It's one of the oldest business cliché in the book: "The customer is always right." The saying originated in the early 20th century either via American department store magnate Marshall Field, UK-based Harry Gordon Selfridge, or possibly even French hotelier César Ritz, who said in 1908, "Le client n'a jamais tort" ("The customer is never wrong"), which is pretty close.
Whatever the origin, the concept of customer-centricity is over a century old, yet for the telecom sector it's a comparatively recent development. Telecoms markets only began privatizing and liberalizing in the mid-80s - in Asia, most didn't get started until the mid-late 90s - and it's not necessary to be customer-focused when you're the only game in town.
That's changing rapidly as competition reaches fever pitch, markets become increasingly saturated, and technologies evolve to the point where having the fastest broadband connection isn't the differentiator it used to be. And in the age of Web 2.0 where end-users are empowered to drive internet content and services over networks, it's little wonder that an increasingly common theme at any given telecoms industry gathering is how the biggest market differentiator for service providers will be the ones who can deliver the best overall customer experience.
But it's also becoming clear that there's a lot more to the customer experience than cool new services, a state-of-the-art billing system and a decent call center - particularly for companies that have traditionally seen their end-users as little more than ARPU generators, and especially as innovation cycles get faster and faster. It's one thing to get into the heads of customers - it's another when they're a moving target.
Where to start? Telecom Asia asked the experts from around the industry. What follows is seven key tips for service providers to consider as they plan their customer-centric strategy and get to grips with providing the best customer experience in town.
Tip 1: Get a CEO (chief experience officer)
Tip 2: Pre-emptive customer service
Tip 3: Faster feedback + seamless delivery
Tip 4: Change your corporate culture
Tip 5: Accurate data experience metrics
Tip 6: Flexible customer service assurance
Tip 7: Invest in analytics