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IBM’s most recent C-suite survey revealed three key themes that telecom CxOs believe will shape their organizations’ future (see earlier blog ‘The customer-activated CSP Part 1: What CSPs are telling us!):
- Open up to customer influence
- Pioneer digital-physical innovation
- Craft engaging customer experiences
But how do their customers see this? Are these themes also important for them? And how do they believe their provider is currently performing on these themes? To find out, we conducted a survey of close to 22,000 consumers in 35 countries in both mature and emerging markets.
Open Up to Customer Influence
According to the C-suite study, almost two-thirds of telecom CxOs said customers now have a considerable influence on their organization. Indeed, consumers now wield unprecedented power over how brands are perceived. A brand can be strengthened or weakened in a fraction of a time it once took due to the proliferation of instant, viral feedback via social media and social networking tools.
Our consumer survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents will always or often share negative experiences with others. Moreover, 29 percent will discourage others to use the provider, while one out of five respondents will post a negative comment online or complain on social media. This peer influence is damaging as 39 percent said a key reason not to buy from or subscribe to a provider is discouragement from others.
At the other side, 53 percent would tell others about a positive experience, and about the same percentage would even recommend the provider to others. Three out of ten would post a positive comment or spread the good news via social media. Important as 46 percent of respondents said word-of-mouth reputation is key before even considering a provider for buying products and services.
The C-suite study also revealed that deep collaboration is a clear CxO ambition. And the good thing is that five out of six consumers said they are willing to provide feedback or engage with their provider to help them to improve. Improvement of an existing product/service (60 percent) and customer care (56 percent) are the key areas in which customers are willing to help, provided appropriate communications channels are in place. However, only one out of three respondents indicated that their provider enables them to provide feedback or input using appropriate channels.
Pioneer Digital-Physical Innovation
In the C-suite survey, telecom CxOs said that it is becoming increasingly important to meld the digital and physical dimensions. Some telecom providers are reconfiguring their offerings to capitalize on social networks and mobile connectivity.
A good approach as the consumer survey revealed that consumers like to interact with their provider using a wide range of channels. But only 23 percent strongly agrees – and 38 percent moderately agrees – that their provider allows them multiple ways (including in-person, by phone, online self-service, chat or other social media) to interact and communicate with them. And while in today’s world, social media becomes increasingly used for customer engagement, only one out of three respondents said that their provider uses social media in an effective way to engage with them.
The consumer survey also found that consumers want more self-service options. Consumers seems to increasingly prefer self-service, a good move for both consumer and CSP as this can lower costs and make resources more available to high-value customers. In enabling customers to become more self-sufficient, CSPs should in particular consider offering these capabilities on mobile devices. A good example of a CSP doing exactly that is Airtel; its mobile self-service application was downloaded one million times in the first three months after availability.
Craft Engaging Customer Experiences
According to the C-suite study, CxOs are adjusting their priorities. They plan to spend less of their personal time on IT systems and operations and other such issues, and more time improving the ‘customer experience’. A good plan as the consumer survey revealed here that CSPs are not appreciated as much as over-the-top (OTT) providers, who have proven adept at dreaming up compelling new online experiences for consumers.
Fifty-one percent of respondents in our study said they will become more loyal when they have good experiences. Getting high quality and compelling products and services is the most important aspect in creating loyal customers. Receiving quick and effective responses to questions and issues is the second reason for consumers to stay loyal. But less than half of respondents who do not even engage with their provider on issues said that’s because they always have to wait too long in the queue (49 percent) or it’s too much hassle (45 percent) to get through to customer service. Respondents believe their providers must perform better – in particular on personal and emotive aspects – to earn their loyalty.
Pulling it Together
One clear message from this survey is that despite investments in customer experience and customer relationship management initiatives, the industry has not achieved its customer-related goals. Current industry advocacy is very low, as the survey reveals. As an industry, CSPs are not leaders by any customer advocacy metrics. It will be a challenge to increase customer advocacy, but they can learn from other industries that perform much better in securing loyalty, in particular by providing experiences that helps consumers form an emotional engagement with their provider. By doing that, and investing in nontraditional analytical capabilities to help generate intelligence about consumers, CSPs can succeed by deepening their understanding of customers to enhance their experience, and in doing so, increase the value of relationship.