churn, a key metric for communications firms, which include these figures in their financial reports.
The communications company addressing this directly, according to Comptel, is Telefonica Group. In statements outlining its strategy, Telefonica said: “The customer continues to be the centre of our strategy.”
They are also addressing their own business performance indicators as part of the strategy, but through the customer loyalty, Comptel added.
“To maximize a subscriber’s entire lifetime value, CSPs must look beyond the point-of-sale and instead think of each customer experience holistically,” said Juhani Hintikka, Comptel CEO. “Analytics can go far beyond simple reporting by providing an understanding of individual customers’ behaviours, and enabling CSPs to convert that knowledge into intelligent actions, which can then translate into new business opportunities. This will help CSPs deliver an optimum level of customer engagement at every single touch point.”
Communications providers are addressing one area of enhancing the customer experience by improving network and service quality, according to Comptel. “In the [global] growth markets, the situations are more complex as the variety of the customer segments from high-end to very low-end customers is huge and the customer experience, while market is still growing, needs to be very specifically segmented to keep the right customers satisfied while keeping the market share on desired level.”
Comptel questioned the pricing strategy that many communications providers are using to manage the customer experience: “Pricing has not been sustainable and the way the pricing has been done, in many cases can be questioned. Transparency for the consumers is very important satisfaction driver especially in the pre-paid segments. Consumers are always happy when they get lower prices, but the quality expectations are high as well so pure price competition has not brought the [communications providers] far in their competitive landscape.”
Part of the problem, according to Comptel, is that when offering better service in return for higher prices, communications providers too often include too much technical jargon in the offer.
For example, an Airtel promotion said: “Watch online videos on your (India-based) Airtel mobile anytime, anywhere! Internet browsing at just 3p/10KB. To watch free videos on Beach beauties, click …”
“The issue for the pre-paid customer is that I don’t have a clue how much data I’m consuming if want to see those beach beauties,” Comptel said. “Again, the intention is well thought … even the video for sure in India would attract many young men, but the overall implementation would require more thoughts for better customer experience. In my case, if the CSP would have better understood at least the location, they would maybe have sent me a bit different kind of offerings when I’m staying in a ‘holy city’ where most people come for either yoga or pilgrim. Thus the variety of the applications and devises has improved drastically in the past years, but the personalization for more relevant offering still needs to be developed.”
Comptel concluded: “There is a great amount of intentions to serve the customer better in services and devices portfolio areas, but as in the other satisfaction drivers, the more personalized and quality assurance implementation is still missing. For sure there are exceptions as well.