By Mae Kowalke
For the hotly competitive world of mobile communications service providers, it’s no longer enough simply to provide fast, reliable connections for a variety of devices at competitive rates.
A recent article in the Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) e-zine Enriching Communications titled, “Taking Care of the Customer Experience,” co-authored by ALU’s Ben Geller, Senior Director of Marketing and Oliver Krahn, Customer Experience Transformation Growth Program Leader, on this subject is worth a read. They explain how, “Service providers are learning that they cannot differentiate with devices, services or pricing.” This is clearly a dramatic change from the past.
If the old practices are not the optimal path to success it leads to an interesting question, what really does differentiate a service provider anymore? As you probably have guessed from the title of this blog and the ALU article, the answer is providing an outstanding customer experience based on a holistic approach.
Geller and Krahn believe a large part of creating such experiences involved making things easy. This means easy in the customer’s eyes. They believe there are four main elements to viewing an experience through the eyes of a customer:
- Services and devices are simple to start using right away
- Network connectivity is always available when it’s needed
- Devices and applications work the way they’re supposed to
- Problems will be quickly identified and resolved
At the end of the day, service providers are both the creators of the customer experience as well as the enablers for others. This puts significant pressure on them to consistently provide a good quality of experience (QoE) regardless of the type of customer, or their location and to do so according to their expectations, needs and contractual relationships. What it means is the ability to manage these anywhere customers and to use analytics to gain insights into how to constantly improve the (QoE) and their value to the service provider as can be done with ALU's Motive Customer Experience Solutions portfolio. This includes careful attention to the speed and quality of response when problems occur which is a priority for retaining customer loyalty.
The good news is that providers have many assets that support an outstanding customer experience. It’s just a matter of appropriately leveraging those assets.
As Geller and Krahn note, “They own robust, secure and scalable networks that can support an array of services…They have access to innovative devices with open platforms that support application innovation. In short, they have all the components required to deliver a market-leading customer experience.” Indeed, these tools include such things as the ability to optimize bandwidth without sacrificing performance through such capabilities as mobile smartloading, and giving third-parties and internal developers the ability to use open APIs to create new revenue-generating applications and services
The last item about open APIs is crucial for success going forward, especially when combined with the insights gained from leveraging the information generated by customer services management tools. As the authors explain, creative partnerships are important and making sure everybody in the ecosystem is in a position to ensure the end customer has a compelling experience is key. “Service providers with robust infrastructures, networks, billing systems and help desks can essentially become service providers to application and content providers (ACPs),” Geller and Krahn point out. “Collaboration with ACPs can drive innovation in the application space, generate new revenue and influence the customer experience.”
They also explain that part of making things easy for customers means recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all approach or procedure for delivering an outstanding customer experience. New thinking, new strategies and new priorities, applied in customized ways, are critical. They emphasize that, “Every service provider plots its own path to transformation, often starting with a desire to address a specific pain point or opportunity…The right starting point and goals are essential.”
Some strategies service providers are using for managing the customer experience include:
- Multi-channel customer care: to ensure the same quality of information and experience across all channels (phone, web, e-mail, IM, etc.).
- Analytics: to measure how likely customers are to recommend service to others.
- Maximizing network capacity yield: shifting usage patterns and rewarding customers for using the network during off-peak periods.
As with so many aspects of accommodating the dynamics of a changing world where the pace of everything is speeding up, and challenges can arise from almost anywhere at any time, Geller and Krahn present a powerful case as to why a holistic approach to the creation, substance and growth of quality customer experiences rest on service providers knocking down their operationally silos and embracing a holistic approach that is QoE-centric.
It is difficult to argue with their conclusion that, “To compete in the long term, executives must find ways to align departments and ensure that every person in the service provider organization is focused on delivering the best possible customer experience.” What this means is according to them is, “Extending consistency, universality and intuitiveness across every customer contact channel including call centers, web portals, IVRs and retail stores.”
Finally, it should be noted that this idea of a holistic approach must be viewed in the context of understanding that creating an end-user (the front end of the value-chain) quality customer experience can be considered the output of creating quality customer experiences for the back-end as well. Holism means making business processes and practices, and the people who use them more efficient and effective by empowering them with information from across the enterprise. This is not theory. It is best practice.