Customer experience as a business driver dates to the age of brick and mortar stores where a poor in-store experience resulted in customers shying away from buying a product from that store. Business models and channels of customer interactions have grown exponentially, particularly in the last decade, but customer experience (CX) has never attained greater relevance than today thanks to the disruptive trends that emerged in the early 21st century across industries.
While the smartphone reimagined the way mobile could be experienced by a consumer, online retailers gave customers a unique and seamless buying experience. Ride-sharing companies democratized the concept of ‘taxis’, while consumer-to-consumer hospitality marketplaces and on-demand streaming services revolutionized real estate and movie industries, respectively. But all of them have one thing in common that united them in purpose – they don’t focus on selling the product, rather they focused on selling an ‘experience’ to customers.
Telecommunications companies across the globe are already investing heavily in innovation and emerging technologies to bring disruptive ideas to augment their customer experience and lifecycle.
Demanding customers, changing expectations
Customers today are aware of the trends and increasing competition in the telecom industry. Many of them expect a ‘B2C’-type experience from their providers and are not deterred by the high-cost technology that enables them. They are clear about their fundamental needs and as a result, demand more real time, intuitive and simplified experience.
Customers are ready to pay for premium services such as personalized virtual launch, customized dashboards, and tools to address their challenges. They expect services to be available across multiple channels with the same consistent experience and without the need to login multiple times. They expect their concerns to be resolved with minimal intervention from their side. Customers are looking for better control and choice, self-service capabilities, and data security and privacy. Lastly, they like to stay updated throughout their engagement lifecycle about their various pending requests or orders and they don’t mind receiving contextual and relevant upsell offers (See figure 1).
Designing customer experience
Telecommunications providers are investing heavily to bring world class customer experience to their enterprise customers. Many leading providers have already worked with leading design firms to revamp their enterprise portals and stores and to reimagine the customer journeys. Now, they are relooking at the way services are rendered at the front-end and trying to transform their contact centers. Customer interactions and channels have become the focal points of change, and all major transformation programs begin and end with them.
The brand experience design principles of tomorrow are more customer-centric, simpler, engaging, and focused on establishing an emotional connection with the customer. As a result, companies are building trust and delivering results with agility. Here are four key experience principles providers should focus on:
1.Emphasize the many ways customers can connect with their providers. The omni-channel experience seamlessly brings and exchanges information across channels, maintaining the same digital customer identity.
2.Instead of simply explaining the customers’ assured services or benefits, companies can build greater confidence by providing customers with a simulated, immersive experience upfront
3.Reducing the cycle times dramatically across the value chain and streamlining business processes will satisfy enterprise customers demands for greater agility and velocity.
4.Mapping the customer pain points across touchpoints and innovating with them to improve the experience will build credibility and help them embrace emerging trends in the industry to solve critical problems.
The future of B2B customer experience
Looking ahead, the enterprise customer engagement lifecycle, enabled by emerging technologies, will be similar to ‘B2C’ in the future. Personalized customer services, data-driven insights, enhanced real-time and context-driven interactions, and end-to-end connections will mark every stage of the lifecycle.
Providers’ sales and marketing efforts will be enriched with the help of more insightful campaigns across multiple channels. Customer segmentation based on analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) will help forecast and identify leads. Cognitive solutions will enable on-demand/instant price quoting and ensure that the momentum gained during the opportunity phase isn’t slowed.
Automating the ordering process, from order entry all the way to provisioning, and then validating orders with analytics will ensure drastically fewer ‘dirty orders’ and improve the lead to delivery time. In fact, many large enterprise customers today have already chartered lead-time improvement as a significant step to driving growth. At the same time, providing instant notifications about an order or service request status and having a unified dashboard that provides customers with a snapshot of their services will improve their experience manifold.
Telecommunications providers are investing heavily in network automation and introducing network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). In the future, automated fitness checks, auto upgrades and predictive monitoring will ensure many service incidents are killed before they are even born. By enabling self-service, dynamic agent allocation and automating the field force with cognitive FAQs and augmented video guides, providers will bring about a quantum leap in best-in-class customer service.
Having a connected workforce in a connected workspace will eventually be the new normal. Paper contracts will be replaced by digital and smart contracts, thanks to the acceptance of bitcoins as a safe and secured means of conducting transactions. Extending the service catalogue to adjacent verticals and owning a ‘marketplace’ will completely disrupt the way enterprise customers conduct business today.
Today, enterprises are confined to very limited channels and most of their customer-service interactions are heavily human-centric. Today many of the issues in the B2B industry are only addressed in an escalated mode, forcing enterprise customers to seek proactive solutions. The best way to reimagine their engagement lifecycle is by leveraging emerging technologies, which completely disrupt the way the B2B industry runs today and dismantles the barriers of disparities in B2C and B2B customer experience.
About the Author: Swaminathan CN, Principal Consultant - Communications, Wipro is currently a part of the strategy team responsible for enhancing the enterprise customer experience for one of the leading telecoms companies in Europe. He has envisaged couple of future-proof user journeys in the B2C and B2B space which were represented in industry forums like Mobile World Congress. He has over nine years of experience in business consulting across the world in multiple industries. An ardent sports lover, he regularly finds time to play badminton and cricket, and loves to read.
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