The communications industry is at a crossroads as we enter the 5G era. Will communications service providers (CSPs) achieve deeper customer relationships and financial success, or face further declines in revenue and market share from digital disruptors?
Delivering a compelling customer experience will be a make-or-break proposition now that the pandemic has accelerated the push to digital experiences for CSPs around the world, and the future belongs to those that can innovate, engage and transform their businesses.
A recent Omdia research report said that CSPs and internet content providers, the digital disruptors, have almost equal market share, so we want to make sure it’s trending in the right direction for CSPs.
Providing compelling experiences is challenging, especially with the disconnect among underlying data and systems across marketing, sales, service, the back office and the network. Customers choose the engagement channel and the when, but often want to switch among them and expect a seamless experience as they do so. This randomness makes it challenging to provide that across every touchpoint, from anonymous user/prospect to a known customer.
The “buy” stage is particularly important in the customers’ lifecycle, as it’s here that a delightful, frictionless experience can set the stage for continued future engagement and loyalty that will prevent churn and increase the chances of future transactions.
As CSPs seek to transform the customer buying journey, they may encounter many issues, such as:
- Buying experiences that are inconsistent across channels, and perhaps rather boring and impersonal;
- Multiple incompatible catalogs driving everything from introducing new products and offers to making them available in existing and new channels;
- Your customers feel like you don’t really know them—they feel they are just an account number or an address;
- Dependence on IT at every step makes you less agile and operationally inefficient – causing innovation cycles to be long, opening the door for disruptors to step in.
As these issues come to light, the key is delivering exciting experiences that matter and being highly responsive to the digital consumer. Below are suggestions on how to succeed.
Five recommendations for building meaningful customer interactions
There are several factors that are foundational to an insight-driven approach to customers.
First, a unified sales catalog, central asset mastering and most importantly, a persistent shopping cart, which will all enable customers to drop off one channel and seamlessly continue their buying and ordering journey as they navigate across different channels. That will translate into a positive experience, with no money left on the table for others to grab.
Second, there needs to be an ability to quickly introduce both unassisted and assisted channels for subscription purchases, and that should be based on variables like eligibility, compatibility rules, account care, order care, and subscription care. This is more important than ever in our increasingly digital-first world, which is evolving rapidly because of Covid. For CSPs whose retail shops were shuttered during lockdowns, some of these subsequent changes will be permanent and can be for the better in the long run.
Third, as customers go through these changes in their buying journeys, agents must have a 360-degree view of customer data across channels. A single order, asset and subscription data master should coexist and integrate with a customer master (such as existing CRM), giving agents insights that will drive the next-best offer and personalized recommendations at each step and at every touchpoint—unassisted or assisted. This unified view would also empower employees to see the status of in-flight changes to complex order fulfillment and to provide personalized and relevant care.
Fourth, CSPs need to be able to sell products and services as one-time purchases, or as subscriptions based on consumption, or as a combination of the two. It should be easy to make changes to subscription plans and activate them instantly, which requires integration among fulfillment, billing, invoicing, payments, and accounting processes. It also requires integrated lead-to-quote-to-order and MACD (move, add, change, disconnect) capabilities, with intuitive interfaces for both customer self-service and employee use.
And last but not least, as there is progress in the buying-experience transformation, it’s important to avoid the frustration of vendor lock-in. CSPs should seek solutions that embrace open standards like the TM Forum Open Digital Architecture (ODA) and Open APIs, which will make it easier to rapidly deploy new services while maintaining interoperability with existing systems. Industry standard interfaces, APIs, and data models will help decouple systems of engagement from systems of record, lowering digital transformation risk and cost while maximizing the value of your existing IT investments.
For more helpful tips like these, view the highlights from our recent Future of Digital Experience in Communications Virtual Summit and check out Oracle’s Digital Experience for Communications Buy module, which uses an API-first approach to omnichannel and personalized user experience across channels, while also managing complex order and subscription management scenarios.