Last time, we wrote from TMW about the importance of a holistic view with regard to CEM, pointing out that, as CEM is applied to so many aspects of telco operations, each has to be interconnected into order to realise the full benefits. Of course, this is one of the goals of eTOM – awareness of which is growing in the industry.
But we also made the point that CEM requires cultural change and innovation too. It’s not just about systems and technology, though it would be easy to think so from many of the vendor offerings on the show floor. While these are essential – indeed necessary, in the end, they are probably not sufficient.
This is not an unfamiliar topic for us. We’ve come across the need for cultural change time and time again. For example, in our first IMS report, written back in 2009 in conjunction with Moriana Group, we noted that cultural resistance was frequently cited as a major impediment to IMS adoption alongside other, more technical factors or business case analyses. It wasn’t so much the business case or technology fears that were blocking decision making, but internal factors, entrenched opinion and legacy practices.
Telenor Serbia’s investment in the creation of a dedicated ‘customer’ department is one response to this challenge. Another was described by PCCW, which identified company transformation as a key factor in enhancing customer experience.
PCCW emphasised the need to develop a customer-orientated approach in its staff. A starting point was the development of the strategic objective of cost efficiency, but without the normal knee-jerk accountancy response of reducing personnel overheads. This was illuminating. Instead of redundancies, PCCW recognised that its staff is a key resource and would be fundamental to its future growth and increasing customer orientation.
It sounds obvious that a business should be customer orientated, but that’s clearly not always the case. And, it can be difficult to realign individual elements. Take sales, for example. Many sales teams are used to payment of bonuses based on the closure of large deals and opportunities. But the transition to cloud-based solutions reduces the size of an individual bonus, but increases the duration and frequency through which they will be paid. This can be a difficult transition to accomplish.
So is a migration towards greater customer awareness. PCCW achieved this by incorporating customer service measures into staff appraisals and providing incentives that were targeted in this direction. Of course, different operators will have different approaches to this challenge, but it was striking to see initiatives from operators in highly competitive markets taking large steps to deliver a better customer experience – and recognising the necessity of addressing internal and cultural issues to achieve it. Perhaps it’s nothing novel if one considers other industries, but it certainly seems novel in the world of telco and very different from our experiences back here in the UK.
Turning away from the macro and back to the micro, there were a couple of other standout presentations during the sessions. Philips gave an excellent summary of the kind of techniques they deploy to enhance the effectiveness of their B2C communication for consumer products.
Effectively, it was a summary of best practice in terms of learning from campaigns, testing, optimising and ensuring consistency across different media. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that success can be significantly enhanced with some very specific, though minor changes to material, but you can only determine this from active testing prior to full-scale release of a campaign. And, Philips can do this because it has the tools at its disposal to do so – but you need to collect the data and learn. All the time. Back to the notion of continuous improvement.
This was a view reinforced by O2, which gave a complementary presentation on its digital marketing efforts. The key lesson is that marketing is not a one-way street. Customers interact and behave in different ways according to how they are engaged. Customer experience management is about so much more than network QoS, even though it is tempting to focus solely on this aspect. It requires, as we mentioned, cultural change and, as was amply illustrated by the presenters, a deep strategic focus.
Having said that, one cannot underestimate the importance of getting the basics right. Network QoS does matter – it’s hugely important. This point was reinforced by a nice joint presentation from Aircom International and Zain, which touched on the difficult topic of optimising network coverage. Aircom described the challenging activity of benchmarking the Zain Kuwait network and identifying areas to address.
And, it sounded quite a challenge – involving driving around for thousands of kilometres, taking reams of measurements. But, as we all know, mobile applications are driving significant growth in network signalling traffic and the consequences of this can have an effect on user satisfaction. In particular, Multi-RAB sessions place additional demands on the network and these are also growing in frequency. This is not the place to discuss such deep technical data, but the point was well made: customer satisfaction is not related to a single element. If a call drops, we may care less about it than if a call centre agent is unable to deal satisfactorily with our requests, or if our streaming video session is of poor quality.
The point is that everything matters: CEM is both a bottoms up (e.g. RAN capacity and performance) and top down (strategic focus and objectives) issue. You can’t deliver customer experience without addressing all elements of service provision – from wrestling with the physics of your network to the limitations of devices; from billing to the sales agent who greets you in a retail outlet. Each element – each touch point – experienced by the customer needs consideration and, to drive it, telcos need an appropriate cultural orientation to connect the dots between different departments and ensure that they strive their best to keep customers happy.
That’s not easy to achieve, but it was illuminating to hear from different operators how they have begun to turn aspiration into action. It was just as illuminating to hear from other businesses how they have approached specific aspects of the problem. The tools are available. There are lots of vendors who solve specific problems. But the real challenge is joining all of these solutions together to ensure a comprehensive framework is available to support strategic efforts to secure a connected customer experience management framework and orientation.