Customer Centricity

Digital operations needn’t be profit vs. customer centricity

There are many opportunities to greatly improve operations while striving to become more customer-centric. Here are some suggestions communications service providers (CSPs) can take to score quick wins.

This is an excerpt from our Quick Insights report, Customer centricity: Creating the digital experience. Download the full report here.

Think digital

According to our new research in the Digital Transformation Tracker, gleaned from 185 global CSP executives, two of the most important drivers for digital transformation are better customer relationships and cost savings, respectively. They often go hand in hand: Delivering a strong digital (online) experience for customers is at the heart of building stronger customer relationships generally, and the more customers use online channels, the greater the opportunity to cut costs through automation using emerging technologies.

Make it simple

One of the greatest problems telcos struggle with is having thousands of products and services, as each variation, bundle and promotion is typically set up as a new one. Erik Meijer at Group Innovation, Deutsche Telekom, is a passionate advocate of simplification, from ensuring processes are joined up and efficient, to presenting customers with clear choices, prices and services that are easy to understand and consume.

“We design things to do what they say on the packaging,” Meijer says. Much of the company’s technology innovation is done in Germany and ‘exported’ to other markets, including the US.

The group’s ‘Uncarrier’ strategy certainly seems to be working: T-Mobile is outperforming the moribund American telecoms market, having grown its revenue and customer base for 13 successive quarters. It just exceeded its own market expectations by adding 1.3 million subscribers in the second quarter of this year and has raised its forecasts for the year.

Act like an OTT

VEON also has an ambitious plan to become a digital, customer-centric business. While it remains to be seen whether it will pay off, its move to become a platform-based business, fast, while still having to deal with legacy systems is inspiring.

Scott McKenzie, Director, Strategic Partnerships, VEON, explains that although the company is looking at massive disruption over the long term to achieve its digital goals, it is “using an abstraction layer so we can rapidly innovate on the customer service layer, and integrate partners quickly and effectively, just like the GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon] companies can.”

Abstraction, metadata and standardized APIs are key to the transformation, along with the company investing $1 billion on moving its BSS into the cloud to gain agility and halve IT costs. TM Forum’s report, Cloud BSS: The migration begins, based on primary research, is free for members to download. It was undertaken by TM Forum’s Chief Analyst Mark Newman and published earlier this year. Non-members can download the executive summary from here.

Build self-help communities

Some companies have been very successful by building communities where customers help each other. Examples include:

  • mobile virtual network operator GiffGaff “the mobile network run by you” in the UK;
  • Telstra’s Crowdsupport Forum, “where customers answer questions and share ideas about our products and services”; and
  • MyOptus, in Australia.

Move payments online

In June 2016, Australia’s MVNO Amaysim (which runs on Optus’ 4G network and can be accessed via Facebook) claimed the percentage of customers paying online had increased from 68 percent in 2012 to 83 percent. The golden rule is make it quick and easy, because it’s a cheaper, faster way to get money flowing in.

Adopt micropayments

Micropayments are potentially great sources of revenue for CSPs. Meijer from Deutsche Telekom, says that his company, which has 13 operating companies from Albania to the US (T-Mobile), is focused on what he calls micro-moments, borrowing from Google. Google reckons those moments globally could be worth more than $1 trillion, and CSPs are the obvious choice to handle the micropayments involved in impulse transactions.

Re-evaluate retail outlets

First, consider how much you really need them to compete, taking into account different cultures and expectations in different markets, and which segments you want to target. Second, if you need them to compete, then make sure there is not a huge gap between the in-store and online experience – they should look and feel like part of the same company.

Having said that, each store serves a constituency of users, whether it’s in Oxford Street in Central London, or in the poorer part of Bangalore. They are a big chance to provide an experience that fits the demographic. Also, people tend to go to stores when there’s something new – stores are the best places to show them off, allowing people to touch and feel them, not just look.

Automate as many of the mundane tasks as you can so that staff can spend time with customers, listening to them and finding them the most suitable deal.

Cut costs with care

Gain cost savings from the business, not the technology.

“There is very much a push back on the idea of transformation being an IT cost-saving exercise. We are not doing it to make us leaner, but to make our customers’ experience better,” said Phil Jordan, Global CIO, Telefónica.

He gave the example that while people in many countries like the speed and convenience of automated top-ups, in Latin America, Telefónica’s customers prefer to go to the shop at the end of their street. Over time, this behavior is likely to change, but having the capacity to do something should not mean trying to force it onto customers – that results in dissatisfaction and churn.


    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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