How can communication service providers reconnect with customers and emerge stronger to survive the recession, and what are the areas of investment needed?

While the pandemic, combined with factors such as the energy crisis and war in Ukraine, has created a profound societal and economic crisis, it has reinforced the importance of connectivity as a critical part of a functioning society and everyday life. The widespread and accelerated shift to virtual models – from the world of work, to how we educate the next generations, has driven up demand for connectivity services on an unprecedented scale.

According to Bain and Company, a customer is four times more likely to switch to a competitor if the problem they're having is service-based. And Salesforce research has revealed that 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. With the ever-changing and increasing demands of the customer, delivering an excellent customer experience strategy is becoming harder than it’s ever been. Customers have more and more control over how they choose to interact with their telecom provider.

With emerging technologies and solutions influencing and shaping the telecoms industry like never before, who holds the key to a great customer experience (CX) strategy that can not only build, but also grow the business?

The telecoms industry needs to have a joined up and consistent omni-channel offering; all channels need to be completely aligned with each other to offer a consistent user experience. The advent and proliferation of video will increasingly play a part in the omni-channel offering and needs to be considered in the context of everything else in place.

Bots and asynchronous messaging are going to take a centre stage when it comes to dealing with the increased demand and for automating repetitive tasks – who would have said that five years ago? But indeed, bots will be part of a world where virtual reality and avatars become second life to customers. However, for the more complex, more emotive issues, direct communication with humans will always take precedence.

Here are nine trends we’re likely to see:

1.   A revised focus on the vulnerable customer

Capita’s recent research with Ipsos MORI revealed that empathy is one of the major factors that contributes to a positive customer experience. And yet, at some point, empathy came to be considered a low priority in the buying journey. Our new white paper explores how, in order to thrive in these difficult times where vulnerability is becoming both deeper and wider, it’s essential that businesses:

  • understand the nature of vulnerability has changed and the resulting new challenges.
  • recognise that empathy must be at the forefront of the customer and employee experience, embracing the leadership of kindness and delivering service with sincerity.
  • develop their internal cultures so that they support this approach.
  • prioritise innovation and the technology that can help.
  • appreciate that this is a situation that is not going away and that long-term change is needed.


2.    Adoption of digital channels first

Huge adoption of digital channels and above all a preference for digital first is imminent. The tipping point post-Covid-19 is that most people seek digital channels first and as superior experiences. During the height of the pandemic, my experience while working at a major online retailer was that the biggest customer service channel became our bot, the majority of the transactions went through our bot, and the remaining 20% went through either webchat or voice.

3.   Changing in-store preferences

Stores are an important part of the landscape for many service providers because there is still an inherent nervousness in signing up for a contract. Customers will do all their research online then will come in to sign and seal that decision, or to see and physically touch the devices, and hence it’s important that the right people are there and they have the right training in place to change that instore experience.

Equally in the online phase of customers’ research is the growth of augmented reality with conversational AI to deliver the future of shopping straight into people’s homes through a seamless, fully automated, easy and engaging online retail experiences.

4.   Demand for seamless support

There has been an increased demand for seamless support and ensuring that the customer journey is as easy as possible. Above all, putting digital at the front of your journey is great. However, if it doesn’t work, it frustrates customers and puts them off. So connecting them to an adviser at those moments of truth matters enormously as well. Also hugely important is to get any support issue resolved at first point resolution.

5.   Heightened focus on flexibility

During times of economic uncertainty, consumers increasingly value flexibility to adjust their spending on connectivity services. This is important when it comes to managing collections, to be proactive in getting customers onto the correct product and tariff according to their affordability, and to help them avoid unnecessarily getting into debt.

6.   Improve the digital buying experience

Operators should also aim to digitise customer acquisition processes. There are huge revenue benefits in making these processes easy – the customer may not buy anything at the end of it, but they may still go into the store later, so having a connected experience for customers is vital. The change in moving seamlessly from digital, to over the phone, to in-store, to back to over the phone allows for the best customer experience, which is where a good CRM/digital platform comes in.

7.   Boosted ‘in-store’ automation

Service providers need to offer contactless payment and mobile-based self-checkout options in physical stores to meet consumers’ safety concerns.

8.   Enhance customer support services

Current economic pressures mean that our call centre advisers need to be equipped for the toughest conversations they’ve probably ever had in their lives. Giving staff the information at their fingertips to have those conversations effectively and giving them appropriate training is hugely important. Telcos need to augment their existing customer support services to address new customer issues such as leveraging advanced analytics to detect issues proactively and help customers address issues.

9.   Introduction of customised/targeted products

Operators need to provide the flexibility to customers to customise plans, add/remove services, and adjust their spending on connectivity in real-time and on demand. There is an increasing realisation that self-service and highly digitised experiences is what’s needed above all to make the journey easier for the customer.

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Written by

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham

MD for Telco, Media and Technology, Capita

Mark was previously Group Customer Care and Experience Director & COO of Financial Services at The Very Group, the UK’s largest integrated online retailer and financial services business. He’s had a varied career spanning 15+ years across operational and outsource management, transformation and customer experience, including at Vodafone and British Gas. Under Mark’s leadership the Very Group was recognised at the European Call Centre awards for their customer transformation programme which in 2 years improved brand NPS by 30 points, tnps by 90 points, first contact resolution by 30 points and reduced overall customer contact and cost by over 70%.

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