The end of the call center

04 Dec 2013

Mobile and broadband are drastically changing the way customers engage with telecom operators. Two speakers at the TM Forum’s CEM event in Kuala Lumpur yesterday gave examples of the rapid movement off traditional channels.

Darren Koo, StarHub’s AVP of market research & social CRM, said its postpaid customers’ use of self-service has jumped sharply, with 52% using self-help channels vs just 24% in 2011, when 76% used call-center assisted channels.

At dtac in Thailand, call-center contact now accounts for just a quarter of the channel mix, down from 34% in 2012. Retail contacts also fell over the last year, as the percentage of inquires going through retail shops dropped to 18% compared to 25% last year. Meanwhile, digital channels (excluding social and app) account for 58% of the total (up from 41% a year ago).

This changing mix has huge long-term implications for telcos – from call center staffing levels to the number of retails shops to the number of employees telcos need to operate. Some analysts see a major shakeout coming as operators cut back on their retail and call center assets, which will streamline their operations and put them on a healthier path as margins continue to fall.

StarHub has facilitated the move to self-help by creating and curating an active social community. Koo said the first step was to leverage social, but the next step is using content marketing. This includes creating self-help videos and encouraging customers to post peer-to-peer advice.

Tim Verouden, dtac’s head of online, said the social media maturity of companies in Southeast Asia is very low compared with other regions, which is surprising since consumers are very social media savvy.

Verouden said companies have to develop a specific tone of voice for social media, which has to be a part of an overall channel strategy. “You can’t over control. We can’t control everything anymore – you have to accept this and change the culture.”

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