Differentiating your customer experience

Guillaume Sachet and Kyaw Pine - Accenture
16 Oct 2008

The future may well be with customers taking control of their own experience and dictating the way they interact with operators

With customer behaviors evolving rapidly, companies need to constantly fine tune their model for customer experience - everything that a customer sees, touches and feels when he comes into contact with a product or service. Companies that have competed based on customer experience such as Best Buy, AT&T and Starbucks, observed a strong correlation between increased customer satisfaction and improved business performance.

But operators looking to replicate these firms' models will be disappointed because there is no such panacea. Service providers should use every point of contact with customers to learn more about their needs, behaviors, pain points and buyer values. Operators also need to understand the marketplace and their own operational capability gaps.

Through customers' segmentation and profiling, market landscape and required capabilities, service providers can develop a customer experience model based on consistency, prioritization and value.

As operators multiply the channels to serve customers, they need to ensure that every interaction is consistent with the next in terms of information, branding, offering and treatment. Also, a measure of the frequency of occurrence versus the impact to the customer will allow key ideas to be prioritized. Further, service providers should not pander to every need of the customer but instead do what matters most to most customers while investing to reward their most valuable customers.

Historically, most operators have structured their organization around products, creating silos within the organization. The impact on customer experience is disastrous. A customer calling for a simple query is put through several loops before having his queries addressed, resulting in frustration and eventually lost opportunities for the telecom operator. The customer treatment provided by each silo organization has no consistency - a high-value customer for one product house can become a low-value customer for the other. To effectively manage customers and increase up-sell/cross-sell opportunities, cross-business units need to be formed. Companies that were successful in breaking the traditional silos include StarHub and Telstra.

To champion these changes requires strong leadership skills and detailed program management. Several companies have a dedicated customer experience executive, who defines the customer experience strategy (and the corresponding funding level) and aligns organizational changes with the strategic directions of the company. This helps create synergistic and coordinated programs to transform the organizations smoothly. CEEs should also use various communication and accountability methods to keep people involved and motivated.

Customers create own experience

Telecom operators have, in the past, been in control of their interactions with customers. They could decide on the channels, segmentation and treatments with a total monopoly over the touch points. A major disruption has occurred with the launch of the iPhone by Apple. Suddenly, a third party has dictated the way operators would manage their interactions with the customers as in pricing, offerings and advertising. Operators now need to adapt to these new customer experience models that are imposed to them and driven by what the customer wants.

Another major disruption is about to happen: as we enter into an era of customer's behaviors and consumption marked by peer-to-peer, social networking and user-generated content, we envision a radical change in models with the control of interactions moving away from the operators toward the customers.


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