Woman working in a call centre.For telecoms, it’s important to highlight the role that customer service plays. It’s often the primary way consumers engage, across a variety of channels, whether it be digital or through traditional means. This can make it difficult to capture all these engagements and consolidate them to gain insights. At Microsoft, transforming customer experiences is just one of five priority scenarios we’ve designed specifically to help the telecoms industry address its most pressing challenges.

I recently joined in a panel discussion with business leaders in the telcom and tech industries who spoke about how organisations can start planning thier own customer experience transformations.

“In an industry where you have a lot of competition and very low switching costs; products and services are becoming increasingly commoditised. Telcos need to differentiate in customer experience to grow,” says a telecom industry lead.

The future state of customer experiences

Customer expectations have outpaced their present experiences. This makes ensuring positive experiences vital for a brand’s reputation and profitability.

A 2018 PwC report into customer experiences found that 43 percent of customers surveyed would pay a premium for greater convenience, while 42 percent would pay for a more friendly experience.

Pair with this the importance of telecoms updating their infrastructure and moving to 5G – now has never been a better time for organisations to reduce silos and create unified data streams. An organisation needs to ensure all their employees have access to and can understand data to provide these pivotal customer experiences.

However, what we are seeing is a lag between business strategy and the technological upgrade needed to support it.

“You can spot all the exciting opportunities in the horizon, but it’s difficult to execute those given the current tech and infrastructure that telcos are operating on,” says an industry expert. “There is a real job to be done around modernisation within IT and within architecture.”

So how do telecoms modernise and develop better customer experiences?

A truly integrated customer journey

“Designing and delivering innovative new products and services that create demand, reasons to stay beyond switching costs, and then reasons to recommend means not just meeting – but exceeding – every single interaction,” says a telecom industry lead.

They add that omnichannel has gone further, into opti-channel – where each touchpoint has a thoughtful role to play in the customer experience. However, the challenge is the handovers – where critical information gets lost between agents or touchpoints and the customer gets frustrated.

Take advantage of a solution such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 that integrates data from across all silos – sales, marketing, supply chains, and more into the customer journey. When the customer is at a certain touchpoint, all the information needed to help that customer is there. It can even provide predictive insights, so you can help the customer before they realise they need assistance. This means your employees can focus on providing quick, reliable and personalised service.

Engaging customer experiences that generate trust

Telecom firms handle a lot of unique data around customer identities. And security is highly important to customers and your reputation. “When we look at identity across any industry right now, it’s about the security and privacy of the end consumer and the trust that you have. That is part of the experience,” says an industry expert.

There’s still a stereotype that privacy and security hinder employee productivity. But with solutions that have built-in intelligent security, you can actually enable productivity. AI and automation take over low-level monitoring, so IT teams can focus on more important tasks. Integrated security that authenticates users and endpoints works in the background. This means employees can get on with their work, while data stays protected.

Empower customer experiences with AI and analytics

“The focus has morphed from [analytics] being an afterthought to ‘I need to do this because it’s important for my business,’” says an industry partnership leader.

AI and analytics are helping telecom firms build new data-driven operation models within their organisation. It can help augment customer touchpoints and create stronger brand experiences. A chatbot powered by AI, for example can answer frequently asked questions. An app can help a customer onboard and activate new products and services instantly. Putting this data into your employees’ hands means they can provide better and more personalised experiences. It also can be used to streamline operations. This gives employees more time to spend with customers or more time creating innovative services.

“If you can reduce the call handling time, if you can give more specific and relevant service more rapidly, that is a huge improvement on your customer satisfaction score or NPS score. That translates directly into revenue,” says an industry expert. “Giving sales associates access to those kinds of data points is absolutely critical. There is a significant area here of augmenting the physical experience.”

From there, you can use the data collected to start turning insight into value and discovering where business opportunities lay.

A 360-degree customer view

A man looking at his phone in his living room

For employees to provide the best customer experiences, they need to have a full view of customer data. Reducing silos and unifying data is the best way to do this.

“The single customer view and the customer data platform project are absolutely critical,” says an expert. “Effectively building the single customer view and then having a way to have systems and data visualisations to be able to democratise that across the business.”

Our industry partnership leader agrees. “I think the most important point is democratising data,” they say. “Standardising data and making it simple to use in the form of APIs.”

Solutions that present data in easily digestible ways, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Power BI ensure your employees are confident interacting with and understanding it. Power Apps empowers your people to be able to build low and no code apps and solutions.

Part of democratising data is to ensure that your employees have the skills to do this. Make a digital literacy programme available, leveraging a mix of self-service, on-demand and online training to ensure everyone gets re- and up-skilled.

Effective customer experiences are the new premium services

“The limiting factor to innovation and the customer experience used to be our own imagination. But we can literally design and build anything we come up with today,” says a telcom business leader.

Reduce silos, unify business data and integrate secure solutions that provide 360-degree customer views. You can then easily create experiences that delight and engage customers throughout their lifecycle. This data can be used to drive real value, turning telecom firms into real drivers of business and create new partnerships, innovative products, and build sustainable growth.

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About the author

Stuart Almond wearing glasses and smiling at the cameraPassionate about the transformation technology can bring, Stuart is an Industry Lead for Media and Telecommunications within Microsoft, where he relishes any opportunity to offer his entrepreneurial spirit and natural storytelling ability to challenge organisations to ‘refocus the lens’ in order to create a successful impact through the adoption of innovation.

He is a lead spokesperson for innovation within the media industry and has played both sides of the fence. Stuart started his career as a BBC Journalist before moving into a number of roles in media production. From here, the pull of technology innovation took him into development and R&D, then corporate strategic management and change consultancy for some of the biggest media brands around the globe.

Over the last 20+ years, Stuart has helped deliver major business transformation having held significant change roles at companies ranging from the BBC, Endemol Shine Group, to Sony.