Back in 2014, ‘Leading Digital’ book revealed some interesting findings – almost half of all telecom companies were seen as ‘digital fashionistas’, i.e. companies that experimented and implemented many innovative digital applications. Beaten only by the travel and hospitality sector, telecom showed significant advancements that boded well for the future of telco brands:
After the sharp increase in online sales witnessed across a number of verticals since 2008, telcos caught up quickly and their percentage of digital vs physical sales grew rapidly. But, since then, lots has changed. The sector that once stood at the forefront of digital innovation, has been surpassed by its more nimble colleagues – retail in particular. Despite a promising start in the digital scene, telecoms have been rather slow in transforming their offerings to deliver experiences that satisfy the needs of customers. Today, in the era when it’s the likes of Amazon that drive what customers expect from modern companies, telecom now doesn’t really come to mind as the industry that leads the digital game. So, what has changed?
Telecom has been and will be the key enabler for technological advancements, and their 5G network developments will soon push the boundaries of what can be achieved by hi-tech. Yet, when it comes to customer service, telcos need a rapid makeover. Our recent research showed that only 27% of customers are likely to recommend their current telco provider, almost 37% are indifferent about their interactions with their telco, and 9 out of 10 think of telcos as a ‘utility company’. But that’s not all, our 1432 respondents placed telcos last out of a number of industries like travel, banks, car makers, and tech companies for delivering services that meet their needs.
Why that might be? Despite continuous technological development, telecoms have failed to focus on the crucial bit – their customers. Lack of digital vision, siloed digital culture, outdated operational practices and multi-channel (rather than omnichannel) focus is what have led the industry to where it’s at today. A confusing and impersonal service that’s seen as a utility rather than a brand that can add value – or a brand that delivers satisfying and uninterrupted experiences. With the rise of the (relatively) new omnichannel initiatives set up by brands like Huawei or Vodafone a couple of years back, the focus is slowly shifting to delivering omnichannel, and doing it with customer experience excellence in mind. To survive, the transformation of customer experience in telecom must continue, but it needs to start with a more accountable approach to omnichannel management.
The future is omnichannel. But first, there are challenges to solve
Omni-channel is the continuous, frictionless delivery of a consistent on-brand customer experience across all physical and digital touchpoints, contextually personalised through the controlled flow of customer data across all channels. What does it mean in practice? Delivering a consistent experience, one that focuses on the customer, not the individual channels or stages in the customer journey. This is now one of the major concerns within telecoms – the omnichannel transformation has started, but is still far from completion.
Vodafone and Huawei are two examples of telecom brands actively seeking to improve their omnichannel management. Linked by their membership in TM Forum – a global membership association for digital businesses operating across a wide range of sectors – both Vodafone and Huawei have set up initiatives to centre their efforts on the customer and unlock a pure, seamless, real-time and dynamic cross-channel experience for the customers. Now, the question is – are these pushed far enough for consumers to notice the difference?
Aside from a few positive examples, it seems that for the majority of telecom companies – multi-channel is still the way things are done, at least in practice. What keeps telecom companies from achieving omnichannel excellence? There are a number of common blockers, with legacy software and technology integration being the major one. The current legacy infrastructure and outdated point-to-point integration makes it difficult to implement time-efficient changes and unlock seamless data flow between the separately built systems. Data quality and tracking omnichannel performance is another big challenge keeping companies from achieving omni-excellence, something we work hard on here at BIO, with our focus on making digital transformation more accountable. But there are more culture-led reasons too – organisational silos and culture blocks have been recognised as one of the biggest challenges to digital transformation.
How can brands ensure their omnichannel strategy is built on the right principles?
BIO’s four pillars of best-in-class omnichannel management for customer excellence across every channel
1. Continuous Frictionless Delivery:
The customer is always able to achieve their aim without barriers and with intuitive interactions.
2. Consistent Brand Experience:
The customer should feel like they are dealing with one brand. This means consistent visual and interaction design and a consistent content strategy and tone of voice across every channel and every touchpoint.
3. Controlled Data Flow:
The customer should always be known and remembered. This means implementing real-time visibility both on the user and customer service side, to deliver seamless user engagements.
4. Contextual Intelligent Personalization:
The customer is always given personal and intelligent choices. This means relevant experiences and dynamic guidance that support customers throughout their journey.
These areas will be a part of a wider telecom omnichannel future where a seamless and integrated world-class experience is delivered to customers. As the digital transformation of telecom continues, and more and more customers swap between online and physical channels, telecoms must look for more innovative and more seamless ways to build deeper relationships with their customers, while utilising the backbone of best-in-class customer experience – the omnichannel management.