In a world where more choice leads to more churn, what can communications service providers do to keep their customers happy? Salesforce’s 2022 Trends in the Communications Industry Report, summarized in this article, has uncovered key insights that reveal how providers can drive satisfaction and find new opportunities for growth.
The days when traditional communications service providers were the only game in town for telecom, internet, cable and managed services business needs are over. New entrants are gaining traction by offering simpler, contract-free services. And with more options today than ever before, customers are eager to test new providers.
The pressure is on. Customers increasingly view communications service providers as commodities, and the industry is quickly learning that they need to step up the quality of their experiences and services.
To help providers understand how customer expectations have evolved and what’s required to succeed amid the changing industry landscape, Salesforce surveyed 500 industry leaders and 6,000 customers for its 2022 Trends in the Communications Industry Report.
Here are the key takeaways from the new report to help communications service providers attract and retain customers amid rising competition.
The vast majority of customers are willing to look elsewhere for communications services
Customer experience cannot be overlooked – 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. And communications customers are overwhelmingly ready, willing, and able to explore choices beyond their traditional providers to find better experiences. Roughly three quarters of customers surveyed in the report said they would be at least somewhat likely to get wireless (78%) and cable (76%) services from non-traditional providers such as large technology companies.
What’s more, many customers are opting to cut the cable cord altogether. So much so that by next year, less than half of U.S. households are expected to have traditional cable services. Of the customers surveyed who had cut the cord, 33% percent stated they did so in favor of streaming services, and 20% reported they have switched to wireless-only connectivity, such as 5G home internet, straight from their cellular devices.
What makes these new entrants so compelling? It’s all about creating a great user experience – something traditional providers may have struggled to deliver. In fact, when it comes to customer satisfaction, surveyed customers ranked the communications industry behind both consumer technology and ecommerce, barely edging out financial services, and pharmacies and healthcare providers.
Research indicates that to stay competitive and attract and retain new customers, providers may need to take a page from consumer tech companies to deliver better and more personalized customer experiences across every channel.
Customers want optimized online channels and enhanced in-person experiences
Customers want the best of both online and in-person worlds. And they want those worlds to be connected and consistent. Over half of respondents (51%) prefer to do business online, with 64% reporting they used their provider’s website over the last month. However, 40% of customers also visited the store over the same time period, and 35% prefer to do business online and in stores.
Despite this increasing adoption of online channels, customers are finding the experience lacking. As it stands, only one in five people reported having an excellent self-service or assisted-service experience on their provider’s website. With so much room for improvement, providers with superior digital self-service channels could gain a competitive edge.
In-store experiences also offer an opportunity for differentiation. Just 25% of customers said store associates were knowledgeable, and only 23% said they received efficient service.
Customers want great service at every touchpoint
The vast majority (90%) of communications service leaders agree or strongly agree their company makes it easy to communicate internally to resolve customer cases faster. But these efforts are not making a strong enough impact on overall customer satisfaction. Almost 40% of customers are unsatisfied with their current providers.
Further, 50% percent of wireless customers and 47% of cable customers believe they get the best service when they threaten to switch to a different provider. Increasing loyalty requires keeping customers satisfied throughout the entire customer lifecycle — not just when they threaten to leave.
When asked what might increase customer satisfaction (other than reducing the monthly bill), both cable and wireless customers most frequently selected discounts on streaming services, transparency (no hidden fees), and personalized offers and deals, such as proactive adjustments to monthly bills based on TV-watching and wireless habits.
A company’s values matter to customers
Increasingly, people like to associate themselves with brands they can relate to. They see the things they buy as reflections of who they are and what they believe. In fact, 66% of customers have stopped buying from a company whose values didn’t align with their own.
Providers have taken this to heart and started operationalizing their values within their organizations. Communications industry leaders surveyed in the report ranked carbon accounting (79%), closing the digital divide (84%), social responsibility (80%), and supporting underrepresented minorities (79%) as extremely or very important. Communicating these values to customers and demonstrating impact on issues like closing the digital divide will not only help providers drive meaningful change, but retain and grow their customer base.
Customers are willing to pay more for 5G
Providers may find that doing a better job of communicating the benefits of next generation technologies like 5G to their customers – can create significant opportunities for those that get it right. Many customers don’t recognize the benefits of 5G in providing more reliable internet for underserved communities (53%), immersive entertainment (72%), internet of things (IoT) capabilities (72%), or real-time control of remote devices (74%).
The faster connectivity, more reliable service, and entertainment opportunities that can come with 5G technology should be a huge selling point with customers. In fact, when presented with a list of benefits that accompany 5G technology, more than two thirds (67%) of respondents said they would pay more for it.
Percentage of Customers Willing to Pay More for Wireless Services Offering 5G
5G unlocks new B2B opportunities
Companies across multiple sectors are excited about how 5G technology can help them meet their customers’ needs and expectations. And providers who take advantage of that excitement with the right offerings have the potential to uncover new B2B opportunities.
“Service providers know there is no single ‘killer app’ for 5G and are exploring a broad range of monetization strategies, including new B2B applications, network-as-a-service (NaaS) offerings, and digital marketplaces with ecosystem partners.”David fan, VP and General manager of communications Products at Salesforce
When asked whether they believe investment in 5G infrastructure might enhance their return on investment, communications industry leaders agreed that it would allow them to better meet their B2B customers’ needs by offering more channels, convenience and personalization. In addition, leaders agreed that 5G would create partnership and bundling opportunities across multiple industries.
The future is online and digital transformation is the key to success
More than half of customers (51%) surveyed prefer to conduct business “only or mostly online.” Meeting these needs and expectations requires that providers invest in powerful and intuitive tools (like customer portals) that enable seamless, friction-free transactions.
B2B customers are also dissatisfied with online experiences, especially when it comes to self- and assisted-service tools, account management, and the ease by which they’re able to make large purchases. Only half (53%) of leaders reported their procurement employees felt comfortable managing their enterprise accounts online without sales agent assistance.
This disconnect proves that having the right tools and the right implementation strategy is critical when it comes to meeting customer expectations and providing personalization at scale. This is especially true when considering the majority of B2B customers (63%) say they prefer to engage through digital channels such as messaging platforms and collaborative documents.
And, digital transformation done right doesn’t just benefit customers. It can also increase employee satisfaction by enabling a more efficient workplace. In a recent survey, Salesforce found that 89% of employees are more satisfied with their job as a result of automation and 79% reported increased productivity as one of the technology’s biggest benefits. With tools like automation powering effective digital transformation, it’s no surprise that 91% of communications service provider employees said transforming operations would reduce bottlenecks and redundant processes while also helping their companies save money.
The industry has to evolve with the times
A rapidly transforming landscape requires that providers embrace change to meet new customer demands. Many have started taking action and answering customers’ calls for better experiences and service. But work remains to be done as customers still see the communications industry as lagging behind.
Communications service providers need to change public perception from an industry on the verge of commoditization to one that is steadfastly customer-centric. Offering enhanced, engaging, and personalized experiences will ensure that providers stay competitive in this ever-evolving industry.
- To learn more about what customers are saying and how the industry is responding, read our Trends in the Communications Industry Report.
- Check out The Future of Telecom: New Era, New Opportunities to learn more about how the industry is adapting for the future.
- Read more about how communications services providers can monetize 5G here.