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How To Improve the Customer Experience in Telecom? Data Capture and AI

A Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report sheds light on how CSPs are rewriting their business models to center around the customer.

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For most CSPs, improving customer experience (CX) is easier said than done. We sought to find the obstacles that prevent good customer service in telecommunications and unpack how CSPs can reimagine their business models. To unearth what a better customer experience in telecom looks like, Salesforce sponsored a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, Rewiring Telecoms for Future Success Means Shifting to a Customer Focus. Here’s what we learned.

Old-school business practices are the barrier to better customer experience 

CSPs serve customers that range from everyday consumers and multinational corporations, to wholesale partners who fall someplace in between. The report finds that one of the biggest challenges CSPs currently face is to provide connected, personalized experiences to all of them. That includes B2B companies, who “increasingly expect consumer-like digital experiences – an idea that some CSPs have resisted,” according to the report.

B2B COMPANIES INCREASINGLY EXPECT CONSUMER-LIKE DIGITAL EXPERIENCES — AN IDEA THAT SOME CSPS HAVE RESISTED.

Rewiring Telecoms for Future Success Means Shifting to a Customer Focus, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, March 2021

Sounds simple enough, right?

One major problem is that for CSPs, each individual business unit often relies on its own legacy technology systems. Employees are trained on multiple systems, then switch back and forth to gather the data they need to serve their customers. The result? Disconnected data that leads to disjointed service, manual processes, delays, and errors which combine to produce unsatisfactory CX.  

Another challenge is that CSPs often incentivize individual business unit performance, which further entrenches silos and reduces the desire to share data and insights between teams. 

These business practices prevent CSPs from prioritizing the customer.  

CSPs realize they can’t win when old-school business practices are standing in their way. Many embrace an overarching mission to prioritize CX. This includes investment in technology infrastructures to give teams a common data language. And to encourage collaboration, the report recommends that CSPs should offer incentives for teams across the enterprise to work together to achieve shared CX goals.

CSPs need real-time insight to understand what their customers experience

“Most CSPs have plenty of data about service delivery performance, but no way to make it actionable to impact the customer experience,” states the report. “While performance certainly supports CX, many CSPs will need to expand their ability to capture data around the full customer experience.” CSPs should also provide a combination of anonymous, straightforward feedback from customers and customer-facing employees, as well as self-identified feedback. This will allow for clear follow-up to call out specific instances where CX has suffered and determine appropriate action plans.

Most CSPs have plenty of data about service delivery performance, but no way to make it actionable to impact the customer experience. While performance certainly supports CX, many CSPs will need to expand their ability to capture data around the full customer experience.

Rewiring Telecoms for Future Success Means Shifting to a Customer Focus, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, March 2021

If a long-standing customer needs a replacement for their shattered smartphone, but is not yet due for an upgrade and the sales rep won’t make an exception, loyalty is at risk. Frustrated and unwilling to pay to repair the phone, the customer may switch providers (and get a better deal in the process). If the sales rep had the data they needed about the customer at the onset of the interaction, they could have found a solution that satisfied both the company and the customer. The evolution of the customer’s experience, combined with the data and organizational silos result in what the report calls a, “lack of true understanding of who their customer has become.”

A digital business support system (BSS), like a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, can help CSPs realize this vision. They can use a single source of truth which combines data from systems of record like asset history, customer lifetime value, and consolidated data from customer interactions and employee feedback to create a 360-degree view of the customer. CSPs can then measure the effectiveness of their CX, personalize the experience at every stage of the customer journey, and identify points of friction — and address them — as soon as they emerge.

Artificial intelligence is integral to better customer experience

According to the report, 90% of CSPs believe artificial intelligence (AI) will play an important role in CX. Ninety percent believe that AI is important or moderately important in customer retention and loyalty. And more than half see AI playing a very important role in superior service and support and proactive communication. 

AI enables CSPs to analyze their data and get the insight they need to improve CX, whether that’s recommending actions to take when resolving a service issue, or surfacing personalized products when a customer is shopping online. This helps for both acquisition and retention. 

CSPs need to put more effort into customer experience 

Customers expect consistent, intelligent, and intuitive experiences – from research, to enrollment and activation, to customer service. To make the customer experience a competitive differentiator, CSPs must modernize old-school business practices and invest in a digital tech stack that allows for data sharing across the organization.


Jonathan Phillips is the director of Communications Industry Marketing at Salesforce. He brings over 25 years of experience in business and technical architecture, solution consulting, and enterprise applications of CRM, contact centers, and telecommunications networks. As a well-respected industry leader, he regularly engages with customers and speaks at conferences and training sessions around the world.

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