Digital transformation has been a focus for communication service providers (CSPs) for almost a decade. However, it is typically approached from the technology aspect, when in fact; it should be engineered and solved for three facets: The digital user, the digital products & services and the digital customer experience.
Over the past two decades the balance of power has shifted. Shaped by the standards of native digital service providers and other customer-focused disruptors, today’s consumers demand immediacy, availability and convenience. The consumer has changed and evolved into a new breed of customer: The digital user. And it is the digital user that should be at the core of any digital strategy for whom digital products, services and experiences should be designed, built & served.
Driven by the growing penetration of fast mobile data and internet, all areas of life have become digitized or strongly influenced by digitalization. Boundaries have fallen and proximity is no longer a constraint. We connect, communicate, play and work — digitally. Everything today is hyper-personalized, with companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google mining insights from huge amounts of data to deliver elevated experiences and better products and services.
Today’s consumers expect nothing less from their service providers, be it their local grocery store, government institutions or their telecom service provider. They all need to match the expectations of the digital user: know me, anticipate my needs and serve me accordingly. Otherwise, I will find others that do.
Digital services and products
For the brave who embrace challenge, it is not a threat but a huge opportunity. Opportunities, to be precise, because there is no single, “right” approach to digital services and products — as can be learned from a few innovative CSPs.
One such approach is the over-the-top (OTT) ecosystem; CSPs that aim to become their customers’ digital lifestyle partner by offering them a comprehensive set of apps — messaging and cloud storage, music and video streaming and many more. Some of those apps are developed in-house; others are acquired or developed in partnership. The OTT ecosystem approach further provides the operator with additional monetization opportunities for the data flowing in its pipes — from digital advertising to data exchange and even licensing their ecosystem to other CSPs.
And there are other “digital lifestyle partner” product strategies, of course. Some CSPs leverage their digital platforms, trusted brand and customer base into a horizontal diversification strategy by offering broad range of services and products — e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, insurance and even toys. Other CSPs focus on consumer IoT and many target their digital products & services strategy primarily to the B2B segment.
The types of digital products and services strategies available are vast. Telcos simply need to pick one of the many options or invent one and execute. The option CSPs cannot choose is to not adopt a digital product and services strategy.
For many, “digital” is primarily associated with the operator’s self-service mobile app or website. But the digital customer experience is not about an app or a website. Digital customer experience is about the overall business process and enablers — customer-facing or back-office — and how digitized they are.
Digital customer experience
Customer experience is the sum of all customers’ interactions with a brand, its products and services. Today, part of being “digital” means that there should be no real separation between physical and digital interactions. On the contrary — the digital and the physical should be merged.
Customer journeys hop interchangeably between digital and physical touch points. If the interface is human-assisted but the underlying processes and enablers are digitized — that’s a digital customer experience. When we consider the “sum of all customers’ interactions,” our evaluation covers four plains: product quality and market fit, convenience of sales, ease and availability of services and proactive resolution.
In today’s OTT space and multi-screen consumer habits, cross-device experience is key for elevated customer experience. When we take this in the context of telco, we should probably refer to customers’ cross-channel experiences. Yet, the same three C’s that apply to cross-device experience apply here as well: consistency, continuity and complementary.
There is nothing more frustrating than going through a dozen interactive voice response prompts to get to a human rep and have to explain everything from the beginning. The three C’s are a means for delivering a frictionless, effortless experience. Customer Effort Score (CES) becomes a broadly accepted customer experience metric and a leading indicator for customer loyalty, gradually taking over the place of Net Promoter Score (NPS).
CES is not about “how satisfied you are” — which is almost meaningless for revealing the underlying reasons for satisfaction or the lack thereof. Instead, CES aims to rank how easy it is to interact, perform an action and resolve an issue. By doing so, this metric allows organizations to pinpoint sub-optimal procedures and improve them, contributing to NPS, word of mouth, and loyalty.
The focus should not only be on optimizing the standalone process but also on the interfaces between processes that comprise the journeys. To do so, organizations need to rely on a data-driven approach to identify gravity centres. When doing so, it is important to keep in mind that customer experience starts with the very first interaction with the brand — and sometimes, this is long before customers become customers.
The future is now
The digital telco revolution is far from relying solely on the adoption of digital technology. The focus of CSPs’ digital transformation agenda should be on the digital user: their interests, behaviour, lifestyle and needs. Only by understanding and anticipating digital users’ needs will telcos be able to design the digital products and services that fit their audiences. Then, they can provide their customers with an experience that matches their expectations.
About the Author
Shay Assaraf is Chief Marketing Officer of Optiva, the leader in providing communication service providers (CSPs) worldwide with cloud-native revenue management software on the public cloud. Shay has more than 15 years of experience in the telecom industry, bringing vast B2B and B2C experience in marketing and strategy to his role at Optiva.