The Australian telco market has been kept on its toes in recent years in a bid to retain customers. Competitive prices and graphs on bills are no longer enough for brands to keep customers, especially when providers are now measured against over-the-top digital players like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat, which are cannibalising traditional fixed and mobile communication services.
There’s also been a consumer backlash against telcos relative to gaps between customer expectations and experience. We call this the ‘promise gap’ between the promise created by the telco’s marketing campaign and the actual experience users encounter.
With Australian consumers increasingly dependent on their phones and internet, exceptional customer experience, closing the ‘Promise gap’, will be the deal breaker when it comes to selecting their telco provider. Telcos must evaluate their strategy to ensure customer service remains an important factor in a consumers’ decision making.
Winning over customers
According to its latest six monthly report, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received nearly 70,000 complaints concerning landline, mobile and internet services in the latter half of 2018. These stats understate the level of dissatisfaction as they represent only the most strident cases and customers who officially raise a complaint to an external party. To this number needs to be added the silent dissatisfied customers who churn to other telco’s or opt to an over-the-top player. Australian telco providers need to win the hearts and minds of customers in order to minimise brand switching and customer complaints. However, the solutions to this lies in trust and engagement, not simply sales.
Telco services need to improve analyses of customer feedback and actioning them into smart, achievable strategies that pinpoints customer insights and demands. However this process needs to be dynamic, efficient and fast, with technology the best solution to achieve such outcomes.
Applying Business oriented Technology
Technology can enable a lot of new initiatives. However, legacy architecture, outdated operating models driven by stability over innovation and – often most crucially – a risk-adverse culture within the business make change challenging.
A truly omni-channel approach can be a game changer. Despite the complexity of building it, it makes applying intelligence across interactions more achievable. Leveraging data intelligence is key for telco providers to make their services more personalised and relevant to customers. This approach makes a company seamlessly available to your customers in their preferred manner, whenever and wherever.
For example, Telstra introduced a new marketing mix modelling in partnership with Accenture, using machine learning to identify ties between performance and marketing success in real time. For the omni-channel experience, it’s important to learn how digital interacts with traditional channels for customer communications.
Any introduction of automation and machine learning technology change can be a tough landscape to navigate, Accenture believes Australian telco provider should follow these principles for prioritising investments:
- Architectural investment – favouring speed over stability and creating differentiation by enhancing the ability for measuring, testing, learning and open-mindedness towards third parties.
- Industrialised digital decoupling – moving away from technology systems that are not helping the telco customer experience and instead powering user experience, journey optimisation and engagement.
- Data and AI powered decisioning – refining the approach for both automatic and manual consumer touchpoints, lessening the time for customers to receive deliverables. Importantly, AI powered assistants allow the customer the flexibility of managing the interaction on their preferred terms
- Native cloud capabilities – boosting speed of innovation by cutting non-essential or non-competitive architectural services.
- Micro-services and DevOps – speeding up the build, implementation and testing of new services. Deploying a policy-defined API framework that helps bring in third party, DevOps services.
By putting data at the centre of development and distribution, new ways of thinking will emerge that allow for low-cost innovation. Dodo recently went through a significant digital remodelling to overhaul its customer service strategy, introducing new digital, consumer and telco expertise to boost registrations, active users and overall customer satisfaction.
The Product is Part of the Answer
A new way of thinking should also come into product development. High engagement products are doorways to capturing valuable consumer data on their interests, behaviours and purchases in a trusted, mutually-beneficial way. In the short-term, it can help improve core business processes and boost efficiencies. In the longer term, it can open new lines of business to support the digital services ecosystem, based on an understanding of customer insights and the demands of the market. The easy part is that these outcomes are non-intrusive to the customer and impart no risk to their daily routine.
Telco providers are experiencing intense pressure, from an explosion of mobile competition to the expectation of delivering more data at lower prices. The customer is and remains king, and with a heavily saturated telco market, providers must bear in mind that customers have limitless choices within reach with barely any barriers to entry.
In an increasingly competitive landscape, Australian telco providers must close the ‘promise gap’ with improved expectations, and personalised customer experience. This means using data to create intelligence across an omnichannel platform and a desire to make the customer experience the best it can be. Customer loyalty in a competitive market is a long-term game.
Jonathan Restarick is communications, media and technology lead at Accenture