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

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Review your telecom customer experience with data and AI. [@BO BO/Stocksy United]

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services results are in: Telecoms are rewriting their business models to center around the customer.

Customer experience is not what it used to be, and for most communications service providers, it’s a battle between disconnected data and siloed systems. If you’re still working with legacy technology systems and trying to please your customers, it may be time for a change.

Unearthing a better experience for customers and reimagining the telecommunications service model was the goal of the Salesforce-sponsored Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report. Here’s what we learned. 

Connect your data

A Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report sheds light on how telecom customer experience can benefit from their business models – centered around the customer.

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

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

Sounds simple enough, right?

Not with old-school business practices. One major problem is that each individual business unit often relies on its 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 leads to disjointed service, manual processes, delays, and errors which combine to produce unsatisfactory customer experiences.  

Another challenge is that telecoms 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 telecom organizations from prioritizing the customer.  

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

Real-time insights help to understand the customer experience

“Most (telecoms) have plenty of data about service delivery performance, but no way to make it actionable to impact the customer experience,” the report found. “While performance certainly supports the experience, many (telecoms) will need to expand their ability to capture data around the full customer experience.” 

Telecoms 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 the customer has suffered and determine appropriate action plans.

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’ve found a solution that satisfied both the company and the customer. The expectation of the customer 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 providers realize this vision. They can use a single dashboard — one source of truth — that combines data like asset history, customer lifetime value, customer interactions, network usage and anomalies, and employee feedback to create a 360-degree view of the customer. Combining customer data into one secure platform also enables the effective use of AI, which almost all telecoms believe is crucial to the customer experience. Unified and secured data gives AI a true understanding of who the customer is and what their needs are – in the same way that data enables that complete view for a service agent – to provide them with the best experience.  

Unified and secured data allows organizations to measure the effectiveness and personalization of the customer experience at every stage of the journey, and identify points of friction — and address them — as soon as they emerge, all with the help of AI.

AI is integral to better customer experience

According to the report, 90% of providers believe AI will play an important role in customer experience. 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 proactive communication. 

AI enables providers to analyze their data and get the insight they need to improve the overall experience for a customer, 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.

But you also need to make sure that the data is protected, or customer trust will be quickly broken – and trust is the most important value when it comes to customers. The Trends in Ethical Marketing from Salesforce found that 86% of customers are more loyal to ethical companies.

Rules and safeguards such as data masking – the process of replacing sensitive data with anonymized data to protect sensitive or private information complying with privacy requirements – need to be built in. You can also use masking to ensure you’ve eliminated all personal data when writing AI prompts or training an AI model. 

Glimpse into the future of telecom

Discover new communication processes, revenue models, and technologies that reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

Results are in: modernize the telecom customer experience

Customers expect consistent, intelligent, and intuitive experiences – from the moment they start researching a provider, to enrollment and activation, to customer service. Organizations that increase customer satisfaction scores by one point will generate an additional $3.39 in per-customer incremental revenue, the report says. 

To make the customer experience a competitive differentiator, telecoms must modernize old-school business practices and invest in a digital tech stack that unifies data and allows sharing across the organization. This is not only critical for service teams but is the path to effective and powerful AI that further augments the service journey.

Jonathan Phillips Senior Director, Communications Industry Marketing

Jonathan Phillips is the senior 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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