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How telcos can improve their customer service

Yehia El Amine

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How telcos can improve their customer service

It’s no mystery that telecoms is a highly competitive industry, with telcos offering everything from better minutes, data, packages, and the like at lower costs to lure in customers to their networks over the other.

While these strategies have been implemented far and wide to increase subscriber counts, they aren’t as viable in today’s competitive landscape.

Thus, the only sustainable point of differentiation in telecom today is superior customer service (CX).  

A recent report by Forrester takes this concept one step further by proving that improving customer experience in telecoms delivers a boost to all KPIs. According to a report called Drive Revenue with Great Customer Experience, following the automotive industry and upscale hotels, telecoms has the third highest potential for increasing revenue by improving CX.

Forrester’s CX Index highlights that telcos who increase their CX score by only one point will generate an additional $3.39 in per-customer incremental revenue. This was echoed by the Harvard Business Review, who reported that customers who had the best experiences spend 140 percent more compared to those who had the poorest experiences.

There are a number of strategies that telcos can adopt to better their customer service experience, and increase customer engagement, especially in a time where consumers want to connect or relate to the businesses they deal with.

Let’s jump right in.

1-Better understanding customers

Customer expectations from telcos is rising, as competitions are fierce with some offering digital content, platforms, and services at lesser costs. Thus, the best way to turn the tide in your favor is to understand what your customer truly wants and deliver on it.

A survey conducted in as far back as 2013 by TTEC revealed that:

  • 50 percent of telecom customers feel lost when they encounter automated service systems and prefer a more user-friendly way to communicate with their service provider
  • 35 percent of customers prefer to speak to a friendly, empathetic associate
  • Customers hate rigid scripts, and meaningless phrases like “your call is important to us” and “that’s our policy,” which are often repeated by service agents.

These complaints are still applicable in 2020, which is why the human touch is needed when addressing customers. An example of this was seen by T-Mobile International, who found that 60 percent of customers shy away from Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.

The company threw out the IVR model in favor of what they call a “Team of Experts,” which are small, local groups of customer service agents that provide individualized support.

Customers in different regions of the US have their own dedicated teams of customer care representatives who offer quick, efficient assistance on a wide range of topics, from the most basic to the highly complex.

2- AI adoption

While adopting artificial intelligence (AI) within your customer service framework can offer a plethora of cost-effective benefits, it needs to be done right when handling customers who have a problem to solve.

According to IDC estimates, 75 percent of enterprise applications will make use of AI services by 2021. The use of chatbots can improve your CX by easing the burden on customer service teams by offering:

  • Easy access to information
  • Reduced waiting time
  • Quick response time
  • Personalized interactions
  • Faster query resolution
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Improved productivity
  • Store data for easy personalization

Chatbots enable fast and seamless service for telecom customers, 24/7. They save time and resources by directly replying to customers using FAQs for solving straightforward or repetitive queries. Only complex queries are forwarded to human agents, ensuring faster resolution and less burden on the staff.

An example of this can be seen by Verizon, who launched a setlist of solutions, called Digital CX, which blend human and artificial intelligence to enhance customer experience. Through Digital CX, customers – via social media, chat, email, text, or over the phone – will receive personalized experiences based on their previous interactions.

Agents can seamlessly access customer data across platforms, with the system collecting insights, learning from them, and improving its performance over time. The company’s NPS jumped 9 points from 2015 to 2018 and they won two of the three J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Business Wireline Satisfaction awards.

3- Customer-centric culture

Every customer wants to feel valued, like their voices are heard, especially with large telcos that deal with millions of subscribers. Thus, changing a customer-centric culture starts with each customer.

Britain’s BT spearheaded this strategy by investing in coaching their frontline staff and by setting up a volunteer program called “Tiger Teams” where employees engage in projects focused on improving customer experience in telecoms.

The company also implemented customer-centric programs that meant subscribers were supported by frontliners throughout their entire order journey in an attempt to increase understanding of what they’re buying as well as forming a clear line of communication.

Due to these efforts, BT has led to a 24-point NPS increase in just 12 months.

4- Omnichannel experience

We are in a time where companies could be directly reached from anywhere, social media, phone, email, and the likes, which is why telcos must consistently provide a seamless line of communication with their customers to improve their overall CX.

Comcast is the favored example in this case, as they have allowed customers to reach out to them on any channel they deem fit, while guaranteeing that their response will be consistent across all channels and platforms regardless if the conversation moves from one channel to another.

With this, the company renders the transition as painless as possible, ensuring that the new interaction does not require the customer to start from scratch. 

Customer service techniques and strategies will continue to change as technological advancements arm companies with the tools needed to meet customer demands, which is why telcos need to be quick in their adoption of the very technologies that they sell off.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

Telecoms

Regulators must look past politics when banning Huawei, report warns

Inside Telecom Staff

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Regulators must look past politics when banning Huawei, report warns

The exclusion of Chinese tech companies from Western countries’ fifth generation rollout efforts due to alleged security concerns will negatively impact the progression of the technology for years to come, a recent report highlighted. 

According to a new report by global tech advisory firm ABI Research, phasing out vendors could hamper worldwide deployment by several years and overload network operators with bank breaking costs to replace already existing infrastructure.

“Our research shows that banning Huawei and ZTE from 5G deployments and restricting their access to silicon and semiconductor supply chains will have severe implications on economic performances. Furthermore, banning these Chinese vendors will hamper 5G and 6G R&D,” Leo Gergs, Research Analyst for 5G Markets at ABI Research, said in the report.

Gergs explained that banning Huawei and ZTE not only imposes additional costs for operators having to replace Huawei equipment from existing network deployments but also restricts the vendor landscape, reducing the degree of competition within the market.

“This imperfect competition inevitably decreases downward pricing pressure, forcing network operators to pay higher costs for network equipment than if they were under perfect competition conditions,” he added.

Matters have even escalated further.

Reuters reported that the outgoing Trump administration notified Huawei suppliers, among them chipmaker Intel, that it is revoking certain licenses to sell to the Chinese company and intends to reject dozens of other applications to supply the Chinese tech giant.

This restriction can easily prove to do more harm than good, especially for the American economy, as Huawei plans to start manufacturing their own chipset in a newly built factory in Shanghai, the ABI report explained.

“Even though Huawei will produce 5G chipsets for its products only, Huawei’s long-term ambitions will be to serve the entire Chinese market,” Gergs highlighted, adding that Chinese demand for U.S. chipsets will continuously decrease.

“American semiconductor companies generate a substantial portion of their revenues from China. The impending demand erosion will impact the U.S. semiconductor industry severely,” the report further emphasized.

It is also worth mentioning that phasing out these companies can result in negative implications on 5G standardization.

The report stressed that Huawei and other telecommunications companies are among the top contributors to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) – which is a program that unites telecom companies to develop protocols for mobile telecommunications.

Gergs noted that stripping Huawei from the opportunity to monetize this R&D investment will cause Huawei to reconsider and decrease their efforts. As a result, rollout, and evolution of 5G will suffer not only on a national level but also globally.

“Regulators need to be very careful and avoid taking a politically motivated decision on economic and technology matters,” Gergs warned. “To ensure that 5G can unveil its true transformative effect to the world, regulators and political bodies need to prevent the 5G rollout from becoming a bargaining chip for geopolitical interests.”

Thus, regulators and politicians need to fully access the consequences of what’s a stake when deciding to ban these vendors and look at the matter not only from a political perspective, but also from an economic and technological viewpoint.

“If certain network equipment were found to be insecure from a technology point of view, a healthy and unrestricted economic market would naturally move away from these infrastructure components. This would happen without the political intervention, which is harmful to the economy and will jeopardize the immense value that 5G and future generations of cellular connectivity will bring to societies around the globe,” the report concluded.

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Telecoms

Deutsche Telekom, Cellnex team up in tower and investment deals

Karim Hussami

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German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom has partnered up with Spanish cell phone mast operator Cellnex to combine their tower business in the Netherlands, laying the ground for investments in a newly established Digital Infrastructure Vehicle (DIV).

Under the agreement, which was announced on Thursday, the companies will become anchor investors in the DIV investment fund focused on European digital infrastructure.

T-Mobile Infra

Deutsche Telekom operates its Dutch towers via an entity known as T-Mobile Infra which will be contributed to the DIV, the operator said in a statement. The investment fund will primarily focus on fiber infrastructure, towers, and data centers, with aims of delivering attractive, risk-adjusted returns.

The German operator will donate $406 million in capital commitments to the fund, while Cellnex has agreed to commit $243 million. “Its investment in Cellnex Netherlands aims to create value by gaining exposure to the growth derived from 5G adoption, as well as by realizing synergies resulting from the merger,” Cellnex said in a statement.

DIV will contribute to the T-Mobile Infra business to Cellnex Netherlands in return for a 38 percent stake, as part two of the transaction.

How many cells will the deal include?

According to the deal, Deutsche Telekom will integrate its 3,150 mobile towers in the Netherlands with Cellnex’s 984 sites.

The tower specialist firm noted that its operation of 4,314 sites – in parallel to having 180 new masts already in the pipeline – will render it to become the largest independent mobile tower company in the country.

“At the same time, DIV opens an innovative way to finance telecom infrastructure in partnership with institutional investors,” Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges said.

As the fifth-generation technology expands in worldwide rollout, telecom towers are increasingly prized by investors navigating a world of low returns thanks to their steady, inflation-linked cash flows, and prospects for more development.

To guarantee the continued investment in the sector, more connections will be needed to link up billions of devices in an Internet of Things (IoT).

Whilst customers enjoy better signals on their smartphones when new sites mushroom up, it also offers faster data and better call quality, especially when working from home.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of stable broadband connections for people to communicate and remain connected, which would lead to strengthening the digital infrastructure in Europe.

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Telecoms

Four European telecom operators deploy OpenRAN solutions to boost technology

Karim Hussami

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Four European telecom operators deploy OpenRAN solutions to boost technology

To better serve its customers, four of Europe’s largest operators– Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange S.A., Telefónica S.A., and Vodafone Group Plc– have committed to supporting and deploying OpenRAN solutions.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the operators said they are interested and committed to the implementation and deployment of Open RAN solutions that take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G era.

Important milestone

This step is considered an important milestone towards a diverse, reinvigorated supplier ecosystem and the availability of carrier-grade Open RAN technology for a timely commercial deployment in Europe.

Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) at Telefónica, said: “Open RAN is the natural evolution of radio access technologies and it will be key for 5G networks. Telefónica believes the whole industry must work together to make it a reality. I am excited to be partnering with major European operators to promote the development of an open technology that will help to enhance the flexibility, efficiency and security of our networks. This is an extraordinary opportunity for the European industry not only to promote the development of 5G but also to participate in its sustainable technological development.”

What is OpenRAN and how does it work?

 It is about network innovation, flexibility and faster rollout.

 This is why operators are committed to its promotion, development and adoption to ensure the best network experience for their customers.

Telcos plan to join forces with their leading European partners to foster a diverse, competitive and secure 4G/5G ecosystem based on open RAN solutions, in order to seize this opportunity.

Impact on telecommunication market

On the other hand, the implementation of Open RAN is expected to have a positive impact on the European Telecommunication market.

Within the traditional RAN, the networks uses fully integrated cell sites, where the radios, hardware and software are provided by a single supplier as a closed proprietary solution.

Mobile operators are re-evaluating the way their networks are deployed.

OpenRAN has the capability to drive European technological innovation through the use of the experience of expanding corporations and expanding governments.

Those RAN solutions open the market to new suppliers, leading to faster deployment of 5G, an economy of network and world-class services.

Moreover, Europe must keep the same pace as other countries in the race for the long-term development of Open RAN, instead of staying behind, especially with the progress of the US and Japan have made in this filed.  

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